Wentworth by-election, 2018

Cause of by-election
Sitting Liberal MP Malcolm Turnbull resigned from parliament in late August following his removal as Liberal leader and prime minister.

Margin – LIB 17.7%

Eastern suburbs of Sydney. Wentworth covers Woollahra and Waverley local government areas, as well as eastern parts of the City of Sydney and northern parts of Randwick LGA. Wentworth covers the southern shore of Sydney Harbour as far west as Elizabeth Bay, and covers the east coast from South Head to Clovelly. Main suburbs include Bondi, Woollahra, Vaucluse, Double Bay, Kings Cross and parts of Randwick, Darlinghurst and Clovelly. Wentworth also covers Moore Park and Centennial Park.

Wentworth is an original federation electorate and has always existed roughly in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. It has always been held by conservative parties, including the Liberal Party since its foundation in 1944.

The seat was first won by William McMillan of the Free Trade party in 1901. He was elected deputy leader of his party but retired at the 1903 election. He was succeeded by William Kelly, also a Free Trader. Kelly joined the Commonwealth Liberal Party and served in Joseph Cook’s ministry from 1913 to 1914.

Kelly retired in 1919 as a Nationalist and was succeeded by Walter Marks. Marks joined with other Nationalists, including Billy Hughes, to bring down the Bruce government in 1929, and was reelected as an independent. Marks joined the new United Australia Party in 1931, but was defeated in that year’s election by Eric Harrison, another UAP candidate.

Harrison held the seat for twenty-five years for the UAP and the Liberal Party. He usually held the seat safely, although he only held on by 335 votes in 1943, when feminist campaigner Jessie Street (ALP) challenged Harrison. William Wentworth also polled 20%. He later joined the Liberal Party and was elected in Mackellar in 1949.

Harrison had served a number of brief stints as a minister under Joseph Lyons and Robert Menzies in the 1930s and early 1940s, and served as the first deputy leader of the Liberal Party from its foundation until his retirement in 1956. Harrison was a minister in the Menzies government from 1949 until 1956, when he retired.

Les Bury (LIB) won the seat at the 1956 by-election. He served as a minister from 1961 until 1971, serving as Treasurer under John Gorton and briefly as Treasurer and then Foreign Minister under William McMahon. Bury retired in 1974.

Robert Ellicott (LIB) was elected in 1974. He served as Attorney-General in the first Fraser Ministry and as Minister for Home Affairs from 1977 to 1981, when he resigned to serve on the Federal Court. The ensuing by-election was won by Peter Coleman. Coleman had previously served as Leader of the Opposition in the NSW Parliament, and lost his seat at the 1978 state election.

Coleman retired in 1987 and was succeeded by John Hewson. Hewson was elected leader of the Liberal Party following their 1990 election defeat. Hewson led the party into the 1993 election, where the party went backwards. He was replaced in May 1994 as leader by Alexander Downer, and he retired from Parliament in 1995.

Andrew Thomson won the following by-election. Thomson served briefly as a Parliamentary Secretary and junior minister in the first term of the Howard government. Thomson was defeated for preselection by Peter King in 2001.

King himself was defeated for preselection in a heated preselection campaign in 2004 by Malcolm Turnbull. The preselection saw a massive explosion in membership numbers for the Liberal Party in Wentworth. King ran as an independent and polled 18%, and Turnbull’s margin was cut to 5.5%.

The redistribution after the 2004 election saw Wentworth extended deeper into the City of Sydney, and Turnbull’s margin was cut to 2.5%. Turnbull managed to win the seat in 2007 with a 1.3% swing towards him, in the face of a national swing against the Liberals.

Turnbull had served as a minister in the final term of the Howard government, and ran for the Liberal leadership following the 2007 election, losing to Brendan Nelson. After serving as Nelson’s Shadow Treasurer he was elected Leader of the Opposition in September 2008. After a rocky term as Leader of the Opposition, Turnbull was defeated by Tony Abbott by one vote in another leadership vote in December 2009. Turnbull served as a shadow minister and then as Minister for Communications under Tony Abbott’s leadership.

In September 2015, Turnbull successfully challenged Abbott for the Liberal leadership, and became Prime Minister. He led the Liberal-National coalition to a second term in government in 2016.

Malcolm Turnbull led the Liberal Party in government until August 2018, when he resigned following a motion to spill the Liberal leadership. He was succeeded as Prime Minister by Scott Morrison. Turnbull resigned from Wentworth shortly after losing the leadership.


  • Robert Callanan (Katter’s Australian Party)
  • Dominic Wy Kanak (Greens)
  • Shayne Higson (Voluntary Euthanasia)
  • Steven Georgantis (People’s Party)
  • Tim Murray (Labor)
  • Ben Forsyth (Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party)
  • Tony Robinson (Liberty Alliance)
  • Samuel Gunning (Liberal Democrats)
  • Dave Sharma (Liberal)
  • Angela Vithoulkas (Independent)
  • Deb Doyle (Animal Justice)
  • Andrea Leong (Science Party)
  • Licia Heath (Independent)
  • Barry Keldoulis (Arts Party)
  • Kerryn Phelps (Independent)
  • Kay Dunne (Sustainable Australia)

Wentworth had become a very safe Liberal seat under Malcolm Turnbull’s candidacy, but will likely become a lot more marginal in his absence.

Kerryn Phelps is a serious threat to the Liberal Party and has a good chance of winning if she can stay in second place. Labor has also performed well in the sole public poll, but will struggle with Phelps preferences flowing to the Liberal Party, so Phelps has the best chance of ousting the Liberal Party.

2016 result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Malcolm Turnbull Liberal 52,353 62.3 -2.4
Evan Hughes Labor 14,913 17.7 -1.0
Dejay Toborek Greens 12,496 14.9 +0.8
Anthony Michael Ackroyd Arts Party 1,478 1.8 +1.8
Peter Xing Science Party 988 1.2 +1.2
Beresford Thomas Christian Democratic Party 901 1.1 +0.6
David Allen Independent 573 0.7 +0.7
Marc Aussie-Stone Independent 390 0.5 +0.5
Informal 4,549 5.1

2016 two-party-preferred result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Malcolm Turnbull Liberal 56,971 67.7 -1.2
Evan Hughes Labor 27,121 32.3 +1.2

Booth breakdown

Booths have been divided into three parts: Beach, Harbour and City.

The Liberal Party won a majority of the two-party-preferred vote in all three areas, ranging from 58.4% in Beach to 79.1% in Harbour.

The Greens came third, with a primary vote ranging from 9.7% in Harbour to 19.0% in Beach.

Voter group GRN prim % LIB 2PP % Total votes % of votes
Beach 19.0 58.4 21,244 25.3
Harbour 9.7 79.1 18,310 21.8
City 17.7 61.3 11,563 13.8
Other votes 13.7 71.1 14,891 17.7
Pre-poll 14.4 68.7 18,084 21.5

Election results in Wentworth at the 2016 federal election
Toggle between two-party-preferred votes and Greens primary votes.

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  1. Is that 91 (Vaucluse) the safest metropolitan booth in Australia? There’s nothing quite at that level with a quick glance at similar areas (eg Toorak booths are in the mid-70s 2PP). I know there are country towns that almost entirely vote Nationals, and remote/mobile booths that almost entirely vote Labor, but it’s quite insane for a city.

    At any rate it seems the Harbourside booths will outweigh even the best Labor or Green campaign to leverage their stronger areas. I thought here may have been some hope for non Liberals with the results in Waverley council, and this fact came up in the news reports about how Turnbull would quit politics if he lost the leadership, but those are some insane numbers to overcome.

    Prediction: Huge swing and Labor/Greens will win booths, but Turnbull or whoever else is running as a Liberal will always win easily.

  2. I had a quick glance as well, Vaucluse is a pretty small booth (783 formal), the closest I found was 86 in Dalkeith(Curtin) which might be safest metro booth with above 1000 votes (2,349 formal).

    These safe wealthy electorates don’t appear to be becoming any more marginal, Greens might be able to make 2nd place here but it wont change the 2PP at all. I would predict the swing will be small.

  3. You can always click on the same booth in the first map and see the breakdown of vote percentages for the main candidates and the total vote as well as the booth name.

  4. I believe the Liberal margin is inflated in Wentworth due to Malcolm Turnbull being a quite popular MP.

  5. I wonder how close will Wentworth be without Turnbull. Considering a one stage the margin was around 2% is this the real margin for Wentworth?

    Is Labor or the Greens a chance?

  6. This seat may or may not go to a by election depending whenever the next election is held.
    Apparently Christine Forster will run for Liberal preselection, also the former ambassador to Israel may run.
    Independent state member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich may also run according to news reports.
    The Greens have also announced that local councillor Dominic Wy Kanak will run.

    IMO this seat could get really interesting, whilst the Libs should hold here much of their vote is inflated due to Turnbull’s personal vote.

    The inclusion of the names Forster and Greenwich could really make this competitive.

  7. Greens are a real chance of winning Wentworth at the looming by-election now I reckon. A lot of the Liberal vote would have been a personal vote for Turnbull and they will likely see a large drop in support without him running. Who would even consider voting for the Libs right now anyway? The party is a complete joke.

  8. You’d have to think that the Libs still have the inside track on this one.

    If Alex Greenwich does run, he would be the better chance to take the seat than Labor or the Greens. They ought to campaign accordingly.

  9. There are pros and cons in running Christine Forster, the pro is she will have a high profile, but the con is she is related to Tony Abbott so may face a backlash.

  10. margin 2004 5% margin 2007 a bit over 3% with a 1.5% swing ad Newhouse was seen as an accident prone candidate 2010 margin rose by 11% with I think 3% swing in 2013….basically he has kept that approx. 10% increase in the vote margin now 16% how much of this.is a personal vote and how much is less serious alp contacting I don’t know…the seat is roughly Waverly and wolalhara council areas plus some Randwick and Kings cross Darlinghurst

  11. votes Bondi- Waverley and Paddington and Coogee seem inflated by at least 10% maybe more… if Labor could get 55% there then much closer

  12. I would expect the light blue booths along the Bondi-Waverly area to flip red in the absence of Turnbull but that certainly would not be enough for Labor to outright win it.

    Liberal hold with ~10% swing against them at the current stage, would depend who the parties nominate.

  13. I think the media is overhyping the chances of this seat being a contest because it’s likely to be a standalone byelection. It will also be convenient for Scott Morrison to get a win on the board before going to a federal election.

    Factors that could complicate the election:
    * Peter King recontesting (he was in the audience for Malcolm Turnbull’s final question time and hasn’t been forgotten)
    * A high profile independent endorsed by Clover Moore and Alex Greenwich
    * Lee Lin Chin? (she has joked about the prospect of running here, for Labor or the Greens on twitter far too many times)
    * Labor and Greens both running active campaigns to leverage their support in the Waverley area.

    There is definitely some room for improvement, for example when you compare the Greens results to their typical council results in both Woolahra and Waverley.

    However it would take a seriously strong effort to overcome the 80s and 90s in the Harbourside suburbs. I also expect a tablecloth sized ballot paper of frivolous candidates and an army of young Liberals at every booth.

    If the media hypes this up as “Morrison’s big test”, it’s one he’s going to pass.

  14. Wentworth is not as safe as it looks on paper but it is hard to see it changing hands unless the Liberals stuff up pre-selection or a well known local independent stands.

  15. My former seat.

    At the last state election local ALP candidate commented that Coogee was swinging to the libs at the rate of 0.5% pa, the Waverley booths aren’t going to bring this home for the ALP.

    I would expect this to settle at a mean 57% lib vote with a 5% variance either side.

    ALP won’t win it on these boundaries.

  16. sure booths in the political equivalent of the state seat of Coogee are demographically changing against Labor… but labor lost the state seat of that name by 2 to 3% as you can see by these figures turnbull was polling 7 to 8% better there are rumours that ex mp Peter King may recontest.The stars need to all align for the libs to lose… but take 10% off lnp 2pp…. a good alp candidate and a serious campaign……. ” All eyes are on Wentworth”

  17. This is now a very, very safe LIB seat. The ONLY thing that could change this is an influx of approx 25000 voters from the city of Sydney. This is not inconceivable after the next redistribution . However the AEC would need to completely backflip. They are not known for their dexterity !!.

  18. Only a progressive Independent like Clover Moore could take this seat off the liberals. The Labor party can win votes south of Bondi Road (in the state seat of Coogee) but that’s it. Too much old and new money.

  19. A new Reachtel poll has this seat at 50-50 2PP.
    Once again single seat polls aren’t exactly a great indicator of the results.
    That being said i’d expect a result of 57-43 to the Libs.

  20. there be more liberal votes cut in the southern parts of wentworth, the areas close to sydney cbd + the bondi areas.

  21. they areb3xactly the areas where there could be an anti liberal swing.. Bondi/Coogee/Randwick/Paddington and Darlinghurst Kings cross

  22. I think the biggest barrier so called progressives face in seats like Wentworth is a lack of an economic policy, it is all good and well to focus on social policies but people that live in seats like Wentworth also value good economic policy. Until so called progressives can talk the talk on economics or some kind of pro business policy then the Liberals will continue to hold it. Although they might lose this by-election however I would expect they will probably regain it at the next election.

  23. Its hard to see the Liberals winning is they pick a man for this seat such as Dave Sharma, He is conservative, this seat is socially progressive that’s why Andrew Bragg dropped out, If a woman was to be preselected that is socially progressive like Christine Forester (She dropped out) Then the libs will hold, But if Andrew Bragg is nominated then i see this going to labour until the next federal election then the Libs will gain this back, (Unless a strong independent comes in!) then we could see a repeat of Wagga Wagga. A Socially progressive woman would be the safest bet for the liberals

  24. What do people make of Licia Heath and her chances?. Looking at her bio and her twitter feed she looks and sound like a typical Wentworth type.

  25. Ooo Alex Greenwich has endorsed Licia Heath and is campaigning for her… I assume that must mean some amount of volunteer numbers and field campaign ability?

    Gonna be important to get visibility in the short time there is until the election day.

  26. Dave sharma won’t win, He will lose to Labor because he has not lived in the electorate before, and he is conservative and he opposes SSM (Same sex marriage) This electorate is socially progressive, Its going to be very hard for the liberals to hold with a conservative candidate, it will be close, but i believe Labor will win and hold to seat until the next federal election

  27. Labor, Greens, Licia Heath and Kerryn Phelps together could knock off the Liberals, and not sure who would ultimately win.

    Most of me thinks this seat is being overhyped by Liberals wanting to build a comeback narrative but the ability to lodge a protest vote may make it interesting after all.

  28. The Liberal candidate is also to close to Israel. ABC TV news said he is Jewish and about 12% of Wentworth are Jewish. So 88% are not Jewish and the ABC did not say who was Christian or of other religions or with no religion. Why is Jewishness always highlighted in Wentworth and Melbourne Ports (renames McNamara)? There is only about 80,000 of them in Australia according to the ABS Census.

    I also think that Wentworth will not be won by the Liberals. Kerryn Phelps is well know, a former president of the AMA, a “liberal” activist and TV talk panelist. She might even get up on election day.

    A tip, of you want to know who is Jewish check out the Australian Jewish News newspaper online as they often publish the names, be they future MP’s like Sharma or Queen Birthday honours for example. Many Jews dont look Middle Eastern now because of hundreds of years of racial mixing in Europe.

  29. Actually Sharma may not be Jewish. He got a story in the AJN however complete with a hand written ballot sheet showing which candidates were defeated successively out of 201 delegates in all who voted.

    Sharma won every ballot numbers wise with Shield and King 2nd and 3rd all the way while the others got much fewer votes and dropped out. The Liberals bring on non FEC and non branch delegates, NSW Division HQ people and MP’s for a pre-selection too.

    Sharma is of India origin born Canada and then immigrated to Australia. He said at the pre-selection he is not a dual citizen showing his citizenship papers to the FEC delegates.

  30. An advantage for Sharma is that he was endorsed by Turnbull. Turnbull may step in and campaign for him – which would be a plus.

    The libs have also learned and gone for a short campaign. They will have an advantage in being able to leverage pre polls and postals. And in a seat like Wentworth they will be decisive. Turn out may also be a factor in a seat with a high transient enrolment.

    Kerryn Phelps will no doubt also draw away a lot of votes from Labor and Greens, as well as the Libs. The ALP and Greens might drop down to single digits.

  31. Phelps is as different to a Green as Wilkie is. Not much. As i used to often say to WD junior when he had the excuse of adolescence “You are like a girl. You can’t have a thought without sharing it !”

    Phelps just could not help herself, with her pronouncements on climate change, & the “humane” treatment of detainees in camps. It is staggering when a person of obvious intelligence, displays such dearth of judgement, & acts so dumb.

    Still an understanding of the enneagram reveals that this is consistent behaviour of very fixated Type 1s. Phelps & Di Natale would have a great “meeting of minds”…

  32. Can we please lay off speculating as to whether someone is Jewish? If there’s something published clarifying his ethnicity and religion fine to specify that but otherwise let’s just drop it.

  33. Ben
    When have i ever laid claim to possessing great intelligence !?. It is only Type 5 fixations that have the overarching attachment, & investment to knowing, knowing best, knowing all. Politics is a monoculture of Type 5s. Like all monocultures it is a breeding ground for disease, & dysfunction.

    Excuse me for simply pointing this out. It is true that i do not possess above average intelligence , however i do have other skills, & my own individual experience, which i believe counts for something….
    Great intelligence without awareness, & insight is more dangerous than stupidity.

  34. It may be strategic to take the heat off of her when the Coalition is saying she’s a Labor candidate in disguise. If the 2CP comes down to Phelps v. Sharma, it doesn’t matter. If it comes down to Murray v. Sharma it might make a big difference but Murray has a long shot anyway.

  35. yes it will….. the flow of alp/green and Greenwich preferences will be less to her… may also reduce her primary vote

  36. Kerryn Phepls knows that Labor, Greens, minor party candidates and Independents will preference her ahead of Dave Sharma.

    The move by her to preference Libs over Labor is a strategic move to appeal the Turnbull kind of Liberals. She thinks she can finish 2nd on primary vote and win on preferences from Greens, Labor and the others, similar to Wagga results

  37. A week ago some senior Liberals were suggesting Turnbull may be asked to return from the USA to help the Liberal candidate. Given the revolations today about ABC chairman and Turnbull intimidation of ABC journalists having him handing around the candidate may backfire.

  38. Maybe Turnbull is very devious….. if the electorate needed a liberal woman….. he helped pick a conservative male…… to lose the seat? I wonder we will never know


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