Background Paper on the 2023 NSW Election

I’ve prepared a preview publication on the NSW Legislative Assembly election for the NSW Parliamentary Library.

I won’t claim its an exciting publication. It’s a reference work that tabulates, for each electorate, results at the four elections from 2007 to 2019, plus references to the 2015 and 2021 redistributions.

The period covers four elections, beginning with a comfortable Labor victory in 2007, then tracking results through the landslide Coalition victory in 2011, then the 2015 and 2019 elections where Coalition support ebbed away.

Leaving the finely balanced Legislative Assembly that faces the electorate on 25 March.

You can find the publication at this link.

The analysis uses the four elections to categorise 2023 electorates as being safe for the Coalition or Labor, or the sort of electorates that change sides.

Unsurprisingly, the categories of electorates line up with the 2023 electoral pendulum.

The categories and seats within them are as follows –

26 seats have been won by the Coalition at all four elections

Albury, Castle Hill, Clarence (NAT), Coffs Harbour (NAT), Cootamundra (NAT), Cronulla, Davidson, Epping, Goulburn, Hawkesbury, Hornsby, Kellyville, Lane Cove, Manly, Myall Lakes (NAT), North Shore, Oxley (NAT), Pittwater, South Coast, Terrigal, Tweed (NAT), Upper Hunter (NAT), Vaucluse, Wahroonga, Wakehurst, Willoughby.

The 26 seats listed above (or their predecessors) have been won by the Coalition at all four elections since 2007. Of these seats, Goulburn (3.1%) and Upper Hunter (0.6%) have become marginal seats over the four elections while Tweed (5.0%) was also marginal in 2007. Willoughby is marginal against an Independent based on the 2022 by-election, but not on the much safer Liberal margin at the 2019 election.

While not under threat from Labor, Lane Cove, Manly, North Shore, Pittwater, Vaucluse, Wakehurst and Willoughby lie entirely or in large part within seats won by ‘teal’ Independents at the 2022 Federal election. Several of these seats would be Independent held on Federal election results, and each has attracted high-profile Independents for the 2023 election. The loss of any seat to an Independent would make it more difficult for the Coalition to win majority government, or finish with more seats than Labor in an Assembly with no overall majority.

16 seats won by Labor in 2007 have been won by the Coalition at three elections since

Badgerys Creek, Bathurst, Camden, Drummoyne, East Hills, Holsworthy, Kiama, Miranda, Monaro (NAT), Oatley, Parramatta, Penrith, Riverstone, Ryde, Winston Hills, Wollondilly

These seats gained from Labor in 2011 and have remained with the Coalition for two elections since. Six of these seats, Drummoyne, East Hills, Kiama, Parramatta, Penrith and Riverstone, have traditionally been Labor seats. Monaro has been an electoral bellwether for the last century, while areas covered by Holsworthy, Oatley and Ryde have long been swing seats. Badgerys Creek, Camden and Wollondilly are newer seats covering growth areas on the edge of metropolitan Sydney.

Seven of the seats sit on margins under 7% and are the key contests that could determine whether Labor or the Coalition form government.

Four seats held by Independents in 2007 have returned to being safe Coalition seats

Dubbo (NAT), Northern Tablelands (NAT), Port Macquarie, Tamworth (NAT)

Independents won these four rural and regional seats at the 2007 election. The defeat of the Labor government in 2011 also swept away three of the four Independents, the National Party winning Dubbo, Port Macquarie and Tamworth. The later resignation of Richard Torbay resulted in the Nationals recovering Northern Tablelands at a 2013 by-election.

All four seats should be safe for the Coalition in 2023, though an Independent could be part of the final pairing in Tamworth. Port Macquarie will be a three-cornered contest in 2023, the National Party attempting to recover the seat following the defection of MP Leslie Williams to the Liberal Party. There has not been a three-cornered contest in NSW since the 1999 election when there were seven. The high rate of exhausted preferences between competing Coalition candidates in 1999 allowed Labor to retain Clarence and turned Burrinjuck and Monaro into closer contests than would otherwise have been the case.

The Coalition has lost four seats to the SFF and Independents since 2011

Barwon, Murray, Orange, Wagga Wagga

Orange was won by the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party (SFF) at a November 2016 by-election and again at the 2019 state election. Wagga Wagga was lost to Independent Joe McGirr at a September 2018 by-election and again at the 2019 state election. Both Barwon and Murray fell to the SFF at the 2019 election.

All three SFF members have resigned from the party and will re-contest their seats at the 2023 election as Independents. The Independent margins shown above are the SFF margins against the National Party in 2019. All four of the above seats were largely untouched by the 2021 redistribution.

17 seats have been won by Labor at all four elections

Auburn Bankstown, Blacktown, Cabramatta, Canterbury, Cessnock, Fairfield, Heffron, Keira, Kogarah, Liverpool, Macquarie Fields, Maroubra, Mount Druitt, Shellharbour, Wallsend, Wollongong

Labor won only 20 seats at the 2011 election, including the 17 seats listed above. The other three seats were Lakemba (abolished in the 2021 redistribution), Marrickville (abolished and divided between Newtown and Summer Hill) and Toongabbie (abolished, partly replaced by the new seat of Winston Hills). These 17 seats plus Summer Hill can be viewed as Labor’s base seats.

Of the 17 electorates, only Kogarah is a marginal seat. Like fellow Georges River facing seats Oatley and East Hills, Labor’s vote has not re-bounded in line with the state-wide swing to Labor over the last two election.

14 seats were won by Labor in 2007, lost in 2011 but recovered in 2015

Blue Mountains, Campbelltown, Charlestown, Gosford, Granville, Londonderry, Maitland, Newcastle, Prospect, Rockdale, Strathfield, Swansea, The Entrance, Wyong.

These seats would normally be held by Labor at a close election. These are the ‘oncer’ districts, seats that were only lost to the Liberal Party in the landslide circumstances of the 2011 election.

Four of these electorates were recovered after the Liberal member was excluded from the party over donation breaches. Charlestown and Newcastle were recovered at 2014 by-elections where the Liberal Party did not nominate candidates, while The Entrance and Wyong were recovered at the 2015 election.

Four seats have returned to Labor by other routes

Bega, Coogee, Lismore, Port Stephens

These four Labor-held seats did not fit in either of the two previous categories, having returned to the Labor fold by different pathways.

Port Stephens was won by the Liberal Party at both the 2007 and 2011 elections. It was recovered by Labor in 2015 after the sitting Liberal MP had been excluded from the party for accepting developer donations. Coogee fell to the Liberal Party in 2011 and again in 2015 before being recovered at the 2019 election. The Labor Party gained Lismore in 2019 having not won the seat since 1962. Bega had not previously been won by Labor Party before its victory at a 2022 by-election.

Labor has gained three seats through redistributions

Heathcote, Leppington, Summer Hill

Heathcote would be in the list of seats won by the Liberal Party for three elections except the seat has become notionally Labor-held courtesy of the 2021 redistribution. Leppington is a notional Labor seat being contested for the first time in 2023, while Summer Hill can be classed as a new Labor seat or a replacement for the abolished seat of Marrickville.

There are three Greens seats gained since 2011 that have underlying Labor majorities

Ballina, Balmain, Newtown

Balmain was won by the Greens from Labor in 2011. Newtown was a new seat won by the Greens in at its first contest in 2015. Ballina was gained from the National Party in 2015. Balmain and Newtown are Labor-Green contests where the Liberal Party finishes third, while Ballina is a two-party marginal seat where the Nationals lead on first preferences with Labor and the Greens competing for second place and the chance to win on the other party’s preferences.

Two seats have been won by Independents at all four elections.

Lake Macquarie, Sydney

On a two-party preferred basis, Lake Macquarie has consistently been a safe Labor seat. Sydney is more difficult to assess in two-party preferred terms with the area having been represented by Independents for more than three decades.

Details of all electorates are in the publication for everyone to use. Check your seat and see if it has followed the state trend, or is it one of those seats where demography has is slowly pushing the seat across the political spectrum.

1 thought on “Background Paper on the 2023 NSW Election”

  1. Dr Verna Romaine Rutnam

    I was hoping to find advice on how to vote above the line for the Legislative Council to avoid the dregs (in my view). Not found in your discussion paper.

    COMMENT: Put ‘1’ above the line for the party you most prefer, and if you like, continue ‘2’, ‘3’, ‘4’ etc for your next preferred parties. Or you can vote for individual candidates below the line, as long as you number at least 15 candidate squares.

    There are no group voting tickets so parties have no control over between-party preferences. The only preferences that count are the ones completed by voters.

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