New Publication on NSW Legislative Council Elections

In December 2022 the NSW Parliamentary Library published a background paper I prepared on the 2019 NSW Legislative Council Election. To keep it timely, the Publication also included an Appendix on prospects for the 2023 Legislative Council Election.

Inside this post I’ll run through the contents of the publication and also publish the statistical highlights section with references to parts of the paper.

The paper can be found in full at this link.

More on the contents inside this post.

By section the publication includes –

  • Section 1 – first preferences by candidate and party, party vote by type, names of members elected.
  • Section 2 – runs through the detail of the distribution of preferences.
  • Section 3 – a ballot paper survey. Did people vote above or below the line? How many gave preferences above the line? where did party voters give second preferences, and what were the effective preferences that flowed to remaining parties from voters for parties excluded during the count.
  • Section 4 – Comparisons of upper and lower house votes by party and a details of LC results by lower house district.
  • Section 5 – Ordered tables of party vote by district.
  • Section 6 – Two chamber difference tables by party.
  • Section 7 – some history tables.
  • Appendix – Prospects for the 2023 Legislative Council election. Includes a table looking at candidates that have been elected with less than a quota since the introduction of the current electoral system in 2003.

Statistical Highlights

  • A total of 346 candidates contested the 2019 Legislative Council election, down from the record 394 candidates in 2015. There were 21 columns on the ballot paper, down from the record 25 under the current system in 2015. The 21 columns represented 20 groups, 19 with a group voting square, one without, and one column of eight ungrouped candidates. (See past records on candidates and groups contesting election, Table 7.4, page 83)
  • The 2019 election was for Legislative Council positions last contested in 2011 when the Coalition won a landslide victory. Compared to the 2011 election, the Coalition lost three seats and the Greens and Christian Democrats lost one each. The Labor Party gained two seats, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation won two seats on its return to NSW elections, and the Animal Justice Party gained one seat. (See membership changes, Table 1.3, page 6)
  • The 2019 election was the first since 1981 at which the Christian Democrats (previously known as Call To Australia) failed to elect a member. It was the first victory for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation since the party last contested a NSW election in 1999. Former Federal Labor Party Leader Mark Latham entered the Legislative Council as the lead candidate for One Nation. (See newly elected members, Table 1.5, page 7)
  • As at previous elections under the current electoral system, 17 candidates were elected early in the count during the distribution of surplus to quota votes. The four final vacancies were filled at the end of the count by candidates with less than a quota of votes. (See Table 2.1 page 18)
  • For the third election in a row, the distribution of preferences allowed a lower placed candidate to come from behind and win one of the final seats. As in 2015, the beneficiary of preference flows was the Animal Justice Party. (See Section 2, page 18)
  • At the end of the count, the rate of exhausted preferences during the exclusion of final candidates from each group was 72.2%, down from more than 82% at the four elections since the current electoral system was introduced in 2003. This lower rate of exhaustion is almost certainly due to voters having more awareness of ATL voting with preferences from experience at the 2016 Senate election. (See Table 2.17 page 28)
  • Only 2.7% of ballot papers were counted as ‘below the line’ votes, but this was the highest rate since 2003. As a percentage of all ballot papers, 69.7% of ballot papers were counted as single ‘1’ ATL line votes, and 27.6% were counted as ATL votes with preferences. (See Table 3.1, page 29)
  • The percentage of above the line votes with preferences increased from 15.3% to 27.6%, almost twice the rate recorded at previous Legislative Council elections. The most likely cause of this increase was voter experience with the new Senate voting system where voters are instructed to number at least six preferences above the line. (See Table 3.1, page 29)
  • The parties with the highest proportion of above the line votes with preferences were Keep Sydney Open 47.3%, Socialist Alliance 43.2%, Greens 43.1%, Sustainable Australia 35.8%, and Australian Conservatives 35.5%. The group with the lowest proportion was Pauline Hanson’s One Nation at 15.7%. (See Table 3.1, page 29)
  • As in 2015, the Animal Justice Party won election after passing higher polling parties on preferences. Parties that helped elect Animal Justice had lower rates of exhausted ATL preferences, including the Greens (59.5%), Socialist Alliance (61.3%), Sustainable Australia (70.6%) and Keep Sydney Open (59.8%). (See Table 3.3 page 31)
  • Conservative minor parties had higher rates of exhausted ATL preferences at the end of the count, including Shooters, Fishers and Farmers (81.2%) and the Liberal Democrats (82.0%). A major factor in the defeat of the Christian Democrats was weak flows of preferences on the exclusion of other right of centre political parties. (See Table 3.3 page 31)
  • The 2019 election provided two instances of a party polling above 2% and failing to be elected. The Christian Democrats polled 2.28% (0.5003 quotas) and the Liberal Democrats 2.18% (0.4794 quotas). The Liberal Democrats were passed and excluded on preferences while the Christian Democrats reached 2.54 quotas but were the last excluded party. The only previous case of a group polling more than 2% and not winning was Pauline Hanson polling 2.41 quotas as an Independent in 2011 but being passed on preferences.
  • In 2015 the Animal Justice Party polled 1.78% (0.29 quotas) and reached 2.12% (0.47 quotas) after preferences to provide the lowest vote for a winning party under the current system. In 2019 Animal Justice repeated the feat with the second lowest vote for a winning party. The party polled 1.95% (0.4286 quotas) and strong flows of preferences saw the party pass the Liberal Democrats and Christian Democrats to reach 2.74% (0.6018 quotas) and win one of the final four seats.
  • The highest polling below-the-line candidates were all lead candidates on party tickets. By far the highest polling was Mark Latham (One Nation) with 18,021 votes, 5.9% of his party’s votes. David Shoebridge (Greens) polled 11,421 votes or 2.6% of Greens votes. Lead Labor candidate Tara Moriarty polled 11,847 and lead Liberal Catherine Cusack 10,958, but both represented less than 1% their party’s votes. The highest vote for a lower placed candidate was 4,438 for Penny Sharpe who was second on the Labor ticket. (See candidate votes in Table 1.6, page 8)
  • Since 2003 the Legislative Council electoral system has elected 17 MLCs from filled party quotas at the start of the count. The final four vacancies at each election have not been filled until the final step in the distribution of preferences. High rates of exhausted preferences mean the final vacancies are almost always filled by candidates with less than a quota of votes. (See Appendix, page 84)
  • Pauline Hanson as an Independent was defeated in 2011 despite polling more than a half a quota with 2.41% of the vote, the highest vote recorded for a candidate who was not elected. The Animal Justice Party in 2015 polled just 1.78% or 0.39 quotas to record the lowest vote for a successful candidate. (See discussion on electing candidate from partial quotas, p 88)
  • The Liberal/National Coalition have recorded a higher vote at the last two NSW Senate elections than they did at the 2019 Legislative Council election. Labor recorded roughly the same vote at both elections, while the 2022 NSW Senate election suggests the Greens could win three seats in 2023. (See Appendix page 91)
  • The last two NSW Senate elections suggest One Nation will win a seat. The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party poll poorly at Senate elections but usually perform better at Legislative Council elections. (See Appendix page 91)
  • Contesting its first state election in 2023, results for the last two NSW Senate elections suggest the Legalise Cannabis party is strongly placed to elect an MLC in 2023. (See Appendix page 91)

3 thoughts on “New Publication on NSW Legislative Council Elections”

  1. Antony just a quick question what is the preference flows in Kew in 2022 from the teal candidate to liberal and labour?

    COMMENT: That data is not available. The only published data is the distribution of preferences.

  2. Antony green just a quick question how do you find preference flows from the 1998 federal election in certain seats and etc

    COMMENT: The 1993, 1996 and 1998 election results were available on a CD-ROM. This was before the first version of the Tallyroom site. The files were available on the AEC site at one stage but they seem to have disappeared. I have the CDs with the data files so if you contact me after the NSW election I can find the relevant file for you.

  3. Antony Green in the 2017 Queensland election how do I find out the two party preferred seats that weren’t labour vs liberal like Noosa, Hinchinbrook and Maiwar

    COMMENT: You estimate it. No separate two-party preferred count was done.

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