Election 22 / 09 May 2022

A gallop around NSW

NSW – it’s home to both leaders of our major parties, it’s also our most populous state and home to a third of Australia’s House of Representatives seats. So, it’s a big one, and it’s always the scene of several important battles in a federal election. So let’s unpack the state of play in NSW this election.

As the biggest state, I’m guessing NSW is pretty crucial to win a federal election?
You’d be right about that. With so many seats, the major parties would basically need the rest of the country to be on board if the residents of NSW rejected their candidates.

That’s pretty hard to imagine…
It is. As we’ve talked about previously, Victoria is pretty well locked in with the Labor Party, and as we’ll talk about in future episodes, Western Australia and Queensland have been pretty well locked in with the Coalition. But in the past, NSW has tended to go with the party that wins the election. Labor has never won a federal election without also winning a majority of seats in NSW.

Are there any exceptions to that rule?
Over the last 60 years, the Coalition won office without also winning a majority of seats in the state on just 2 occasions. In the last 2 federal elections, the Coalition was re-elected without winning a majority of seats in NSW. Despite that, there was a small swing to the Coalition in NSW last time around.

What’s the political vibe in NSW?
The state government is currently held by the Coalition – it has been in power since 2011 and is up to its 4th premier. Barry O’Farrell resigned after giving the state’s anti-corruption commission ICAC the wrong steer about a bottle of wine that was gifted to him. Mike Baird did 3 years and handed it off to his deputy Gladys Berejiklian, and she resigned last year as a result of an ICAC investigation. The state premier is now Dominic Perrottet, and look, there’s a NSW state election next year so there’s plenty of time to get into all that. But the thing to know about the NSW Liberals is that there have been some epic factional battles at play, and that’s spilt into picking candidates for this federal election.

How has this saga affected the Liberal party in NSW?
It has left the Liberals without locked in candidates for a long time in 5 potentially winnable federal seats in NSW. And it also impacted 3 sitting members – Environment Minister Sussan Ley, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke and North Sydney MP Trent Zimmerman. Long story short, PM Scott Morrison, Premier Dominic Perrottet and party elder Chris McDiven suspended the NSW division of the party and forced through 12 preselections – that was challenged and it went all the way to the High Court. And right on the knock of the election being called, the challenge was dismissed.

What are the seats to watch this election in NSW?
For the Coalition, there are 4 of them – Wentworth in Sydney’s east, is the most marginal at 1.3%, and then there’s Reid covering the inner-west and middle-ring suburbs of Sydney, Robertson on the Central Coast, and Lindsay in Western Sydney.

Any Labor seats to watch?
There are 9 on our radar – Macquarie is the most marginal seat in the country at 0.2% and it covers the outer western and north-western fringe of Sydney. Then there’s Eden-Monaro, Dobell, Gilmore, Greenway, Hunter, Parramatta, Richmond, and Shortland.

Are there any seats the Coalition thinks they can pick up?
Well, Macquarie is definitely worth a crack because it’s right on the edge, as well as Parramatta, which is on a 3.5% margin to Labor. The longtime MP for Parramatta Julie Owens has retired, so it’s got new candidates from the major parties with Andrew Charlton fronting up for Labor – he’s an economist and former adviser to Kevin Rudd. And for the Liberals, it’s businesswoman Maria Kovacic. Neither come from the electorate and there’s been a lot said about that – particularly about Charlton because he has a bit of a profile after working for Labor and in his role with consulting firm Accenture.

Any other standouts?
There’s Gilmore on the NSW south coast – it was Labor’s only gain in the 2019 election. The Liberals have Andrew Constance as its candidate – he was NSW MP who was a vocal critic of Scott Morrison’s response to the 2020 bushfires. He’s up against Fiona Phillips who won last time for Labor. Gilmore used to be held by Craig Kelly who was elected in 2019 as a Liberal, but he’s since left the party and is now the leader of Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party. And the other job for the Liberals is to hang onto seats where they’re under pressure from the ‘teal’ independents.

What’s the deal with those independents in NSW?
There’s a lot of buzz in Sydney around the Eastern Suburbs seat of Wentworth where Liberal incumbent Dave Sharma is facing off against ‘teal’ independent Allegra Spender. He’s a former diplomat who won the seat from independent Dr Kerryn Phelps in 2019. And Spender is the daughter of Carla Zampatti and former diplomat and MP John Spender – she’s been working in the fashion business. Sharma has a margin of just 1.3% – so it’s very much a contest. Another Teal challenger of note is Kylea Tink in North Sydney. She was CEO of Camp Quality and the Jane McGrath Foundation, and she’s taking on Trent Zimmerman who’s a leading member of the moderate faction of the Liberal Party. Zimmerman holds that seat by 9.3%, so she’s got a big job ahead of her. And there’s another woman from Team Teal that we haven’t mentioned…

Zali Steggall in Warringah?
Yep – she beat former PM Tony Abbott in 2019, and she was expected to come under serious pressure this time around. But Warringah was one of those seats that got caught up in the infighting amongst the Liberals and that saw Katherine Deves installed as the Liberal’s candidate. During this campaign, she’s been accused of being transphobic, among other things. For context, she is a campaigner for keeping transgender women out of sport.

So there’s a lot going on in NSW…
There sure is, and we’ve only just touched the sides of it here.

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