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New South Wales state election, 2007

Elections for the 54th Parliament of New South Wales were held on Saturday, 24 March 2007. The entire Legislative Assembly and half of the Legislative Council was up for election. The Australian Labor Party led by Morris Iemma won a fourth four-year term against the Liberal-National Coalition led by Peter Debnam.

Labor's substantial majority survived the election almost intact. The Liberals succeeded in taking two independent seats in Sydney's north and Port Stephens from Labor. Five previously safe Labor seats became marginal. The Nationals took the seat of Tweed from the ALP.

Campaign

Labor, running on the slogan "More to do, but we're heading in the right direction," heavily outspent the Liberals, whose slogan was "Let's fix NSW." Though water and infrastructure emerged as key issues in the campaign, much of the parties' advertising focussed on the negatives: Debnam's business record and Labor's record in office.

The media concluded that the choice facing voters was in finding the lesser of two evils: the three major newspapers sold in New South Wales endorsed Debnam, though not without criticising his ineptitude on the campaign trail.

The result was widely perceived as a foregone conclusion, with opposition leader Peter Debnam conceding as much the week before the poll. Opinion polls consistently put Labor ahead in terms of voting intention and preferred premier.

Electoral system

The New South Wales Legislative Assembly has 93 members elected for four-year terms using instant-runoff voting, a form of preferential voting. The voting system is the same as for the Australian House of Representatives except that New South Wales has optional preferential voting. This means that while voters may number every candidate if they wish, their vote is still formal if they choose not to. They may vote for one candidate only, or for as many candidates as they choose, provided that they number them in correct sequence.

The New South Wales Legislative Council has 42 members who serve eight year terms, one-half of the body being elected every four years. The Council uses the Single Transferable Vote method, a form of preferential voting for use with proportional representation. As for the Assembly, the numbering of preferences is optional.

After each election, the Governor of New South Wales, appoints a member of the Legislative Assembly to the position of Premier of New South Wales. By convention, the party leader with the largest bloc of votes in the Assembly, is chosen.

Legislative Assembly

Government is formed in the Legislative Assembly, the lower house of Parliament. The seats for this election resulted from the boundary redistribution conducted in 2005, which did not change the number of seats notionally held by each party.

Results

The counts in most districts were finalised and the results declared by 4 April. The 2 party-preferred statistic, which measures the final vote outcome for the Labor and Coalition parties, after the distribution of preferences from other parties, was Labor: 52.3% to Coalition: 47.7%.
Legislative Assembly election, 2007
Party Votes % won Swing Seats won Change
Australian Labor Party 1,535,872 39.0 ↓3.7 52 ↓3
Liberal Party of Australia 1,061,273 26.9 ↑2.2 22 ↑2
National Party of Australia 396,023 10.1 ↑0.4 13 ↑1
Australian Greens 352,805 9.0 ↑0.7 0 0
Christian Democratic Party 97,420 2.5 ↑0.7 0 0
Independents       6 0
Total 3,939,989     93  

Pendulum

A majority being 47 seats, the Labor Party had to lose nine seats (a uniform swing of 8.7%) to lose its majority, and the Liberal-National coalition had to gain 16 seats to gain a majority. Had the Liberal-National coalition gained at least one seat from an Independent, a uniform swing of 11.6% would have been sufficient. Otherwise, the necessary uniform swing required would have been 12.3%. Swings of this size are rare in New South Wales politics.

The swings required for the opposing party to take each of the Assembly's 93 seats are often illustrated by means of a Mackerras Pendulum.

Marginal seats

Marginal seats, i.e. those held with two-candidate preferred margins of 6% or less, are the most likely to change hands at an election. The table below shows the Assembly seats considered most marginal by psephologists Malcolm Mackerras and Antony Green.

Seat MP Party Margin Seat MP Party Margin
Orange Russell Turner National 5.9%
Clarence Steve Cansdell National 5.3%
Bega Andrew Constance Liberal 4.7%
Pittwater Alex McTaggart Independent 5.4% Goulburn Peta Seaton Liberal 4.5%
Wollondilly New seat Labor 4.6% Hornsby Judy Hopwood Liberal 4.2%
Monaro Steve Whan Labor 4.4% Baulkham Hills Wayne Merton Liberal 4.0%
Tweed Neville Newell Labor 4.0% Lane Cove Anthony Roberts Liberal 2.8%
Tamworth Peter Draper Independent 1.9% South Coast Shelley Hancock Liberal 1.6%
Manly David Barr Independent 1.2% Murray-Darling Peter Black Labor -1.4%
Dubbo Dawn Fardell Independent 0.3% Terrigal Chris Hartcher Liberal 0.6%

High-profile seats

Sydney

Balmain, in Sydney's inner-western suburbs, was with Marrickville one of two seats considered winnable for the Greens. The Greens failed to improve on their 2003 vote, recording a swing of just 0.2%. Labor's Verity Firth won comfortably.

The Liberals held on to Hawkesbury despite an independent challenge from Steven Pringle, the disendorsed Liberal incumbent. Pringle won 28.0% of the primary vote, at the expense of Labor and other independent candidates. Liberal candidate Ray Williams saw his primary vote dip by just 1.0%.

In Macquarie Fields, high-profile Liberal candidate Nola Fraser achieved a 12% swing in two-party-preferred terms compared to the 2003 poll. The incumbent, Labor's Steven Chaytor, had bowed out of the contest after being convicted for assaulting his girlfriend. Local issues such as hospital scandals and the 2005 Macquarie Fields riots may have also contributed to the high Liberal vote. Labor candidate Andrew McDonald won Macquarie Fields comfortably.

The Liberals won Manly from the independents for the first time since the 1980s. Sitting MP David Barr lost to Mike Baird, who increased the Liberals' primary vote by 4.4%.

Marrickville, in Sydney's inner west, was considered the Greens' best hope of capturing a lower house seat, but Labor's Carmel Tebbutt managed to keep her party's primary vote steady, down just 0.4%. Tebbutt, who won the seat in a 2005 by-election after quitting the Legislative Council, is a senior member of the party's left wing and has a strong personal following in the area.

The Liberals lost Pittwater to independent Alex McTaggart at a by-election called after the resignation of John Brogden. The Liberals' Rob Stokes won the seat back on primaries, taking 50.5% of the vote.

Rural and regional

Independent Dubbo MP Dawn Fardell fought off a challenge from the Nationals to retain her seat. The Nationals lost ground slightly, but the seat remains one of the state's most marginal.

Star Liberal candidate Pru Goward beat off a tough fight in Goulburn with independent candidate Paul Stephenson capturing a quarter of the vote. Goward was helped by the Nationals' decision not to run in the seat but both Labor and the Coalition lost ground. Allegations surfaced during the campaign that Labor was assisting Stephenson's campaign.

Independent Greg Piper won the safe seat of Lake Macquarie from Labor's Jeff Hunter. Labor and the Liberals lost 10.4% and 15.7% of their primary vote respectively.

Sitting Labor MP Bryce Gaudry chose to stand as an independent after being disendorsed by his party in the seat of Newcastle. Gaudry and another independent, John Tate, both outpolled the Greens and the Liberals. Labor's Jodi McKay suffered a 17.1% swing against her but won the seat on preferences.

Port Stephens Incumbent Labor MP John Bartlett retired at this election. The Liberals' Craig Baumann added 8.7% to his party's primary vote in the seat to outpoll Labor, and narrowly defeat ALP candidate Jim Arneman.

The Labor member for Swansea, Milton Orkopoulos, resigned from parliament after being charged with a number of child-sex and drug offenses. An expected backlash against the ALP materialised in the form of an 11.3% swing, with independent candidate Laurie Coghlan the main beneficiary. Nonetheless, Labor candidate Robert Coombs was able to hold the seat with a comfortable majority.

Tweed, Labor's most marginal seat, fell to the Nationals' Geoff Provest. Labor incumbent Neville Newell had previously served two terms (six years) in the federal seat of Richmond before his two terms (eight years) in the State Parliament. A swing of 7.8% meant that the seat changed from being a marginal seat for Labor to a National Party marginal.

The Liberals lost primary votes in the seat of Wyong, bucking the statewide swing to the party. The Liberals had disendorsed candidate Brenton Pavier after details emerged of a sex joke he had sent to friends via SMS. The Liberals' new candidate, Ben Morton, managed a 5.4% swing in two-party-preferred terms, not enough to take victory from Labor candidate David Harris. Incumbent Labor MP Paul Crittenden retired at the election.

High profile candidates

Retiring

A number of MPs did not seek re-election in 2007. Liberal MPs Andrew Tink (Epping) and Peta Seaton, (Southern Highlands) retired. Andrew Humpherson (Davidson) lost preselection and did not contest his seat. Nationals MP Ian Slack-Smith (Barwon) also retired.

The Labor MPs retiring at the 2007 election were John Bartlett (Port Stephens), Paul Crittenden (Wyong), John Mills (Wallsend), Sandra Nori (Port Jackson), John Price (Maitland) and Kim Yeadon (Granville). Steven Chaytor (Macquarie Fields) and Milton Orkopoulos (Swansea), each arrested for violent crimes in late 2006, pulled out of the election. Carl Scully (Smithfield), dumped from the ministry for misleading parliament, chose not to recontest his seat. Attorney-General Bob Debus (Blue Mountains) did not seek re-election, in anticipation of a move to federal politics.

Legislative Council

The Legislative Council, elected by proportional representation, operates as a house of review in the New South Wales parliament. It is rare for parties or coalitions to secure a majority in this house.

The count was completed and results for the Legislative Council declared on 10 April.

Legislative Council election, 2007
Party Votes % won Swing 2007 seats 2003 seats Total seats Change
Australian Labor Party 1,491,719 39.1 ↓4.4 9 10 19 ↑1
Liberal/National Coalition 1,304,166 34.2 ↑0.9 8 7 15 ↑2
Australian Greens 347,548 9.1 ↑0.5 2 2 4 ↑1
Christian Democratic Party 168,545 4.4 ↑1.4 1 1 2 0
Shooters Party 106,513 2.8 ↑0.8 1 1 2 ↑1
Australian Democrats 50,342 1.8 ↑0.2 0 0 0 ↓1
Unity Party 37,824 1.2 ↓0.2 0 0 0 ↓1
Outdoor Recreation Party 18,455 0.6 0 0 0 ↓1
Human Rights Party 11,883 0.4 0 0 0 ↓1
One Nation Party na na 0 0 0 ↓1
Total 3,811,245     21 21 42  

The Liberal and National parties ran a joint Legislative Council ticket, winning 5 seats for the Liberals and 3 seats for the Nationals and bringing the parties' totals to 10 and 5 respectively.

Electoral changes made after the 1999 election, which saw seats go to so-called microparties through elaborate preference deals, meant that both the major party groups made gains in the 2007 election. The Labor Party with 39.1% of the vote gained 1 seat, to win 9, whilst the Liberal and National Parties with 34.2% gained 1 seat each to make a combined gain of 2, thereby winning 8 seats. The effect of this outcome is that Labor now holds 19 out of 42 council seats, just 3 short of a majority, whilst the Coalition holds 15 seats.

The Greens achieved a primary vote of 9.1%, an increase from their result in the 2003 election. This has allowed them to win 2 seats (1 additional seat), bringing their total to 4 seats. This result appears to put them in a favourable position, in which they can exercise the parliamentary balance of power, and potentially provide the Labor government with the necessary majority to get legislation through the upper chamber of Parliament.

Fred Nile's Christian Democratic Party (CDP) achieved 4.4% of the vote (↑1.4%), allowing Nile to retain his seat, and keeping the CDP's representation at 2 seats. The Shooters Party won the remaining seat, on 2.8% of the vote, thereby increasing their representation to 2 seats.

The losers from the 2007 election were the Australian Democrats, Unity Party, Outdoor Recreation Party (ORP), Human Rights Party (HRP) (formerly Reform the Legal System Party) and One Nation. These five parties lost their single remaining parliamentary seat, which they had won in 1999. The Australian Democrats and Unity Party polled less than 2%, ORP and HRP polled well below 1%, whilst neither One Nation, nor their former representative-turned-Independent, David Oldfield, contested the 2007 election.

Notes

See also

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