Win-Win For O'Farrell

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Nobody in NSW was surprised when the Coalition thrashed Labor on the weekend. The size of the swings against Labor was unprecedented — and expected. Barry O’Farrell is the new Premier of NSW and the ALP is trying to work out who to pitch into the leader’s seat after a monumental defeat.

Across the state Labor suffered a swing of more than 16 per cent, with the biggest recorded in Bathurst (36.6 per cent) which has gone from being a safe Labor seat to a safe Nationals seat in one election; Goulburn (25.3, Liberal retain); Manly (29.2, Liberal retain); Menai (26.9, Liberal gain); Riverstone (30.3, Liberal gain) and Pittwater (25.4, Liberal retain). There was a 16 per cent swing against former premier Kristina Keneally in her seat of Heffron, which she still holds.

The SMH is running this image on their website which shows just how tightly the former Labor heartland has been squeezed.

 

Labor didn’t just lose 25 seats. The big swings mean that many ALP MPs now find themselves in seats they never thought could be marginal including: Blacktown, with an 18 per cent swing; Fairfield, an 18.2 per cent swing; Keira, a 17.5 per cent swing; Kogarah, a 15.3 per cent swing; and Maroubra, a 14 per cent swing.

And a number of Labor MPs are still waiting nervously for an outcome in seats that are still too close to call, these include former premier Nathan Rees in Toongabbie, the scandal-wracked Noreen Hays in Wollonging and Balmain MP Verity Firth.

In Balmain, where the Greens were expected to take the seat from the Labor Left’s Firth, the result will come down to postal votes. Labor, the Greens and the Liberals polled almost evenly on primaries.

In Marrickville, the other seat tipped to fall to the Greens, Labor’s Carmel Tebbutt has held on to her seat by a slim margin.

A Galaxy poll earlier this month recorded a first preference vote for the Greens of an incredible 44 per cent in Marrickville, with Labor on 33 per cent. So what happened? The profile of the Greens candidate, Marrickville mayor Fiona Byrne, suffered thanks to poor media performances on her stance on boycott, divestment and sanctions on Israel. Labor’s "Keep Carmel" campaign also went into overdrive in the final week — with glossy, A3-size flyers in letterboxes on Friday, and printed "doorknockers" distributed on Saturday morning.

The SMH reported scoffing about the Greens from ALP campaign spokesperson Luke Foley, who declared "the only little ray of sunshine on a very black day for Labor is that the Greens have shown that they are just not a mainstream party … The Greens should have won Balmain in a canter."

Is the scoffing justified? Possibly in the worse-than-expected lower house result, although the Greens did out-poll Labor in the seats of Vaucluse and North Shore. Upper house results are looking less clear cut, however: the party pulled 322,378 first preference group votes in the upper house. That’s almost half what Labor polled (708,500).

As the count currently stands, the Greens vote in the upper house is only just exceeded by that of the next six minor parties combined: the Shooters and Fishers (107,530), the Christian Democratic Party (90,284), Family First (40,883), the Fishing Party (37,842), the No Parking Meters Party (33,014), the Australian Democrats (22,913) the Outdoor Recreation Party (20,906). These six parties amassed 353,372 votes between them. Remove the Democrats from the equation and that’s 330,459 conservative upper house votes — split five ways.

Whatever you make of these results, the balance of power in the Legislative Council will be held by the conservative parties (the Christian Democrats and the Shooters and Fishers) so the Greens’ ability to exert an influence on the legislative process will be limited in this term of parlimament.

The increased Liberal vote in seats like Balmain, Marrickville and Sydney is also worth noting, and points to two things. Firstly, the extent of the dissatisfaction with the NSW ALP, and secondly, the changing demographics in these electorates.

The results for the seat of Sydney show how the electoral dynamics have changed since the last election. Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore weathered a 12.1 per cent swing to retain her seat comfortably. Labor’s Sacha Blumen polled 10.6 per cent of the vote, running fourth behind the Liberal Adrian Bartels (35.3) and the Greens’ De Brierley Newton (12.4).

In 2007, the three parties ran much closer together, with Labor at 20 per cent, the Libs at 21.6 and the Greens at 15.6. The two party prefered vote came down to a contest between Moore and the ALP’s Linda Scott. This time around, Adrian Bartels was the key opponent to watch: he came in at 45.5 per cent to Moore’s 54.5 per cent. In other words, Labor is no longer a threat to Clover in Sydney.

(As for the Christian Democratic candidate Peter Madden, who NM profiled prior to the election, he got 1.1 per cent of the vote. That’s 343 votes against "Mardi Gras anarchy" in the inner city.)

All in all, it’s a walloping win for the Coalition. O’Farrell yesterday used the m-word, claiming a mandate for change in the state. With the upper and lower house under his control, he’s in a strong position to make changes and he’s unlikely to be bothered by a Labor opposition in utter disarray in the immediate future.

 

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