Doctor and activist

NSW By-Elections Happening on 12 February

3 February 2022

There has been very little publicity about the 4 NSW State by-elections on 12 February, which is only on Saturday week.

One might ask, ‘Why?’  The reason for the by-elections in all cases are politicians leaving early, which says quite a  lot about NSW politics generally.

Andrew Constance in Bega is leaving to seek a Federal Liberal seat, which is at least a reasonable reason.  He had a 48.9% primary vote and a 56.9% Two-Candidate Preferred (TCP). 

I normally do not like the TCP, which is usually called Two Party Preferred (TPP) which reinforces the binary nature of these figures. But it does tell you how much a candidate’s margin is if the same groups of candidate stand again.  At this time Progressive Independents may come in, particularly in Liberal seats and change the game, but this is more likely to be a feature of the next Federal election.  I do not have either the local knowledge or the polling to make any intelligent comment about these by-elections apart from noting the possibility.

In Monaro, John Barillaro’s National party seat, he had a 52.3% primary vote and a 61.6% TCP.  In theory that is a very safe seat for the current National candidate.

Willoughby is Gladys Berejeklin’s old seat, where she had a 57% primary vote and a 71% TCP.  The Libs may also retain a sympathy vote for her. The Voices of North Sydney Independent group were active in the local government elections and will be active Federally, but have not been active at the state level, so this seat is unlikely to change hands.  Labor is not even standing.

In Strathfield, Labor leader Jodi McKay left politics deposed and disillusioned. She was elected with 44.3% against the Libs 38.9%, also getting preferences from the Greens who got 8.8%. The TCP was 55%.  Labor this time has a good candidate in Jason Yat-Sen Li and Green preferences again.  A high  profile independent, Elizabeth Farrelly, who wrote on development issues in the Herald was sacked by Nine when it was revealed (by whom one might ask) that she was a member of the Labor party, is unlikely to get enough primary and preference votes to beat Labor.

If no seats actually change hands the result will be more a test of Perrottet’s popularity than anything else, so we can expect quite a lot of commentary on that, particularly with the fuss over Liberal Federal preselections and the toxic texts about Morrison’s character.  I do think there will be a considerable swing against the Liberals, but they are less on the nose than the Federal ones and voters historically are well aware of the difference.

I mention in passing that I am very disappointed that the Greens have given no preferences in Willoughby and preferences only to Labor in Bega, Monaro and Strathfield, then letting their votes exhaust.  Preferential voting is compulsory at a Federal level, but not at a State level, which tends to turn the contests into ‘first past the post’, which favours the major parties.  The Greens really should do better than this.  It makes them look like an appendage of Labor.

The other item of interest is that cash donations are limited to $100.  I wonder if this will make any difference.  It begs two questions, ‘How important is money in low-profile by-elections?’ and ‘How will donors and political parties get around it?’

Arthur Chesterfield-Evans

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