Penrith (NSW) by-election 2010

Map of Penrith electorate (source: ABC)

A by-election in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly division of Penrith was held on June 19, 2010 as a result of the resignation of Labor MP Karyn Paluzzano in May 2010. Penrith is located in the western suburbs of Sydney including the centre of the city of Penrith and parts of the lower Blue Mountains, as well as other suburbs. This seat is a traditionally middle-class seat, with a high household income, but contains few professionals but rather has a fair share of skilled manual workers, a sociological group which has aspirations to join the more professional higher middle-class. These voters provided Liberal Prime Minister John Howard with his winning electorate during his successive mandates in power federally, but these voters shifted back en-masse to Labor in 2007. At the state level, where Labor currently dominates, Penrith is held by Labor and has been Labor since its creation in 1973 with the exception of 1988-1991, when Penrith was held by the Liberals following a Liberal landslide in 1988. Paluzzano, who has held the seat for Labor since 2003, was forced to resign after a corruption scandal exploded and after she lied on the subject to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). New South Wales’ Labor government, led by Premier Kristina Keneally (or, known by her initials KKK), has been growing extremely unpopular and is embattled with voter discontent at tax hikes, corruption and financial troubles. Labor won 52 seats in the 2007 election against 35 for the Liberal and Nationals (plus 6 independents), though the numbers stood before the by-election at 50 for Labor and 36 for the coalition. In 2007, Labor won 48.7% of primary votes in Penrith against 32.6% for the Liberals, 6.2% for the Christian Democrats and 5.6% for the Greens. On 2PP, Labor won with 59.2% against 40.8% for the Liberals.

Labor nominated John Thain, the Liberals nominated Stuart Ayres and the Greens nominated Suzie Wright. Labor faced a very tough campaign, and, despite the personal likability of KKK, struggled to move away from the government’s unpopular policies. The ALP’s spin doctors tried to lower expectations considerably ahead of this by-election. Indeed, in 2008, Labor suffered a 22.7% swing in the Cabramatta by-election and a 23.1% swing in Ryde, which was gained by the Liberal Party. Here are the results in Penrith. If you support Labor, make sure there’s a Kleenex box next to you, and if you supports the Liberals, go buy champagne.

Stuart Ayres (Liberal) 50.9% (+18.3%)
John Thain (ALP) 24.4% (-24.2%)
Suzie Wright (Greens) 12.6% (+7.0%)
Andrew Green (CDP) 4.5% (-1.7%)
Noel Selby (Ind) 2.6%
Mick Saunders (Ind) 2.2%
David Leyonhjelm (Outdoor Recreation) 1.9%
Jose Sanz (Democrats) 0.9%

2PP result:

Stuart Ayres (Liberal) 66.3% (+25.5%)
John Thain (ALP) 33.7% (-25.5%)

There is absolutely no way to spin this for the ALP: it is an unmitigated disaster for NSW Labor. Not only has it lost a safe seat, it has suffered the largest swing in NSW history (25.5%), breaking the record in Ryde in 2008. This swing is unprecedented. These results provide proof that the ALP will be in deep trouble in 2011, and faces attacks on two fronts. The Coalition, which now holds 37 seats, needs ten more seats to win a majority and it is extremely unlikely that they won’t gain at least 10 seats in 2011 to give them a majority. Furthermore, a major boost in the Green vote here could spell danger for Labor in two inner-city Sydney seats – Balmain and Marrickville. Balmain only has a 3.7% Labor majority over the Greens on 2PP. On such a swing of 25.5%, Labor would be reduced to only 11 seats overall. Lastly, some Labor seats are won on Green preference transfers, and in Penrith the exhausted preferences rate according to ABC was 62%. A lot of extremely bad signs for Labor. However, people do tend to get over-excited with results in by-election and the media loves feeding these people with doomsday scenarios for so and so. Realistically, it is unlikely the swing will be this high in 2011, and while a Liberal majority in 2011 seems to be quasi-certain, such a massive defeat for Labor remains unlikely. A real electoral campaign could very well draw back some discontent Labor voters. The results are also bad for Kevin Rudd’s federal Labor cabinet, which could face elections as soon as this fall. Despite an unpopular federal Liberal leader, Labor under Kevin Rudd has seen its rating go in free-fall over rising anger with commodity costs and financial troubles. While Rudd has said that Penrith was mainly fought on state and local issues, he did admit that Labor faces trouble in west Sydney in any fall election.

Advertisements

Posted on June 20, 2010, in Australia, By-elections, New South Wales. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I suspect that the circumstances under which this by-election was called contributed to the scale of the drubbing, though it’s not as though it wouldn’t have been a disaster otherwise. The NSW government has been very unpopular for quite a while, so, when combined with the circumstances, this doesn’t really come as a shock.

  2. While I agree that a Labor win in 2011 seems incredibly unlikely, I suspect that this seat will actually return to the Labor fold given the local issues at hand, and the different reality under which by-elections are fought.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: