Electorate analysis: Replacing abolished Bligh at the redistribution before the 2007 election, the electorate of Sydney covers the harbour from Pyrmont west through the city centre to Rushcutters Bay, extending south to Chippendale, Strawberry Hills and Centennial Park. The name change was prompted by the acquisition of the central business district and harbour shore as far west as Pyrmont from abolished Port Jackson (renamed Balmain). The city centre had been in a series of Labor-held electorates since the end of proportional representation in 1927, all since abolished: King until 1973, Phillip until 1981, Elizabeth until 1988, McKell until 1991, and Port Jackson thereafter.
Bligh was created in 1962 in place of abolished Woollahra, which since 1927 had filled the gap between the city-based electorate and Vaucluse on the coast. Labor’s only wins in Woollahra and Bligh were in 1927, 1962 and 1981, but Bligh became more volatile as cuts in parliamentary numbers forced it to expand westwards into the inner city. Michael Yabsley recovered it for the Liberals as part of the party’s improved performance in 1984 but was unable to enjoy Nick Greiner’s election win in 1988, when independent candidate Clover Moore finished ahead of Labor with 26.7 per cent of the vote and defeated Yabsley on preferences. Yabsley returned to parliament later in the year as the member for Vaucluse, where he was elected unopposed after the death of sitting member Ray Aston.
Clover Moore had previously been an alderman on Sydney City Council and was rated the front-runner to become the next lord mayor, but the council was sacked by the Unsworth government and replaced with commissioners. The 1991 result left her as one of three independents holding the balance of power, at first sustaining Nick Greiner’s minority government in office. The three used their power to force Greiner’s resignation when the Independent Commission Against Corruption ruled that the offer of a public service position to Liberal-turned-independent MP Terry Metherell amounted to corrupt conduct. The findings against Greiner were eventually overturned by the Supreme Court.
When it appeared that Moore might again be in a balance of power position after the 1995 election, it was reported that the Labor Right believed another election would be preferable to governing with Moore’s support. For their part, conservative members of the Coalition expressed concern at having a minority government susceptible to blackmail over issues of concern to Moore, such as gay law reform and protection of old-growth forests. The matter was resolved when late counting delivered Labor the seats it needed to govern with a one-seat majority.
Moore has been re-elected five times, her primary vote ranging from 36.3 per cent in 1995 to 43.7 per cent in 1991. The addition of parts of Redfern at the next redistribution, along with the decline in the Liberals’ electoral fortunes, helped Labor finish second in 1999, 2003 and 2007, when Moore respectively scored 59.8 per cent, 64.7 per cent and 66.5 per cent of the two-candidate preferred vote. The lord mayoralty of Sydney was added to her list of responsibilities in 2004 when she ran in protest against the government’s sacking of the existing council and amalgamation of Sydney and South Sydney councils, which was widely seen as an effort to bring the strong Labor vote in South Sydney to bear in electing Keating govenrment minister Michael Lee.
Labor’s candidate is Sacha Blumen, an adviser to the Australian Energy Market Commission and occasional Poll Bludger commenter. The Liberals have endorsed an openly gay candidate in Adrian Bartels, a finance broker. The Greens candidate is communications and advertising consultant De Brierley Newton.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.