Electorate: North Sydney
Margin: Liberal 5.0%
Location: Sydney North Shore, New South Wales
In a nutshell: Joe Hockey recovered this normally safe Liberal seat for the Liberals upon the retirement in 1996 of Ted Mack, who had held it as an independent since 1990. Despite occasional talk he might be tipped out by a “doctors’ wives” effect, he retained the seat comfortably in 2004 and 2007.
Electorate analysis: North Sydney covered the entire Sydney area north of the harbour when it was created at federation, losing most of its surface area with the creation of Warringah in 1922. It has since covered a shifting area to the north and west of North Sydney proper, currently extending to Willoughby, Lane Cove and Gladesville, and has never been held by Labor. The redistribution has cost the electorate harbourside territory at its eastern end, sending 14,400 voters in a strip between Middle Harbour and Sydney Harbour (from Willoughby Bay to Neutral Bay) to North Sydney, compensating it with extra territory in the north: 13,800 voters around Chatswood from Bradfield and 2700 at Castle Cove and Middle Cove from Warringah immediately to the east. The changes have cut the Liberal margin by 0.4 per cent. North Sydney has provided a home to members including Billy Hughes, who came here from Bendigo in 1922 and held the seat until 1949, when he went to newly created Bradfield. The only time the modern Liberal Party lost its grip was between 1990 and 1996, when it fell to independent North Sydney mayor and future republic referendum spoiler Ted Mack. Joe Hockey had no trouble recovering the seat for the Liberals after Mack declined to run again in 1996.
Hockey emerged as a popular figure in the Howard government, in part due to his appearances on the Seven Sunrise program with Kevin Rudd, as he progress through the junior ministry. In January 2007 he was promoted to cabinet with the contentious workplace relations portfolio, in the forlorn hope that the selling of WorkChoices would be the easier for his friendly image. In opposition he held the health and ageing portfolio under Brendan Nelson and finance under Malcolm Turnbull, before emerging Shadow Treasurer in February 2009 after Julie Bishop’s position had become untenable. When Turnbull’s leadership fell apart amid revolt against his support for the government’s emissions trading scheme he was widely tipped to succeed his leader, but when the spill occurred he committed a tactical blunder by promising a conscience vote on the ETS legislation. This was blamed for his third place on the first round behind Turnbull and Tony Abbott, the latter of whom prevailed on the second round by one vote.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.