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Who really won the North Sydney by-election?

By Andrew McNamara - posted Friday, 11 December 2015

The Liberals have claimed victory in the North Sydney by-election, but at a cost of around $1 million and with a 13% swing against them, there is not much to celebrate. Too many wins like this will send the Liberals bankrupt.

The independent Dr Stephen Ruff finished second with over 18%. It is a commendable result that will turn into a 60:40 two party preferred vote, but given there is no second prize and the good doctor will now return to doing hip replacements, his result will only be referred to ever again under the heading “Dr Who?” at future political trivia nights.

The Greens scored under16%, a minute increase of .35% on their 2013 result. With no Labor candidate in the field this time, a third place finish is a serious failure. The 20% of punters who voted Labor at the last general election went everywhere but to the Greens.


The other independent in the field, two term North Sydney Councillor Maryann Beregi finished a creditable fourth, with 3.45%. But now what? The personable Councillor needs to run again, in order to avoid the perception that voting for an independent is a WOFTAM.

The biggest loser is easy to pick. The by-election marks the death knell of the Palmer United Party, who finished dead, motherless last, with a derisory .45% of the vote. They were trounced by all the micro parties: the Arts Party, Voluntary Euthanasia Party, Australian Cyclists Party and Bullet Train for Australia, all of whom received more than double the PUP’s vote. Even the Future Party beat Palmer’s candidate home. RIP, PUP.

The Liberal Democrats scored 2.%, which given the high profile and big spend of their candidate, local storage company owner Sam Kennard, would be well below expectations. Seventh place and just a handful of votes in front of the Arts Party is a decidedly sub-prime result.

The Christian Democrats threw everything at it including the kitchen sink, and did pick up a swing of 1.5% from 2013. But sixth place on 2.5% would be a bitter disappointment for a party that has been around for so long and promoted themselves in the by-election as “the only true conservative party”. It suggests that their appeal in too narrow and they will struggle ever to break out of the minor party band of 2 to 3%.

Which leaves the big mover in the field as William Bourke, from the Sustainable Population Party. A 3% result is more than triple the Sustainables’ previous best ever result, at the Griffith by-election in 2013. They finish fifth on primaries, not only as “King of the Kids” by moving out of the micro parties grouping, but also beat home the far more established minor parties of PUP, LDP and CDP. They may even sneak into outright fourth, when preferences are distributed after all postal votes are received by the cut-off on 18 December.

With the endorsement of Australian icon Dick Smith and the financial support of rich-listers Graham Turner and Geoff Harris, the soon to be re-named Sustainable Australia has a bright future. Positioned in the centre of the Australian political spectrum, with a leftish social agenda and a rightish economic outlook, they will be well placed to draw support from across the political field. 


The Liberals won the North Sydney by-election, but the only candidate still smiling after the cameras went off on election night was William Bourke of Sustainable Australia.

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About the Author

Andrew McNamara is a former Minister for Sustainability, Climate Change and Innovation in Queensland.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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