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Adam Carr's Election Archive

Australian federal election, 2019
Division of Wentworth, New South Wales
Wentworth by-election, 20 October 2018

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Eastern Sydney: Bondi, Paddington, Vaucluse, Waverley, Woollahra
State seats: All of Vaucluse, parts of Coogee, Heffron and Sydney
Local government areas: All of Waverley and Woollahra, parts of Randwick and Sydney
Enrolment at 2016 election: 102,782
Enrolment at close of by-election rolls: 103,810
1999 republic referendum: Yes 60.2
2018 same-sex marriage survey: Yes 80.8

Sitting member: Dr Kerryn Phelps AM (Independent): Elected 2018 by-election

2007 Liberal majority over Labor: 3.8%
2010 Liberal majority over Labor: 14.9%
2013 Liberal majority over Labor: 17.7%
2016 Liberal majority over Labor: 17.7%
2018 by-election Independent majority over Liberal 1.1% (provisional)

Status: Very marginal Independent

Best Liberal booths, two-party vote (2016): Vaucluse (91.2), Rose Bay Central (86.5), Bellevue Hill South (85.2), Dover Heights (81.1), Darling Point (81.0)
Best Labor booths, two-party vote (2016): Surry Hills East (55.7), Kings Cross (54.6), Kings Cross Central (48.9), Clovelly Beach (47.9), Elizabeth Bay (47.7)
  • 2016 results
  • 2018 by-election results (provisional)
  • Statistics and history

  • Candidates:

    Dr Kerryn Phelps AM
    Independent



    Candidate websites:

    Dr Kerryn Phelps AM

    Division of Wentworth

    Wentworth has existed since Federation, and has always covered Sydney's eastern harborside suburbs, one of the wealthiest areas in Australia. Before 1949 Wentworth extended as far south as Maroubra, and in 1943 Labor came quite close to winning it, but after 1949, when it was cut back to the Harbouside eastern suburbs, it was one of the safest of Liberal seats. Since 1984, however, successive redistributions have extended Wentworth to the south, taking in Bondi and Waverley, making the seat slightly less blue-ribbon Liberal. Despite this, the seat still has higher levels of median family income and of people in professional occupations than almost any other seat.

    Wentworth's fairly high proportion of people born in non English speaking countries largely reflects the European birthplaces of many people in the electorate's large Jewish community. The very low proportion of families with dependent children and of dwellings being purchased reflects the many affluent flat-dwelling singles in the seat, which has a large gay and lesbian community at the western end.

    Wentworth is a traditional "leadership seat" for the conservative parties. Members have included Liberal ministers Sir Eric Harrison, Leslie Bury and Robert Ellicott, and Opposition Leader Dr John Hewson. Peter King won the seat in 2001, but was bundled out in 2004 to make way for Malcolm Turnbull, a millionaire banker and former leader of the Australian Republican Movement. The 2006 redistribution cut the Liberal majority to only 2.6%, and for a while in 2007 it seemed possible that Turnbull would be defeated, but he survived, and since then he has restored Wentworth's status as a safe Liberal seat.

    Malcolm Turnbull

    Malcolm Turnbull, a barrister and journalist, made his name in defending Peter Wright in the "Spycatcher" case in 1986. Later he went into merchant banking and was a pioneer of intenet services in Australia. His various business activities made him a multi-millionaire. In 1993 Turnbull became chairman of the Australian Republican Movement, and led the campaign for an Australian republic until the defeat of the 1999 referendum.

    In 2004 Turnbull spent freely to secure the Liberal nomination for Wentworth. Prime Minister Howard made him Minister for the Environment and Water Resources. After the 2007 election defeat, he contested the Liberal leadership, but was narrowly defeated by Dr Brendan Nelson, and became Shadow Treasurer. In September 2008 he rolled the hapless Nelson and became Liberal leader. But in late 2009 he created a crisis in the Liberal Party by agreeing to support Labor's emissions trading scheme legislation. The right wing of the party, led by Tony Abbott, revolted, and in December 2009 Abbott replaced Turnbull as leader.

    After the 2013 election, Abbott appointed Turnbull Minister for Communications. By 2015 the Abbott government was floundering, and in September Turnbull mounted a party-room challenge and became Prime Minister. He had an initial surge of popularity, but by April 2016 his government's support had fallen back to 50% in most polls. The 2016 election saw a sharp swing against the government, particularly in NSW, which reduced Turnbull's government to a one-seat majority. This opened him up to a campaign of sniping from Abbott and his supporters. By mid 2018 he had trailled in the opinion polls for over a year, although his personal standing remained strong, and he was unable to get his key policy initiatives, the National Energy Guarantee and a major cut in the corporate tax rate, through the Senate.

    In August 2018 it was obvious that the conservative faction, backed by the Murdoch media, was planning a strike against Turnbull. He sought to pre-empt them by calling on a party-room ballot, but only narrowly defeated the conservative challenger, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. Dutton then resigned, followed by a string of his supporters. This led to a demand for a second party meeting, at which Turnbull resigned, throwing his support behind the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, who comfortably defeated Dutton.

    Wentworth By-election

    Within a few days of leaving office, Turnbull resigned from Parliament, triggering a by-election on 20 October, and a fierce contest for the Liberal candidacy. The Liberal majority of 17.7% included a large personal vote for Turnbull, and much of this was lost at the by-election, mainly because of the circumstances of Turnbull's departure.

    The Liberal candidate was Dave Sharma, former Ambassador to Israel (who is not Jewish but is popular in the Jewish community). He was endorsed by Turnbull, and was chosen despite Prime Minister Morrison's stated preference for a female candidate. Labor ran dead in the seat, but had a strong candidate in Tim Murray, a businessman who is currently Managing Partner at J Capital Research. The Greens candidate was Dominic Wy Kanak, a Waverley Councillor.

    The most serious threat to the Liberals came from independent candidate Dr Kerryn Phelps, Adjunct Professor at Sydney Medical School, Conjoint Professor at the University of New South Wales Medical Faculty and former president of the AMA. Phelps is a lesbian and is a convert to Judaism, in a seat with a large gay and lesbian community and the highest proportion of Jews of any electorate.

    When nominations closed on 28 September there were 16 candidates: In addition to Dave Sharma (Liberal), Tim Murray (Labor), Dominic Wy Kanak (Greens) and Dr Kerryn Phelps (Independent), they were: accountant Rob Callanan (Katter's Australian Party, although he was disendorsed during the campaign), photographer Shayne Higson (Voluntary Euthanasia Party), Steven Georgantis (Australian People's Party), Ben Forsyth (Derryn Hinch Justice Party), Tony Robinson (Australian Liberty Alliance), North Sydney Councillor Sam Gunning (Liberal Democrats), Sydney City Councillor Angela Vithoulkas (Small Business Party), Deb Doyle (Animal Justice Party), education activist Licia Heath (Independent), microbiologist Dr Andrea Leong (Science Party), Barry Keldoulis (The Arts Party) and Kay Dunne (Sustainable Australia). Melbourne lawyer David Barrow (Independent, but a former Family First candidate) announced he was running but didn't nominate.

    Sharma's campaign was damaged by a Liberal blunder in the last week, when Coalition Senators voted for a One Nation motion stating that "it's OK to be White", and by leadership speculation in the Nationals. A last-minute bid for the Jewish vote by PM Morrison, when he suggested support for moving the Australian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, was not well received. An exit poll suggested that voters cared most about climate policy, an issue which did not play well for the Liberals. In the event Phelps narrowly won the by-election, becoming the first person ever to defeat a Liberal candidate in Wentworth.

    Demographics:

    Median weekly household income: $2,380 (Australia $1,438)
    People over 65: 15.3% (Australia 15.8%)
    Australian born: 54.4% (Australia 66.7%)
    Non-English-speaking households: 22.2% (Australia 22.2%)
    Catholics 20.1% (Australia 22.6%)
    Jewish religion: 12.5%
    No religion 33.0% (Australia 29.6%)
    University graduates: 46.8% (Australia 22.0%)
    Professional and managerial employment: 61.5% (Australia 35.2%)
    Employed in manufacturing and construction: 11.4% (Australia 22.9%)
    Paying a mortgage: 23.6% (Australia 34.5%)
    Renting: 44.2% (Australia 30.9%)
    Traditional families: 25.3% (Australia 32.8%)

    Members:

    Hon Sir William McMillan (FT) 1901-03
    Hon William Kelly (FT, AS, Lib, Nat) 1903-19
    Walter Marks (Nat, Ind, UAP) 1919-31
    Rt Hon Sir Eric Harrison (UAP, Lib) 1931-56
    Hon Leslie Bury (Lib) 1956b-74
    Hon Robert Ellicott (Lib) 1974-81
    Peter Coleman (Lib) 1981b-87
    Dr John Hewson (Lib) 1987-95
    Hon Andrew Thomson (Lib) 1995b-2001
    Peter King (Lib) 2001-04
    Hon Malcolm Turnbull (Lib) 2004-18
    Dr Kerryn Phelps AM (Ind) 2018b-

    Boundaries following 2016 redistribution:




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