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NSW Election Newsletter
Issue 1, 2 March 2015
 
The NSW State Election campaign will officially kick off on Friday when the Government enters caretaker mode.  Although the major parties have been in campaign mode since early in the new year and the election is just over three weeks’ away, NSW politics has been over-shadowed by federal leadership speculation and an historic Labor election win in Queensland last month.
 
While the electorate may  just be waking up to  the impending election, the major parties are ready, with their respective leaders, Premier Mike Baird and newly minted Opposition Leader Luke Foley, gearing up for what has been described as a referendum on the partial privatisation of the state’s electricity distribution assets or “poles and wires”.
 
The Coalition Government, under the stewardship of Premier Baird, has been on the hustings in recent weeks announcing how it will invest the anticipated $20 billion proceeds from the long-term lease of the electricity assets, if re-elected.  The sales pitch seeks to offset an anti-privatisation sentiment evident in some parts of the community that the Labor Opposition, energised by a new leader and buoyed by ALP wins in Victoria and Queensland, hopes to exploit.
 
With Luke Foley currently occupying an upper house seat in NSW Parliament, the two leaders went head-to-head in a debate for the first time on Friday at a NSW Business Chamber pre-election debate.  While no clear winner was announced, Labor seized on the Premier’s comments from the debate that there is ‘no plan B’ if the Government is returned but fails to progress its asset leasing plan legislation through Parliament’s upper house.  The Coalition meanwhile has criticised Labor’s self-described modest infrastructure plan, saying it will do nothing to address transport and congestion issues in Sydney.
 
The latest Newspoll published over the weekend has the Coalition leading Labor 54 to 48 per cent in the two-party-preferred vote.  The Opposition needs to pick up 24 seats to form Government in its own right, which represents a 15 per cent swing across the State. On current polling, a swing of between 8 and 11 per cent is indicated.
 
While the NSW Coalition is yet to officially launch its campaign, the Coalition’s campaign slogans are “Keep NSW Working” and “Back Baird”.  The economy in NSW has been performing well in the past four years, Government debt is down and the State Budget has all but made its way back to surplus.
 
NSW Labor launched its campaign over the weekend and will be pushing for “a new approach”.  The aim is not only to provide a viable alternative to the electorate but to distance itself from the legacy of the previous Labor Government, so convincingly defeated four years ago.  While Luke Foley is new to most in the community, he has been Labor’s stand-out performer in Opposition and is well known in political circles.
 
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has inflicted damage to both of the major parties, not least of which was the loss of a first-term Premier - time will tell whether there is more pain to come, with the final ICAC reports yet to be delivered and voters yet to be given the opportunity to deliver their verdict.


ELECTORAL LANDSCAPE

At the March 28 election, 93 members of the NSW Legislative Assembly (lower house) will be elected for the next term of parliament.  At the 2011 State Election, the Liberal and National parties won 69 lower house seats, leaving Labor with just 20 seats in the lower house.  However, factoring in by-elections and party resignations brought about by the ICAC inquiries since 2011, the current state of play in the NSW lower house has the Coalition with 61 seats and Labor with 23.  The Greens hold the seat of Balmain and independents hold eight other lower house seats.
 
The main difference between now and the last election is the 2013 electoral redistribution that has redefined boundaries, abolished seats, created new ones, and made some seats notionally in favour of the opposing party.  Major seat changes include:
 
  • Abolition of the seats of Marrickville and Murrumbidgee
  • Creation of two new seats of Summer Hill and Newtown (to replace Marrickville)
  • Replacement of Toongabbie with Seven Hills
  • Replacement of the seat of Menai with Holsworthy
 
A string of notable MPs are also retiring at this election, including former premiers Barry O’Farrell and Nathan Rees, former deputy premiers Andrew Stoner and Carmel Tebbutt, and a number of other long term MPs and former ministers including Chris Hartcher, Don Page, George Souris, Greg Smith, Cherie Burton, Barbara Perry and Richard Amery.
 
The March poll will also see 21 (half) of the 42-member Legislative Council (upper house) members up for election.  As it currently stands, each party will be vying for the following number of spots:
 
  • 8 Coalition  (5 Liberals + 3 Nationals)
  • 9 Labor
  • 2 Greens
  • 1 Shooters & Fishers
  • 1 Christian Democratic Party
A future edition of GRACosway’s NSW election newsletter will detail the potential shape of the NSW Upper House.


SEATS TO WATCH - The Bellwether Seats

Monaro
 
The seat of Monaro is in southern NSW, adjoining the ACT to the east and running south to the Victorian border. It is dominated by Canberra’s satellite city Queanbeyan, but also includes the smaller towns of Bombala, Braidwood, Bungendore, Cooma and the NSW snowfields.
 
Since 1927 the seat has returned a member supporting the government at 25 of the 28 elections making it one of the most hotly contested seats and watched more closely by party head offices than most. Unsurprisingly, the seat was left more or less unchanged by the 2013 electorate boundary redistribution.
 
The Nationals currently hold the seat on a margin of just 2% after John Barilaro secured victory in 2011 on the back of a record breaking statewide swing to the Coalition. His main opponent in 2011 was then sitting Labor MP Steve Whan who had held the seat since 2003. Following his loss, Whan went on to gain a seat in the NSW Upper House following the retirement of Labor’s Tony Kelly.  Whan has proved an effective Shadow Minister for Police, Resources, Primary Industries, Tourism, Major Events, Hospitality Racing, and Rural Water.  He was also in the running for Labor Leader following John Robertson’s retirement in January.  Meanwhile, Barilaro has proven a rising star within the Nationals Party and has since become Minister for Small Business and Regional Tourism, no mean feat for a first time MP.
 
Current candidates
 
  • John Barilaro (Nationals)
  • Steve Whan (Country Labor)
  • Peter Marshall (Greens)
 
For more information see the NSW Electoral Commission and the ABC.
 
Blue Mountains
 
The bulk of voters in the electorate of the Blue Mountains are clustered in the towns adjacent to the Great Western Highway and the Blue Mountains rail line, extending from the foot of the mountains at Blaxland to Mount Victoria. The seat also consists of communities along the Bells Line of Road, including Bell and Mount Wilson.
 
Since 1976 the seat has been won by the winning Party at every state election. It has been minimally affected by the 2013 redistribution, but enough to lift the Liberals margin from 4.7% to 5.4%.
 
The current member is Roza Sage, who won the seat in 2011 with a 15.8% swing to the Liberals. However, it was by no means a convincing victory as she won just 39.1% of the first preference vote, the second lowest of any successful Liberal candidate in 2011. She defeated Labor’s Trish Doyle, a staff member of the former Blue Mountains Labor MP Phil Koperberg who retired at that election after serving just one term. Prior to this the seat was long held by Labor MP Bob Debus who went on to become the member for the corresponding Federal seat of Macquarie in 2007.
 
The Greens traditionally garner a large vote in the Blue Mountains and although it is unlikely they will win the seat outright, their preferences, which usually flow to Labor, will be crucial in deciding the outcome.
 
Current Candidates
 
  • Roza Sage (Liberals)
  • Trish Doyle (Labor)
  • Alandra Tasire (Greens)
  • Tony Piper (Christian Democratic Party)
 
For more information see the NSW Electoral Commission and the ABC.


THE LEADERS
The Hon. Mike Baird MP
Premier of New South Wales
Minister for Infrastructure
Minister for Western Sydney
Member for Manly (NSW)
Member of the Legislative Assembly
Liberal Party of Australia
 
Mike Baird has been the Premier of NSW since April 2014 when he was elected as Leader of the Liberal Party following the sudden resignation of Premier Barry O’Farrell.
 
Mr Baird was first elected to the NSW Legislative Assembly as the Member for Manly in 2007. He held various shadow portfolios in opposition, including Youth Affairs, Finance, Commerce, and Energy, until serving as Shadow Treasurer from December 2008 until 2011, when the change of government in NSW then saw him assume the role of Treasurer. In 2012, he was also appointed Minister for Industrial Relations.
 
As NSW Treasurer from 2011 to April 2014, one of Mr Baird’s most publicly recognised achievements is the privatisation of state assets, including electricity generators, Port Kembla and Port Botany through the three state budgets he has delivered. Further, he led the Government’s agenda to improve financial management and control of public finances, maintain NSW’s AAA credit rating, and provide the fiscal platform for major new infrastructure investments.
 
Prior to commencing his political career, Mr Baird spent 18 years in the banking sector, working in corporate banking, securitisation, debt capital markets, and project finance in Australia, London, and Hong Kong. He previously also held various positions at Deutsche Bank, NAB, and, immediately prior to his election, was Head of Institutional Banking for HSBC in Australia and New Zealand.
 
Mr Baird enjoys surfing and lives in Manly with his wife, Kerryn, and their three children.
The Hon. Luke Foley MLC
Leader of the Opposition
Shadow Minister for the Environment
Shadow Minister for Infrastructure 
Shadow Minister for Western Sydney
Candidate for Auburn (NSW)
Australian Labor Party 

 
Luke Foley became the Leader of the Opposition following the resignation of former leader, John Robertson in January 2015.
 
Foley was elected to the Legislative Council in 2010 to fill a casual vacancy. His term of service expires in March 2015 where he will face a contest for the Lower House seat of Auburn.
 
Following his entry into Parliament, Foley took on a number of shadow portfolios including Shadow Special Minister of State; Water; and Energy. He also served as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council for a brief period in 2011 before being appointed the Shadow Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, the Shadow Minster for Planning and Infrastructure, and the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council.
 
As Leader of the Opposition Foley retained the shadow portfolios of infrastructure and the environment, and also assumed the portfolio of Shadow Minister for Western Sydney.
 
Prior to his career in politics, Foley was the Assistant General Secretary of the Australian Labor Party NSW Branch between 2003 and 2010. He was previously an organiser, and then Secretary of the Australian Services Union of NSW (1996-2003). Foley also previously worked as an electorate officer to NSW Senator Bruce Childs.
 
In his spare time Foley enjoys cricket and is actively involved in the sport at a community level. He is also a member of the Australian Fabian Society and the Evatt Foundation.
 
Luke Foley is married to Edel and has three children, Aoife, Niamh and Patrick.
About GRACosway
GRACosway is Australia's leading public affairs and corporate and financial communications counsel. Our integrated suite of services provides public policy, communications, regulatory, issues management, and media relations advice to a range of domestic and international clients across all industry sectors. From offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra, and Perth (through GRA Everingham), GRACosway's clients benefit from the combined experience, expertise, and strategic perspective of our team in addressing complex and commercially sensitive projects. For more information head to gracosway.com.au
 
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