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Changing Boundaries Changing Fortunes: an analysis of the NSW Elections of 1988 and 1991

Changing Boundaries Changing Fortunes: an analysis of the NSW Elections of 1988 and 1991

Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion.
Occasional Paper No. 07/1998 by Antony Green
Analysis of the 1988 and 1991 New South Wales elections has to date been hindered by a lack of detailed statistical analysis of the results. This is unfortunate, as both elections produced historically significant outcomes.

Given that New South Wales has often been called a natural' Labor state, the 1988 result was startling, the worst Labor performance, and best Coalition result, since the Lang era of the 1930s. The Labor Party suffered massive swings in its working class heartland, losing seats like Balmain, Newcastle and Swansea for the first time this century. There was a massive rejection of Labor in rural seats, mainly due to gun law and forest protection issues, and seven non-aligned Independents were elected to the Legislative Assembly.

The 1991 election saw the re-election of the Greiner Coalition, but in the unexpected position of a lacking a clear parliamentary majority. Together with the government's loss of The Entrance by-election following a Court of Disputed Returns decision, the finely balanced Parliament became critical to the course of the government. Politically, it lead to the so-called Metherell affair' which eventually forced the resignation of Premier Nick Greiner. Constitutionally, it also lead to the introduction of fixed four year term Parliaments, part of the agreement between the Coalition and non-aligned Independents.

The lack of statistical analysis of the results has been because of the massive electoral redistributions that took place before both elections. Prior to the 1988 election, the size of the Legislative Assembly was increased from 99 to 109 electorates, reverting back to 99 electorates for the 1991 election. This publication provides, for the first time, full details of both elections, with all swings calculated compared to the previous election after taking into account the redistributions . Summary details of the 1986/87 and 1990/91 redistributions are also provided, calculated by re-assigning booth results from the previous election to the new boundaries.

Further information on the political impact of the redistributions can be found in the NSW Parliamentary Library Current Issues Background Paper "NSW Elections 1984 to 1991: A Comparative Analysis" (No. 1994/2). More detail on the 1988 and 1991 Legislative Council elections can be found in "Electing the New South Wales Legislative Council 1978 to 1995: Past Results and Future Prospects" (No. 1995/2). A third publication, "NSW Elections 1995" (Background Paper 1995/4), sets out the results of the 1995 election in the same format as this publication.