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New South Wales Legislative Council Elections 2003

New South Wales Legislative Council Elections 2003

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.
Briefing Paper No. 08/2003 by Antony Green
This paper contains a summary of results for the election of 21 members to the New South Wales Legislative Council. The 2003 election was the first conducted under changes to the electoral system that made it virtually impossible for parties to engage in preference deals.

While the new voting system retained the ‘above the line’ or group voting option, groups had to nominate full lists of 15 or more candidates to have access to a group voting square. Votes cast using the group voting method only counted as preferences for the selected party, and could not be directed to other parties. Like-minded parties running against each other would therefore split their base vote. Previously, like-minded parties had been able to compete for votes against each other, sure of their ability to swap preferences. At recent elections, several parties have used this tactic to elect MLCs despite receiving quite small totals on the primary count.

A new form of ‘above the line’ voting was also introduced, allowing voters to order parties above the line, in an analogy with the way candidates can be ordered ‘below the line’. Data on ballot papers is not yet available, but from the details provided in the distribution of preferences, it appears that less than ten percent of voters took advantage of this new option.
A consequence of the changes was that only 15 groups nominated in 2003 compared to 80 at the last election. However, every group nominated 15 or more candidate, compared to just three groups in 1999. So while the number of groups fell, producing a much more manageable ballot paper, the number of candidates rose from 264 to 284.

This publication consists of five sections.

Section 1 contains the overall state-wide count and details of the distribution of preferences.
Section 2 lists the Legislative Council results for each electoral district, and also provides a summary of vote by region.
Section 3 provides more detail on the vote for each party by electoral district, with ordered tables of vote received in each electorate.
Section 4 consists of summary tables comparing the vote for selected parties by electorate between the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council.
Section 5 provides some analysis by electorate of the incidence of ‘above the line’ voting.

While all calculations and analysis of preference flows are based on the results provided by the NSW Electoral Office, all calculations remain the responsibility of the author.

Main Findings

Two findings are clear from the detailed distribution of preferences in Section 1.

(1) Preferences played no part in the final outcome. Under the previous operation of group ticket voting, preferences flowed strongly between groups on the ballot paper, as more than 90% of votes had been cast using the group voting option. Under the new system, 80-90% of preferences exhausted between groups. The number of members elected from each group at the 2003 election was determined entirely by the level of primary vote support for each group and was unaffected by the distribution of between group preferences.

(2) Parties that divided their core support were disadvantaged by the new system. The Shooters Party, Independent Pauline Hanson, One Nation, the Fishing/Horse Riders/4WD ticket, and Australians Against Further Immigration, probably share a similar support base. Together they polled 1.63 quotas. Under the old electoral system, this support could have been accumulated using ticket voting, giving an outside chance of electing two MLCs between the groups. Under the new system, these parties split their vote, no preferences flowed and John Tingle from the Shooters Party was elected with less than half a quota, edging out Pauline Hanson for the final vacancy.