Wentworth federal byelection 2018 is the election to replace Australia’s former prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull. Its electors could also have a major say in the trajectory of the new government.
Turnbull left office in August after the right wing of the Liberal Party plotted to oust him. The man most responsible for engineering the leadership coup, Peter Dutton, did not win the leadership. That went to Scott Morrison, but Malcolm Turnbull did not stick around to see how things went for the new guy.
Voters in Wentworth, New South Wales must now pick a new member of the House of Representatives on October 20. They do so when Coalition electoral fortunes are down, and Morrison’s Liberal-National parliamentary alliance barely controls the House now.
When Turnbull resigned, the Coalition dropped down to 74 seats out of 149. Labor holds 69, which means crossbenchers control the balance of power. There is a National crossbencher, two independents, a Green, one from the Centre Alliance, and Bob Katter. The National on the crossbench is Kevin Hogan, member for Page, who will support on a confidence and supply basis. That gets them to 75 out of 149, the thinnest possible majority.
Should Labor or a non-Liberal find a way to win Wentworth, the Coalition loses its overall House majority. With the speaker only voting in case of a tie, they can count on maybe 74 votes of their own before relying on the crossbench. Morrison’s government would then open itself up to getting tripped up on procedural votes, and perhaps worse. The good news for the prime minister is that this arrangement won’t last, one way or another, as the next election is in 2019. In bad news for Morrison, Labor is favored to win it.
How will Wentworth go this time? Is their electoral loyalty to the Coalition, or was it just to Malcolm Turnbull?
Wentworth Federal Byelection 2018: The Electorate
The Division of Wentworth lies in eastern Sydney on the Pacific coast. Some neighborhoods within its boundaries include Waverley, Point Piper, Woollahra, and Vaucluse. It is also home to the world-famous Bondi Beach.
If one considers the values of property in the 150 federal electorates, Wentworth is the wealthiest one in Australia.
They say irony is so ironic, and the irony here is that Malcolm Turnbull’s former electorate is right across Sydney Harbour from Tony Abbott’s, Warringah. The two become intra-party rivals after a series of caucus room spills in which the two ejected one another from the Liberal leadership. Tony Abbott’s sister, Christine Forster, considered running in this by-election, and her winning would have been an even more ironic turn of events. She decided not to run and the Liberals selected former ambassador Dave Sharma.
Neither the Liberal Party nor any of its forerunners have lost this electorate, which has existed as long as Australia has had elections. Needless to say, a non-Liberal victory here would cause a political earthquake.
Wentworth Federal Byelection 2018: Candidates
There are 16 candidates inning in the by-election. We will list them in alphabetical order, and put in parenthesis where they will appear on the ballot paper.
|Katter’s Australian Party|
|Robert Callanan (1)|
|Animal Justice Party|
|Deb Doyle (11)|
|Kay Dunne (16)|
|Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party|
|Ben Forsyth (6)|
|Australian People’s Party|
|Steven Georgantis (4)|
|Samuel Joseph Gunning (8)|
|Licia Heath (13)|
|Voluntary Euthanasia Party|
|Shayne Higson (3)|
|Dominic Wy Kanak (2)|
|The Arts Party|
|Barry Keldoulis (14)|
|Andrea Leong (12)|
|Tim Murray (5)|
|Kerryn Phelps (15)|
|Australian Liberty Alliance|
|Tony Robinson (7)|
|Dave Sharma (9)|
|Angela Vithoulkas (10)|
In related, perhaps understandable (or not) news, Alex Turnbull, Malcolm’s son, has endorsed Labor candidate Tim Murray in the by-election.
Wentworth Federal Byelection 2018: Last Election
Malcolm Turnbull handily won re-election, his first and only federal election as the prime minister. He sustained only a slight swing against of about one percent, while taking 62 percent of the primary vote.
Wentworth Federal Byelection 2018: Results
Independent candidate Kerryn Phelps scored a major upset victory in the Division of Wentworth, causing a Liberal defeat in this affluent Sydney seat for the first time in history.
Liberal candidate Dave Sharma led on primary votes, but his 42 percent was a significant drop of over 20 points what what Malcolm Turnbull pulled in 2016. Labor and Green preferences helped fuel Phelps over the finish line.
Other Australian elections and our predictions and insight therein can be seen at the Australian elections page.
Wentworth Federal Byelection 2018: What Happens Next?
Scott Morrison and his Coalition government have lost their majority. Prior to Turnbull’s resignation, the government had 75 voting seats out of 149 – the 76 they won in the election, minus the Speaker, Tony Smith. Malcolm Turnbull left after his leadership ouster, and National MP Kevin Hogan moved to the crossbench on a confidence and supply basis, leaving them with 73 plus the Speaker for a total of 74.
In the past, the Liberals had been able to count on Wentworth. After all, since the party’s existence, they had never lost it. Getting a Liberal back there would have shored up the government’s numbers, but Phelps’ victory was a political earthquake for change.
As it stands, the Australian House of Representatives is 74 Coalition (including the Speaker), 69 Labor, and 7 on the Crossbench. A Sharma win would have made it 50/50 for the government (75 seats out of 150). Now, they are a guaranteed minority government.
At some point, Labor might try a motion of no-confidence, but do they have the numbers? It will still be a tough task unless they win over nearly the entirety of the Crossbench. Adam Bandt and Andrew Wilkie would probably back Labor. Kerryn Phelps might, but Cathy McGowan would not. Add Bob Katter as a likely no vote and it’s defeated. Things would have to go very sideways for Scott Morrison to lose such a motion, and the next election is probably going to happen within the next six to nine months, anyway.