Independents fight for survival as Sydney’s election battlelines redrawn

Independent candidates will have to fight for survival ahead of the federal election after authorities moved to abolish the “teal” seat of North Sydney and reshape the borders of key Labor and Liberal seats in a way that tightens the race for power.

Liberals warned the changes could set their party back in some of the most marginal electorates at the coming election,while Labor said it would have to prepare for tougher fights in key Sydney seats such as Bennelong and Parramatta.

Member for North Sydney Kylea Tink is holding a press conference after it was revealed that her seat would be abolished.

But the greatest contest pits the teal movement against the Liberals in the blue-ribbon seat of Bradfield on Sydney’s north shore,where independent candidate Nicolette Boele is facing potential competition from North Sydney MP Kylea Tink.

Independent MPs and candidates were considering their options on Friday night as they digested the loss of one of their prized seats,with Tink side-stepping a question about whether she would run for Bradfield after her seat is abolished.

Liberal frontbencher Paul Fletcher won Bradfield with 54.2 per cent of the vote in two-party terms at the last election,but he suffered a 15.3 per cent fall in the Liberal primary vote after Boele campaigned for action on climate change and greater integrity in government.

Boele said she wanted to consult the community before deciding her next steps,while independent member Zali Steggall,who holds the neighbouring seat of Warringah,declined to say if she would run again at the next election.

The Australian Electoral Commission issued the draft changes on Friday to remove one seat in NSW,in the same way it abolished the seat of Higgins in Melbourne two weeks ago,to allow for population growth in Western Australia,which gains one seat.

Significant changes were made to regional seats in southern NSW. Shadow treasurer Angus Taylor’s seat of Hume has been shifted much closer to the city,losing the town of Goulburn to the Labor seat of Eden-Monaro. His margin is estimated to drop to about 7 per cent.

The House of Representatives will return to 150 seats at the coming election,with some observers saying the draft borders suggest Labor could claim 77,the Coalition would have 58 and the crossbench would have 15 before voters cast their ballots.

Election analyst Ben Raue said the overall impact narrowed the margin for Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to hold on to power.

“For Labor to lose their majority,they need to lose two seats on a uniform swing of 0.4 per cent,down from 0.9 per cent on the old boundaries,” he said at his site,The Tally Room.

Leading figures in the two major parties warned against some of the calculations,however,because of the challenge in estimating the precise impact on electoral margins from the movement of a suburb from one electorate to another.

Fletcher’s margin in Bradfield would shrink from 4.2 per cent to about 2.5 per cent,according to calculations by Raue and another election analyst,William Bowe of the Poll Bludger site.

The NSW changes extend far beyond the suburbs of Sydney because of the need to ensure each electorate has the same number of voters within a range of about 125,000 to 134,000.

When Tink was asked on Friday afternoon if she would run for Bradfield,she said:“At the moment,the focus for me here is on the community of North Sydney.”

Member for North Sydney Kylea Tink speaks to the media on Friday.

Member for North Sydney Kylea Tink speaks to the media on Friday.Dominic Lorrimer

When Steggall was asked if she would run for Warringah again,she told Sky News:“As it currently looks,I would say yes,but there’s a lot to be considered about the changes.”

The draft changes aim to expand Warringah westward from its current border of Spofforth Street in Mosman so that it would take in Cremorne,Neutral Bay,Cammeray,Crows Nest,Kirribilli,Waverton,Wollstonecraft and the North Sydney business and residential district.

The other “teal” electorate on the north side of the harbour,Mackellar on the northern beaches,held by Sophie Scamps,would expand southwards into territory currently in Warringah,such as Killarney Heights and North Curl Curl.

The former Liberal seat of Bennelong,now held by Jerome Laxale for Labor,will be expanded to include Hunters Hill,Lane Cove,Woolwich,Greenwich,Longueville and parts of Chatswood that are west of the Pacific Highway and south of Fullers Road.

Raue calculated that this made Bennelong a Liberal seat,with a margin of 0.1 per cent,and Labor campaigners said the seat would be much tougher for them to hold,but Liberals said the seat was too close to call.

One senior Liberal said the redistribution meant the party went backward in eight out of nine seats across the state but at least kept the seat of Hughes,in southern Sydney,which Labor had nominated for abolition.

Labor insiders said Bennelong,Parramatta and Greenway would be harder to retain.

The changes to Sydney seats represent the third phase,after Victoria and Western Australia,of an electoral commission process designed to make sure states have the right number of seats to reflect their population growth.

Overall across the three states,Labor may gain the new Western Australian seat of Bullwinkel and is more competitive in the Melbourne seat of Menzies.

Under the plan,the Sydney seat of Bradfield would expand south of its current border,along Victoria Avenue in Chatswood,to Willoughby,Northbridge,Naremburn,Artarmon,Castlecrag,Middle Cove and parts of St Leonards.

In eastern Sydney,the former blue-ribbon Liberal seat of Wentworth,now held by independent Allegra Spender,expands to areas outside the wealthiest parts of the city,such as Woolloomooloo on one side and the districts around Randwick on the other.

On the northern edge of Sydney,the seat of Berowra would expand slightly to take in all of North Epping and Epping,previously in Bennelong. The border of Berowra would also shift eastward from the Pacific Highway to take in all of Hornsby,Waitara and Asquith. The seat is regarded as very safe Liberal territory and is held by Julian Leeser.

One of the key seats for the election,the marginal electorate of Parramatta,would expand slightly to take in areas previously in surrounding electorates.

Held by Labor MP Andrew Charlton,the seat would add Girraween to the west and Ermington to the east. It would also gain the constituents who live between Epping and Carlingford,west of Midson Road.

On the southern side of the harbour,the changes mean the seat of Banks,which is held by Liberal frontbencher David Coleman,expands to include parts of Milperra and Punchbowl,potentially shifting the balance in favour of Labor.

The seat of Hughes,held by Jenny Ware for the Liberals and previously held by outspoken former Liberal Craig Kelly,expands westward to include Ingleburn,Macquarie Fields and Glenfield. These areas are currently part of the Labor electorate of Werriwa.

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David Crowe is chief political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Paul Sakkal is federal political correspondent for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald who previously covered Victorian politics and has won two Walkley awards.

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