Electorates

North Sydney

Liberal gay MP backs plebiscite

Jun 30, 2016 UniPollWatch
Luna Park lights up North Sydney, photograph courtesy of iStock
Sitting Member:
Zimmerman, T (LP)
Since:
2015 (By-election)
Size of electorate:
53 sq. Km

Redistribution details:

In the 2015 re-distribution, North Sydney lost Castle Cove and Chatswood but gained Cremorne, thus increasing its size from 48 sq Km to 53 sq km.

Sitting Member

Mr Zimmerman, president of the NSW Liberal Party, is the first openly gay member of the House of Representatives. Mr Zimmerman has worked in tourism and transport and as an advisor in Joe Hockey's office (2004 - 2011). Mr Zimmerman was a North Sydney Councillor from 2004 to 2012. He is a member of House of Representatives Standing Committee for Infrastructure, Transport and Cities.

Key Comments

Previously held by Joe Hockey, the inner-metropolitan seat of North Sydney is one of Australia's safest liberal seats and its third largest business centre. It has a high proportion of high-income families (56.4%) and university educated voters (61.7 %). Issues include: roads, public transport (Sydney Metro), development, council mergers, marriage equality and the environment (Lane Cove National Park, Sydney Harbour).

Electorate Profile

North Sydney marriage equality supporters face being wedged between voting for Australia's first openly gay Member of the House of Representatives and against the plebiscite planned by the Coalition.

No matter their choice, MP Trent Zimmerman, one of just five openly LGBTQI members of the Parliament of Australia, is likely to be returned because North Sydney is one of the safest Liberal seats in Australia.

Mr Zimmerman was elected last year despite a 12.84% swing in first preference votes against the Liberals when he contested the by-election brought on by former Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey's departure. He sees himself playing a strong role in the marriage equality campaign but acknowledges the plebiscite is not without risk.

"I would have preferred a parliamentary vote, but I’m not afraid of a plebiscite,” The Huffington Post quoted him as saying.

Mr Zimmerman has called for mutual respect so as to avoid the risk of the debate "spiralling into a dark place". His e Zimmerman's eight rivals have other issues on their agenda with Labor’s Paul Hayes focusing on health, education and jobs.

Mr Hayes hopes this approach will encourage the seat's largely Liberal voters to elect their first Labor member in the seat's 115-year history.

“My quest is to make life better for the people of North Sydney, those who need me,” the military veteran told UniPollWatch in an interview. “That’s my role, to lend my support, wisdom, help, and skills to whatever it is that the people of North Sydney need.”

Mr Hayes may be jostling for second place with former North Sydney MP Ted Mack's protégé, Dr Stephen Ruff, who won 39.77 per cent of the two-party preferred vote in the by-election. Ted Mack held North Sydney from 1990 to 1996, the only time the seat has been held by MPs from the Liberal-National side of politics. Labor did not contest the by-election, leaving Dr Ruff to be closely tailed by Greens candidate Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans who won 15.71 per cent of the primary vote just behind Dr Ruff's 18.79%.

Voters will see four new names on their ballot sheets: Sharon Martin for the Christian Democratic Party, Family First's Eddy Ku, Daniel Leahy for the Liberal Democrats and James Coffey of the Science Party.

Dr Chesterfield-Evans says it's time to take the environment seriously.

“I am perpetually flabbergasted at how stupid the system is,” he told UniPollWatch in an interview. "The political system is dudding the next generation. It’s an unsustainable situation.”

Meredith Southwell, President of the Greenwich Community Action Group, says Greens support may be rising in the Inner-Metropolitan seat.

“One of the big issues for residents around here is bushland and foreshore preservation. That certainly prompts people to vote Greens,” Ms Southwell told UniPollWatch in an interview. “I think there will be more people who might change their vote to the Greens. And you’re not going to get many people to vote for the ALP.” 

Guy Hallowes, of the Stringy Bark Creek Resident’s Association, agrees protecting the environment is a local concern but residents are also looking for improvements in infrastructure and public transport.

Mr Hallowes says Stringy Bark members are encouraging people to look for alternatives to the Liberal party, “Otherwise people will just tick the Liberal box and go to sleep again.”

Mr Zimmerman's policy powers were demonstrated when his by-election promises to improve road safety were backed up with $321,000 in Black Spot Programme funding to fix accident black spots in Crows Nest, St. Leonards, Riverview, and Chatswood.

North Sydney residents should also benefit from the Sydney Metro project as he pointed out in his 2015 maiden speech.

“North Sydney residents …will be a major beneficiary of the Sydney Metro project, which will provide a second harbour rail crossing through the heart of my electorate."

Crows Nest Community Centre executive officer Denise Ward believes public transport developments will boost business and development in Crows Nest.

“Access to Crows Nest by bus has always been good. I think the Metro will encourage more people to come to Crows Nest. I also believe it will lead to additional development applications,” she told UniPollWatch.

Peter Hayes would like to see good health care and quality education available to everyone.

“Labor has always been committed to full funding of Gonski. It seems the Coalition hasn’t shared with us that enthusiasm,” he says.

Willoughby Public School, Willoughby Girls High School, and schools in Lane Cove are having difficulties with accommodating students.

Jacky Barker, who founded In the Cove, a community forum for Lane Cove residents, says she believes schools in the area need more funding.

"This is extremely critical as Lane Cove has seen an explosion in residential developments without the appropriate infrastructure,” she told UniPollWatch.

Demi Bezuidenhout, a 21-year-old Castlecrag resident says, “We need a strong voice to speak out for the many people like myself in North Sydney; the ones who need to balance university studies, part-time work and having enough money to cover rent ... the ones who feel like they’re at the bottom of the barrel.”

“Generally, a lot of people here think the gloss has come off the Liberals in federal politics because there doesn’t seem to be much happening,” says Meredith Southwell, President of the Greenwich Community Action Group.

Paul Marshall, a Crows Nest shop owner cast doubt on the liberal credentials of the government.

“The North Shore is full of proper liberals – properly intelligent and enabled people – and I think the people in government posing as liberals are not that. Any proper liberal thinker wouldn’t agree with this party’s policies and this is what people I speak with say,” he says.

In the 2015 re-distribution, North Sydney lost Castle Cove and Chatswood but gained Cremorne, increasing its size from 48 sq Km to 53 sq km.

2015 Election Results

Candidate Party Votes % Swing(%)
POLLARD, Lou The Arts Party 1400 1.84 1.84
BOURKE, William Sustainable Population Party 2189 2.88 2.88
KENNARD, Sam Liberal Democrats 1591 2.09 2.09
BROMSON, Kerry Susanne Voluntary Euthanasia Party 815 1.07 1.07
JANSSON, James Future Party 513 0.67 0.67
CHESTERFIELD-EVANS, Arthur The Greens 11959 15.71 0.36
BEREGI, Maryann Independent 2613 3.43 3.43
NERO, Silvana Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group) 1917 2.52 1.51
MARKS, Robert James Palmer United Party 352 0.46 -1.23
ZIMMERMAN, TrentElected Liberal 36690 48.2 -12.84
RUFF, Stephen Independent 14303 18.79 18.79
FREEMAN, Luke Australian Cyclists Party 815 1.07 1.07
BOHM, Tim Bullet Train For Australia 964 1.27 1.27
...... Democratic Labour Party (DLP) 0 0 -0.87
...... Australian Labor Party (N.S.W. Branch) 0 0 -20.04

Authors

Alice Taylor

Dominic Ryan

Madeleine Stenmark

Rebecca Zhuang

Francois Martin

Alyce Mokrzycki

Contributors

Additional reporting by Pascale Freer, Hamish Wallace, Suka Junin and Prachi Parikh. Fact checking by Catriona Bonfiglioli and the UTS UPW editorial team. Editing by Catriona Bonfiglioli and Peter Fray. Photograph source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/fa/Sydney_Harbour_Bridge_and_City_from_North_Sydney_2_%2814039613382%29.jpg/983px-Sydney_Harbour_Bridge_and_City_from_North_Sydney_2_%2814039613382%29.jpg

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