1991 New South Wales state election

Elections to the 50th Parliament of New South Wales were held on Saturday 25 May 1991. All seats in the Legislative Assembly and half the seats in the Legislative Council were up for election. The LiberalNational Coalition government of Premier Nick Greiner, which enjoyed a considerable majority following their landslide win at the 1988 election, was seeking a second term in office against new Labor Opposition Leader Bob Carr.

1991 New South Wales state election

← 1988 25 May 1991 1995 →

All 99 seats in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly
and 15 (of the 44) seats in the New South Wales Legislative Council
50 Assembly seats were needed for a majority
  First party Second party
Leader Nick Greiner Bob Carr
Party Liberal/National coalition Labor
Leader since 15 March 1983 6 April 1988
Leader's seat Ku-ring-gai Maroubra
Last election 59 seats 43 seats
Seats won 49 46
Seat change Decrease10 Increase3
Popular vote 1,377,314 1,204,066
Percentage 44.68% 39.05%
Swing Decrease4.87 Increase0.56
TPP 52.69% 47.31%
TPP swing Decrease3.27 Increase3.27

Two-candidate-preferred margin by electorate

Premier before election

Nick Greiner
Liberal/National coalition

Resulting Premier

Nick Greiner
Liberal/National coalition

The government had reduced the number of lower house seats from 109 to 99 for the 1991 election, reversing an increase approved by the Unsworth Labor government.

Background edit

Greiner Government edit

The 1988 election generated a two-party preferred swing to the Coalition of 8.4% and saw the Labor Party record its lowest primary vote in half a century. This was a clear rejection of the Unsworth Government, although it was less clear whether the electorate was endorsing the full range of Coalition policies. Qualms about the meaning of its mandate were clearly of little concern to the new government under Nick Greiner which immediately began introducing wide ranging reforms to the New South Wales public sector.

The finance and administration of all government trading enterprises was put on a more commercial basis, with standard rates of return on capital set and separate community service obligations for specific public funding identified. There were major expenditure cuts and dramatic price increases in education, public transport and electricity. The new government spoke of New South Wales living beyond its means, introducing new user-pay charges, proposed the sale of underused public assets to help pay off state debt and flagged the use of private capital to build public infrastructure. It was a radical agenda at the time, but a package of reforms that would become standard across Australia over the next decade.

The government implemented “truth in sentencing” laws which required judges to set minimum terms for convicted criminals and abolished time off for good behaviour in gaol. Responding to the corruption allegations that had regularly swirled around New South Wales politics, the government also created a standing royal commission, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), as an independent body to investigate allegations of corruption and maladministration.

The government attracted most controversy over changes to education and the confrontational style of Education Minister Terry Metherell. There were major cutbacks in teaching and ancillary staff, closures of schools and an increase in class sizes and the number of composite classes. The government unzoned state schools, allowing parents to enrol their children outside of the local district, and allowed the creation of new selective and specialist high schools.

Labor Opposition edit

The Labor Opposition initially struggled in the face of the government’s rapidly moving agenda. Ten ministers had either retired or been defeated at the 1988 election. The former Environment and Planning Minister, Bob Carr had reluctantly accepted the party leadership. The Opposition had some encouraging results at by-elections as the government’s new taxes and charges began to bite.

Labor made important gains at the March 1990 federal election, but the electoral position had been reversed by the end of the year.

Economic conditions edit

The economic recession of the early-1990s hit the State’s finances, but New South Wales was substantially better off than interstate Labor administrations that had accumulated debt and gambled on failed commercial ventures.

The hard medicine introduced by the Greiner Government was unpopular, but it was becoming apparent that New South Wales was in a better position as a result of the financial changes. The surprise resignation of Metherell over tax charges in July 1990 provided a boost for the government by removing its most controversial Minister.

Opinion polls showed the government trailing by seven points in March 1990, but 15 points ahead in December. The government was now well placed for an early election and keen to avoid the opprobrium of another tough budget.

Redistribution edit

The opportunity came with the finalisation of a redistribution in March 1991. The Coalition had promised to cut the size of the Legislative Assembly from 109 to 99 seats, reversing the previous government’s increase and automatically triggering a redistribution.

Campaign edit

The government campaigned on its record, arguing good financial management had prevented New South Wales suffering the sort of financial collapse caused by interstate Labor Governments.

The Labor Party campaigned on those same government reforms, but concentrated on how the government’s new taxes and charges had hurt lower to middle income families, combined with the government's sale of state assets and institutions, reduction in services for health, public housing maintenance, transport (particularly rail), tolls on the M4 motorway, and RTA road $2 million funding for Western Sydney Council's being wiped out and used in the Deputy Premier Wal Murray's Western NSW seat of Barwon following the Nyngan floods of 1990. The Nyngan floods additionally damaged the passenger rail line, with the flood damaged rail line never repaired or services reopened. The tendering out to a South African listed company transport and delivery of documents in contravention of the international boycott of business dealings with South African private, listed and government organisations was also an issue.

Disparity in government responses to natural disasters was highlighted by the lack of natural disaster declarations in March 1990. On 18 March 1990, a savage hailstorm devastated regions of areas from southwest Sydney to near Dee Why. Hailstones the size of cricket balls and in some case larger pummeled vehicles and punctured holes in house roofs across many suburbs particularly Liverpool, Bankstown, Bass Hill, Auburn and Lidcombe. Hail sizes reported from this storm were up to 8 cm in diameter. One reliable report from Liverpool used two hands to indicate the sizes of the hail that fell at his residence. The Government failed to make a disaster declaration, however.

Adding insult to injury, the electorates with government members were assisted as a priority with many employees of those whose homes had been damaged in the South West of Sydney being directed to the government members' areas first. The 1990 disaster was until recently one of Australia's most costly natural disasters with a cost in 1990 of AUD$319 million (2011 normalised cost of AUD$1.3 billion). Some homes for over 10 years in the Southwest of Sydney damaged by this weather event had temporary "Tarps" on roofs. Local government infrastructure in the areas damaged by the hailstorm event also had to repair local facilities with existing funds to repair them with the absence of a natural disaster declaration. Local halls, swimming facilities, sporting and recreational areas were repaired without disaster relief funding from the state government, leaving the cost of repairs to local governments.

Key dates edit

Date Event
3 May 1991 The Legislative Assembly was dissolved, and writs were issued by the Governor to proceed with an election.[1]
8 May 1991 Nominations for candidates for the election closed at noon.
25 May 1991 Polling day, between the hours of 8am and 6pm.
6 June 1991 The Greiner-Murray Ministry was reconstituted.
28 June 1991 The writ was returned and the results formally declared.
2 July 1991 Parliament resumed for business.

Results edit

The result was a stalemate. Total formal voting for the state was 3,083,260 voters with 3,205,524 formal votes in 1988.

Legislative Assembly edit

New South Wales state election, 25 May 1991[1]
Legislative Assembly
<< 19881995 >>

Enrolled voters 3,631,618
Votes cast 3,400,092 Turnout 93.62% +0.04%
Informal votes 316,832 Informal 9.32% +6.04%
Summary of votes by party
Party Primary votes % Swing Seats Change
  Labor 1,204,066 39.05% +0.57% 46 + 3
  Liberal 1,053,100 34.16% –1.64% 32 – 7
  National 324,214 10.52% –3.22% 17 – 3
  Democrats 165,229 5.36% +3.55% 0 ± 0
  Call to Australia 36,807 1.19% +0.75% 0 ± 0
  Country Residents 16,557 0.54% +0.54% 0 ± 0
  Greens NSW 16,556 0.54% +0.54% 0 ± 0
  Citizens Electoral Council 5,198 0.17% +0.17% 0 ± 0
  Other parties 5,310 0.17% –1.39% 0 ± 0
  Independent 256,223 8.31% +0.14% 4 – 3
Total 3,083,260     99  
  Liberal/National 1,539,949 52.69% –3.27%
  Labor 1,379,267 47.31% +3.27%
Popular vote
Call to Australia
Two-party-preferred vote
Parliamentary seats

Legislative Council edit

New South Wales state election, 25 May 1991[2]
Legislative Council
<< 19881995 >>

Enrolled voters 3,631,618
Votes cast 3,398,550 Turnout 93.58 +1.66
Informal votes 192,718 Informal 5.67 –2.64
Summary of votes by party
Party Primary votes % Swing Seats
  Liberal/National Coalition 1,453,441 45.34 –0.81 7 20
  Labor 1,195,324 37.29 –0.22 6 18
  Democrats 167,245 6.70 +3.97 1 2
  Call to Australia 114,648 3.58 –2.16 1 2
  Greens 106,325 3.32 +3.32 0 0
  EFF/Greypower/CEC 49,077 1.53 –0.87 0 0
  Country Residents Party 21,628 0.67 +0.67 0 0
  No Toxic Incinerator Group 18,706 0.58 +0.58 0 0
  Marie Bignold Team 14,403 0.45 +0.45 0 0
  Other 17,598 0.54 * 0 0
Total 3,205,832     15  

The 9.32% informal vote at the 1991 election was the highest on record. Labor-held seats in particular had high informal votes, with 23.48% in Bankstown, 17.80% in Cabramatta, 15.29% in Canterbury, 19.13% in Fairfield, 16.03% in Heffron, 15.82% in Lakemba, 22.24% in Londonderry, 16.07% in Smithfield and 8.26% in The Entrance. Informal votes was higher than all candidates except the winner of the seat. ABC election analyst Antony Green's election analysis stated it "may well be the highest ever recorded at a democratic election in the world".

The Liberal Party won The Entrance by only 116 votes. The Labor Party launched a challenge to the result in the Court of Disputed Returns, based on the significant number of voters in the electorate who had incorrectly been issued absent votes for the neighbouring electorate of Gosford. The Court upheld the appeal and ordered a by-election, which Labor won. At the by-election, the informal vote was only 1.57%.

The referendum for changes to the upper house was approved by 58% of voters.

The Coalition recorded 52.7% of the two-party preferred vote, but most of its vote was wasted on landslide margins in its heartland. Labor rebounded strongly under Carr, recovering much of the ground it had lost in its severe defeat three years earlier. As a result, the Coalition suffered a 10-seat swing, winning only 49 of the 99 seats, one seat short of a majority. The Coalition also lost control of the Legislative Council at the election.

Labor defeated the four Independents elected in formerly safe Labor seats in 1988 and, in addition, re-gained Broken Hill, Drummoyne and Port Stephens, seats that on the new boundaries were notionally Coalition held. Former Labor MPs were returned to Parliament in both Cessnock and Bathurst, while the issue of user-pay charges played an important part in Labor gaining both Parramatta and Penrith.

Coming so close to victory was a shock for the Labor Party, having entered the 1991 election merely hoping to hold what it had, and regain traditional Labor seats lost to Independents in 1988. The Coalition was overconfident that perceptions of good economic management would see it re-elected. It ran a presidential campaign that won the overall vote but resulted in the loss of key seats. The Coalition’s best results were in safe Liberal Party seats on Sydney’s North Shore, while Labor won the battle in marginal seats.

Seats changing hands edit

Seat Pre-1991 Swing Post-1991
Party Member Margin Margin Member Party
Bathurst   Liberal David Berry 5.2 -10.3 5.1 Mick Clough Labor  
Cessnock   Liberal Bob Roberts 0.4 -4.8 4.4 Stan Neilly Labor  
Manly   Liberal David Hay 14.9 -15.6 0.7 Peter Macdonald Independent  
Newcastle   Independent George Keegan 3.1 -15.5 12.4 Bryce Gaudry Labor  
Penrith   Liberal Guy Matheson 1.2 -5.8 4.6 Faye Lo Po' Labor  
Swansea   Independent Ivan Welsh 8.1 -14.0 6.4 Don Bowman Labor  
Tamworth   National Noel Park 25.1 -34.9 9.8 Tony Windsor Independent  
Wollongong   Independent Frank Arkell 4.7 -13.3 8.6 Gerry Sullivan Labor  

Redistribution affected seats edit

Seat 1988 election 1990 redistribution Swing 1991 election
Party Member Margin Party Member Margin Margin Member Party
Bligh   Independent Clover Moore 0.6   Liberal Notional 4.1 -10.2 6.1 Clover Moore Independent  
Broken Hill   Labor Bill Beckroge 2.0   National Notional 2.0 -12.1 10.1 Bill Beckroge Labor  
Drummoyne   Labor John Murray 2.1   Liberal Notional 0.9 -4.5 3.6 John Murray Labor  
North Shore   Independent Robyn Read 2.1§   Liberal Notional 1.6 +0.9 2.5 Phillip Smiles Liberal  
Parramatta   Liberal John Books 0.5   Labor Notional 0.3 +2.3 2.6 Andrew Ziolkowski Labor  
Port Stephens   Labor Bob Martin 0.2   Liberal Notional 2.9 -13.0 10.1 Bob Martin Labor  

§ Margin estimated on Independent member Ted Mack's results against Liberal at the 1988 election.

Post-election pendulum edit

Government seats (53)
The Entrance Bob Graham LIB 0.2%
Maitland Peter Blackmore LIB 0.6%
Manly Peter Macdonald IND 0.7% v LIB
Camden Liz Kernohan LIB 1.5%
North Shore Phillip Smiles LIB 2.5% v IND
Badgerys Creek Anne Cohen LIB 2.5%
Blue Mountains Barry Morris LIB 2.6%
Gladesville Ivan Petch LIB 2.9%
Sutherland Chris Downy LIB 3.0%
Murwillumbah Don Beck NAT 3.1%
Orange Garry West NAT 5.3% v IND
Fairly safe
Bligh Clover Moore IND 6.1% v LIB
Southern Highlands John Fahey LIB 6.4%
Gosford Chris Hartcher LIB 6.7%
Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser NAT 7.0%
Burrinjuck Alby Schultz LIB 8.8%
Strathfield Paul Zammit LIB 9.3%
Ermington Michael Photios LIB 9.7%
Tamworth Tony Windsor IND 9.8% v NAT
Miranda Ron Phillips LIB 10.3%
Clarence Ian Causley NAT 10.6%
Cronulla Malcolm Kerr LIB 11.3%
Georges River Terry Griffiths LIB 11.4%
Oxley Bruce Jeffery NAT 11.5%
Northern Tablelands Ray Chappell NAT 11.5%
Murrumbidgee Adrian Cruickshank NAT 11.8%
Willoughby Peter Collins LIB 11.9% v IND
Lismore Bill Rixon NAT 12.2%
Wakehurst Brad Hazzard LIB 12.7%
Monaro Peter Cochran NAT 12.7%
Bega Russell Smith LIB 12.8%
Vaucluse Michael Yabsley LIB 13.0%
Ballina Don Page NAT 13.3%
Upper Hunter George Souris NAT 14.7%
Barwon Wal Murray NAT 15.1%
Albury Ian Glachan LIB 15.3%
Wagga Wagga Joe Schipp LIB 15.8%
Lachlan Ian Armstrong NAT 16.2%
Dubbo Gerry Peacocke NAT 16.9%
The Hills Tony Packard LIB 17.4% v IND
Port Macquarie Wendy Machin NAT 17.7%
South Coast John Hatton IND 18.3% v LIB
Myall Lakes John Turner NAT 18.6%
Eastwood Andrew Tink LIB 18.7%
Baulkham Hills Wayne Merton LIB 19.7%
Ku-ring-gai Nick Greiner LIB 22.7%
Davidson Terry Metherell LIB 22.7%
Hawkesbury Kevin Rozzoli LIB 22.8%
Pittwater Jim Longley LIB 23.4%
Lane Cove Kerry Chikarovski LIB 23.7%
Northcott Bruce Baird LIB 26.4%
Murray Jim Small NAT 31.4%
Gordon Tim Moore LIB 33.5%
Opposition seats (46)
Coogee Ernie Page ALP 1.6%
Parramatta Andrew Ziolkowski ALP 2.6%
Kogarah Brian Langton ALP 3.3%
Drummoyne John Murray ALP 3.6%
Cessnock Stan Neilly ALP 4.4%
Moorebank Craig Knowles ALP 4.4%
Hurstville Morris Iemma ALP 4.6%
Penrith Faye Lo Po' ALP 4.6%
Bathurst Mick Clough ALP 5.1%
Fairly safe
Swansea Don Bowman ALP 6.4% v IND
Canterbury Kevin Moss ALP 6.8%
Rockdale George Thompson ALP 6.8%
Smithfield Carl Scully ALP 7.0%
Riverstone John Aquilina ALP 7.5%
Blacktown Pam Allan ALP 8.3%
Wollongong Gerry Sullivan ALP 8.6% v IND
East Hills Pat Rogan ALP 8.7%
Wyong Paul Crittenden ALP 9.0%
Lakemba Wes Davoren ALP 9.4%
Ashfield Paul Whelan ALP 9.9%
Campbelltown Michael Knight ALP 9.9%
Bankstown Doug Shedden ALP 10.1%
Broken Hill Bill Beckroge ALP 10.1%
Port Stephens Bob Martin ALP 10.1%
Keira Col Markham ALP 10.5%
Maroubra Bob Carr ALP 10.8%
Peats Tony Doyle ALP 11.0%
Fairfield Geoff Irwin ALP 11.3%
Kiama Bob Harrison ALP 11.4%
Granville Kim Yeadon ALP 11.9%
Newcastle Bryce Gaudry ALP 12.4% v IND
Lake Macquarie Jeff Hunter ALP 12.7%
Mount Druitt Richard Amery ALP 13.0%
Charlestown Richard Face ALP 13.1%
Bulli Ian McManus ALP 13.2%
Wallsend John Mills ALP 13.2%
Port Jackson Sandra Nori ALP 13.7% v IND
Londonderry Paul Gibson ALP 14.0%
Heffron Deirdre Grusovin ALP 15.7%
Cabramatta John Newman ALP 16.0%
St Marys Tony Aquilina ALP 16.4%
Liverpool Peter Anderson ALP 16.5%
Auburn Peter Nagle ALP 18.1%
Illawarra Terry Rumble ALP 19.7%
Marrickville Andrew Refshauge ALP 19.8%
Waratah John Price ALP 21.0%

Aftermath edit

The balance of power rested with four independents who held seats that would have normally been held by the Coalition. Both John Hatton in South Coast and Clover Moore in Bligh were re-elected. They were joined by former National Party member Tony Windsor in Tamworth and local councillor Dr Peter Macdonald in Manly. Windsor quickly came to an accommodation with the Government, assuring it of another term. However, the three non-aligned Independents, knowing that Greiner was still in a shaky position, used their numbers to negotiate a comprehensive memorandum of understanding. Signed in October 1991, it was a document that concentrated more on issues of accountability and process rather than specific policies.

Most importantly, the agreement introduced fixed four-year parliamentary terms, a provision entrenched in the Constitution with 76% support at a referendum called in conjunction with the 1995 election.

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b Green, Antony. "1991 election totals". New South Wales Election Results 1856-2007. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  2. ^ Green, Antony (October 1998). "Changing Boundaries Changing Fortunes: an analysis of the NSW Elections of 1988 and 1991" (PDF). Occasional Paper No 7. NSW Parliamentary Library Research Service. Retrieved 14 August 2019.