1999 New South Wales state election

Elections to the 52nd Parliament of New South Wales were held on Saturday, 27 March 1999. All seats in the Legislative Assembly and half the seats in the Legislative Council were up for election. The Labor Party, led by premier Bob Carr won a second term with a 7% swing against the Liberal Party and National Party, led by Kerry Chikarovski.

1999 New South Wales state election

← 1995 27 March 1999 (1999-03-27) 2003 →

All 93 seats in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly
and 21 (of the 42) seats in the New South Wales Legislative Council
47 Assembly seats were needed for a majority
  First party Second party
  Bob Carr.jpg
Leader Bob Carr Kerry Chikarovski
Party Labor Liberal/National coalition
Leader since 6 April 1988 8 December 1998
Leader's seat Maroubra Lane Cove
Last election 50 seats 46 seats
Seats won 55 seats 33 seats
Seat change Increase5 Decrease13
Percentage 42.21% 33.69%
Swing Increase0.94 Decrease10.25

New South Wales Legislative Assembly 1999.svg
Legislative Assembly after the election

Premier before election

Bob Carr

Elected Premier

Bob Carr

The poll was the first to be held after two key changes to the electoral system. In 1997, the number of electoral districts was reduced from 99 to 93. In 1995, fixed four-year terms were introduced.


Carr GovernmentEdit

The Labor Party's victory at the 1995 election was built on a number of specific promises, backed by a well directed marginal seat campaign. On taking office, the Carr Government faced difficulties presiding over a public sector that had fundamentally changed during the seven years of the Greiner and Fahey Governments. The major dynamic of the Carr Government's first term was to be the clash between the old fashioned promises that won the 1995 election and the new orthodoxy of public sector financial accountability.

This new orthodoxy had its genesis in the election of the Hawke Government at the 1983 Federal election. The new financial strictures applied by Canberra to deal with the nation's trade imbalance created problems that forced change on the States. While the term microeconomic reform was not yet in use when the Greiner Government was elected in 1988, New South Wales became the first State that committed itself to a fundamental examination of the role and activities of the public sector. Focussing initially on the efficiency of service delivery and drawing distinctions between commercial functions and core Government services, the process evolved into using market mechanisms to improve the efficiency of services for which the public sector had previously been the monopoly provider. Later, the Jeff Kennett government in Victoria and the Howard Government in Canberra were to take the process further with the wide scale use of privatisation and the outsourcing of services.

The Carr Government was always going to face problems because of the financial burden imposed by the building programme associated with the 2000 Olympics. The Government took the responsible course of choosing to fund the programme internally rather than through debt, resulting in the re-direction of Government expenditure. This approach created dilemmas with two key promises made by Labor to win the 1995 election.

The first was a promise by Carr and his Health Minister Andrew Refshauge to resign if they did not halve hospital waiting lists within twelve months. Devoting extra resources, persuading the majority of the medical profession to participate and improving hospital processes allowed the Government to meet the commitment. The Federal government cut of funding to hospitals that followed made the waiting list numbers rise again and increased the scepticism of the public to any claim . An attempt to redistribute health infrastructure and resources by merging St Vincent's Hospital in Darlinghurst with St George Hospital in Hurstville was one of several politically damaging attempts by the Government to live within its financial means.

The second problem was a promise to abolish the tolls on the privately operated M4 and M5 motorways. Once elected, the Government announced it could not lift the tolls given the cost and contractual obligations. This was disastrous for the Government's standing, forcing it in October 1996 to announce a toll cash-back scheme for private use in an effort to recover lost support.

Dealing with state debt, building the Olympic infrastructure and meeting the cost of normal Government functions caused Cabinet to propose a radical solution in 1997: sell the State's electricity assets. The Victorian Government had raised billions in this way, and New South Wales had already divided the generating capacity into separate corporations that made privatisation possible. The policy had the additional advantaged of removing the financial risk faced by the State since the introduction of a national electricity grid with full competition between suppliers. This was privatisation taken too far for the Labor Party, a State Conference refusing to sanction the sale. Finances remained tight but the Cabinet back-down solved a different problem. The Coalition was still committed to electricity privatisation, allowing the Carr Government to appeal to its own traditional base by warning the only alternative Government would be far harsher.

A redistribution was due before the 1999 election. Before starting the process, Labor number crunchers turned to deciding what number of Lower House seats delivered the best advantage for Labor. With an increase in Members ruled out by the Premier, the eventual strategy adopted was a cut to 93 MPs.

Finalised in July 1998, the new boundaries were a disappointment for the Government. Rather than strengthening Labor's hold on office, they removed the Government's majority, with only 46 of the 93 seats notionally held by Labor. The Coalition was still disadvantaged, given that it won more of the vote in 1995 and still needed a bigger swing than Labor to take office. However, the Coalition was relieved that the boundaries were considerably fairer than Labor had tried to arrange.

Ten seats were abolished and four created, another six seats adopting new names. A net four seats disappeared in Sydney and one in Newcastle. The far western seats of Broken Hill and Murray were abolished and fashioned into a new notionally National Party seat called Murray-Darling. Several Members were forced to move while three seats, Maitland, Strathfield and the new seat of Ryde, were to see contests between sitting MPs.

Retiring former Ministers caused five by-elections in May 1996, Labor receiving a bonus when former Federal MP Harry Woods won the North Coast seat of Clarence from the National Party, increasing the Government's majority to three.

Liberal OppositionEdit

Peter Collins had taken over the Liberal leadership after the 1995 election. Although he had held several senior portfolios in the previous Government, he remained relatively unknown to the electorate. Despite the low profile of Collins, the Coalition remained competitive in opinion polls until the middle of 1998. Collins was deposed by a surprise coup in December 1998 and replaced by Kerry Chikarovski, the first woman to lead a major party in New South Wales. Less experienced at handling the media than Collins, especially television, Chikarovski struggled during the March 1999 campaign. The Coalition's campaign was also hampered by its unpopular proposal to sell the State's electricity assets. The task of selling it became more difficult when polls indicated that the promised cash rebates made voters even more suspicious of privatisation. As a result, Chikarovski bore much of the criticism of the Coalition's performance.


New South Wales state election, 27 March 1999 [1]
Legislative Assembly
<< 19952003 >>

Enrolled voters 4,115,059
Votes cast 3,832,123 Turnout 93.12% -0.68%
Informal votes 96,000 Informal 2.51% -3.36%
Summary of votes by party
Party Primary votes % Swing Seats Change
  Labor 1,576,886 42.21 +0.94 55 +5
  Liberal 927,368 24.82 –8.02 20 –9
  National 331,343 8.87 -2.23 13 -4
  One Nation 281,147 7.53 * 0 0
  Independent 190,793 5.11 +0.41 5 +2
  Greens 145,019 3.88 +1.31 0 0
  Democrats 124,520 3.33 +0.49 0 0
  Christian Democrats 55,819 1.49 * 0 0
  Unity 39,562 1.06 * 0 0
  Other 63,622 1.70 -1.54 0 0
Total 3,736,079     93  
  Labor 1,805,365 55.96% +7.0%
  Liberal/National 1,420,965 44.04% –7.0%

New South Wales state election, 27 March 1999
Legislative Council
<< 19952003 >>

Enrolled voters 4,115,059
Votes cast 3,832,356 Turnout 93.13 –0.67
Informal votes 274,594 Informal 7.17 +1.06
Summary of votes by party
Party Primary votes % Swing Seats
  Labor 1,325,819 37.27 +2.02 8 16
  Liberal/National Coalition 974,352 27.39 –11.10 6 14
  One Nation 225,668 6.34 +6.34 1 1
  Democrats 142,768 4.01 +0.80 1 2
  Christian Democrats 112,699 3.17 +0.16 1 2
  Greens 103,463 2.91 –0.84 1 2
  Shooters 59,295 1.67 –1.17 0 1
  Progressive Labour 56,037 1.58 +1.58 0 0
  Marijuana Smokers Rights 43,991 1.24 +1.24 0 0
  Legal System Reform 35,712 1.00 +1.00 1 1
  Unity 34,785 0.98 +0.98 1 1
  Country Summit Alliance 31,771 0.89 +0.89 0 0
  Registered Clubs Party 27,564 0.77 +0.77 0 0
  Gun Owners & Sporting Hunters 25,106 0.71 +0.71 0 0
  Country NSW Party 19,819 0.56 –0.04 0 0
  What's Doing? 18,318 0.51 +0.51 0 0
  ABFFOC 15,800 0.44 –0.84 0 1
  Outdoor Recreation 7,264 0.20 +0.20 1 1
  Other 297,530 8.37 * 0 0
Total 3,557,762     21  

The Legislative Assembly (lower house) election was a landslide. Labor's historic hold on the city of Broken Hill was maintained when Labor won Murray-Darling. Labor also won the head-to-head contests between sitting MPs in the notionally Liberal seats of Maitland, Ryde and Strathfield. Labor also gained Georges River, Menai and Miranda in southern Sydney and the far North Coast seat of Tweed. It retained Clarence and gained South Coast. Optional preferential voting was responsible for Labor holding Clarence, with the failure of Liberal voters to direct preferences denying the National candidate victory.

The two-party swing to Labor was 7.2%, winning 56.0% of the two-party preferred vote. However, Labor's primary vote had barely risen while the combined Coalition vote was down 10%. A new arrival, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party, fresh from success at the 1998 Queensland and Federal elections, polled 7.5% of the vote. Exhausted One Nation preferences played their part in creating the swing against the Coalition. Worse for the National Party, both Dubbo and Northern Tablelands were lost to Independents, bringing to three the number of Independents in safe National Party seats.

This election was known derogatively as the "Tablecloth Election", due to the unprecedented number of candidates contesting the Upper House, totalling 264 candidates for 81 parties. This meant that each of the 4 million ballot papers issued measured approximately 70x100cm, the size of a small tablecloth.

The rules for nominating candidates to the Legislative Council were tightened to prevent this from happening again, as well as the abolition of group ticket preferences in response to Malcolm Jones of the Outdoor Recreation Party being elected with 0.2% of the vote.


In the New South Wales Legislative Assembly:

Elections were held for half the seats in the New South Wales Legislative Council:

Seats changing handsEdit

Seat Pre-1999 Swing Post-1999
Party Member Margin Margin Member Party
Burrinjuck   Liberal Alby Schultz 9.9 -11.1 1.2 Katrina Hodgkinson National  
Dubbo   National Gerry Peacocke 18.0 -18.0 0.02 Tony McGrane Independent  
Georges River   Liberal Marie Ficarra 2.0 -8.3 6.3 Kevin Greene Labor  
Maitland   Liberal Peter Blackmore 0.9 -1.9 1.0 John Price Labor  
Menai   Liberal Notional - New Seat 1.9 -6.1 4.2 Alison Megarrity Labor  
Miranda   Liberal Ron Phillips 5.2 -7.5 2.3 Barry Collier Labor  
Murray-Darling   National Notional - New Seat 3.5 -7.7 4.2 Peter Black Labor  
Northern Tablelands   National Ray Chappell 14.6 -24.0 9.4 Richard Torbay Independent  
Ryde   Liberal Notional - New Seat 4.2 -10.8 6.6 John Watkins Labor  
South Coast   Liberal Eric Ellis 4.6 -5.1 0.5 Wayne Smith Labor  
Strathfield   Liberal Bruce MacCarthy 2.8 -11.2 8.4 Paul Whelan Labor  
Tweed   National Notional - New Seat 2.2 -4.8 2.6 Neville Newell Labor  
  • Members in italics did not recontest their seats.
  • In addition, Labor retained the seat of Clarence, which it had gained from the National Party in the previous by-election.

Post-election pendulumEdit

Clarence Harry Woods ALP 0.2%
South Coast Wayne Smith ALP 0.5%
Maitland John Price ALP 1.0%
Miranda Barry Collier ALP 2.3%
Tweed Neville Newell ALP 2.6%
Menai Alison Megarrity ALP 4.2%
Murray-Darling Peter Black ALP 4.2%
Fairly safe
Georges River Kevin Greene ALP 6.3%
Ryde John Watkins ALP 6.6%
Kogarah Cherie Burton ALP 7.5%
Keira David Campbell ALP 7.9% v IND
Strathfield Paul Whelan ALP 8.4%
Drummoyne John Murray ALP 9.4%
The Entrance Grant McBride ALP 9.7%
Heathcote Ian McManus ALP 10.4%
Peats Marie Andrews ALP 11.3%
Blue Mountains Bob Debus ALP 11.8%
Coogee Ernie Page ALP 12.3%
Port Stephens John Bartlett ALP 12.3%
Parramatta Gabrielle Harrison ALP 14.5%
Granville Kim Yeadon ALP 14.6%
Londonderry Jim Anderson ALP 14.9%
Wentworthville Pam Allan ALP 15.4%
Wyong Paul Crittenden ALP 15.5%
Rockdale George Thompson ALP 16.5%
Swansea Milton Orkopoulos ALP 16.6%
Penrith Faye Lo Po' ALP 16.7%
Riverstone John Aquilina ALP 17.2%
Mulgoa Diane Beamer ALP 17.6%
Kiama Matt Brown ALP 17.7%
Bathurst Gerard Martin ALP 17.8%
East Hills Alan Ashton ALP 18.3%
Cabramatta Reba Meagher ALP 18.9% v IND
Lake Macquarie Jeff Hunter ALP 19.2%
Charlestown Richard Face ALP 19.3%
Blacktown Paul Gibson ALP 19.4%
Campbelltown Michael Knight ALP 19.9%
Maroubra Bob Carr ALP 19.9%
Marrickville Andrew Refshauge ALP 21.5% v GRN
Newcastle Bryce Gaudry ALP 22.4%
Wallsend John Mills ALP 22.6%
Cessnock Kerry Hickey ALP 22.6% v ONP
Illawarra Marianne Saliba ALP 22.8%
Smithfield Carl Scully ALP 22.8%
Macquarie Fields Craig Knowles ALP 23.5%
Auburn Peter Nagle ALP 24.3%
Lakemba Morris Iemma ALP 24.7%
Port Jackson Sandra Nori ALP 25.1%
Canterbury Kevin Moss ALP 25.2%
Mount Druitt Richard Amery ALP 25.8%
Heffron Deirdre Grusovin ALP 26.1%
Fairfield Joe Tripodi ALP 28.3%
Liverpool Paul Lynch ALP 28.6%
Wollongong Col Markham ALP 28.7%
Bankstown Tony Stewart ALP 30.2%
Monaro Peter Webb NAT 0.2%
Albury Ian Glachan LIB 1.0% v IND
Burrinjuck Katrina Hodgkinson NAT 1.2%
Gosford Chris Hartcher LIB 2.3%
Hornsby Stephen O'Doherty LIB 2.7%
Camden Liz Kernohan LIB 3.5%
Cronulla Malcolm Kerr LIB 5.1%
Southern Highlands Peta Seaton LIB 5.7%
Fairly safe
Orange Russell Turner NAT 6.3%
Epping Andrew Tink LIB 7.1%
Bega Russell Smith LIB 7.1%
Lane Cove Kerry Chikarovski LIB 7.4%
Wagga Wagga Daryl Maguire LIB 7.5%
Oxley Andrew Stoner NAT 8.0%
Baulkham Hills Wayne Merton LIB 8.1%
Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser NAT 8.3%
Lismore Thomas George NAT 8.5%
Upper Hunter George Souris NAT 10.5%
Wakehurst Brad Hazzard LIB 10.8%
Willoughby Peter Collins LIB 11.1%
Murrumbidgee Adrian Piccoli NAT 12.0%
Ballina Don Page NAT 12.0%
North Shore Jillian Skinner LIB 12.3%
Vaucluse Peter Debnam LIB 12.5%
Myall Lakes John Turner NAT 12.9%
Hawkesbury Kevin Rozzoli LIB 13.3%
The Hills Michael Richardson LIB 14.7%
Lachlan Ian Armstrong NAT 16.3%
Port Macquarie Rob Oakeshott NAT 16.6%
Barwon Ian Slack-Smith NAT 17.2%
Pittwater John Brogden LIB 18.8%
Ku-ring-gai Barry O'Farrell LIB 20.0%
Davidson Andrew Humpherson LIB 21.1%
Dubbo Tony McGrane IND 0.02% v NAT
Manly David Barr IND 1.3% v LIB
Northern Tablelands Richard Torbay IND 9.4% v NAT
Bligh Clover Moore IND 9.8% v ALP
Tamworth Tony Windsor IND 35.2% v ALP

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Green, Antony. "1999 election totals". New South Wales Election Results 1856-2007. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 4 May 2020.