With the North Sydney seat abolished, what can Kylea Tink do?

The battle lines between the Liberal Party and the teal independents became a little clearer today with the publication of proposed new federal electoral boundaries for New South Wales, which have pulled the rug from under teal member Kylea Tink by abolishing her seat of North Sydney.

The proposal puts the entirety of the North Sydney local government area in Warringah, where Zali Steggall set off the teal phenomenon by unseating Tony Abbott in 2019, with the rest to be absorbed by Labor-held Bennelong in the west and Liberal-held Bradfield in the north.

Assuming the proposal is adopted in essentially its current form, this leaves Tink with no obvious place to turn. The likeliest option would seem to involve running against Paul Fletcher in Bradfield, which is mooted to absorb Willoughby and its surrounds from North Sydney — an area accounting for less than a third of Tink’s existing constituents.

Other than the mandated abolition of one of the state’s 47 seats, the redistribution commissioners have done their best not to disturb the furniture too much.

This will come as a relief to Labor, as a live option would have been to accommodate growth in outer Sydney by creating a new seat there at the expense of a Labor stronghold — the Liberal Party’s submission helpfully suggested Blaxland, held by Jason Clare on a margin of 14.9%.

Nor have the commissioners taken on board Labor’s advice to axe the Liberal seat of Hughes in Sydney’s outer south, but that always looked a long shot. 

However, a new set of electoral boundaries inevitably brings with it winners and losers — one of the latter being Jerome Laxale, who gained John Howard’s old seat of Bennelong for Labor at the 2022 election.

Bennelong’s absorption of Lane Cove and waterfront territory from North Sydney is unhelpful to the Labor cause, such that it would likely have fallen narrowly short if the proposed boundaries had applied at the last election (a full accounting of estimated new margins can be found on my website).

Labor’s Andrew Charlton has also had about 1% gouged from his 4.6% margin in Parramatta, which stands to lose Granville at its southern end.

Otherwise, most of the crucial marginal seats have been little changed.

A number of key Labor marginals are to be entirely undisturbed, including the south-coast seat of Gilmore, where Labor’s Fiona Phillips held on by 373 votes; the inner-west Sydney seat of Reid, which Sally Sitou gained for Labor with a big swing off the Chinese community backlash; and Dobell and Robertson on the Central Coast, for which the Liberals have high hopes.

Labor has had its 4% margin boosted by about 1% in its once-reliable seat of Hunter, whose coal mining communities have grown increasingly problematic for the party, which loses conservative rural areas and gains the mining town of Kurri Kurri.

With the redistribution commissioners’ cards now on the table, it is now open to the parties and any other interested observers to submit objections, which can be guaranteed to invoke the nebulous principle of “community of interest” in arguing for changes that will coincidentally be helpful to interests of a quite different sort.

The extent to which such arguments are deemed persuasive will not be known with the finalisation of the boundaries in October (which applies equally to the recently published redistribution proposals for Victoria and Western Australia), at which point speculation about the timing of the election can truly begin in earnest.

Disclosure: William Bowe conducts paid consultancy work for Climate 200, which provides support for the campaigns of the teal independents.

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