Division of Bennelong

Australian House of Representatives Division

Division of Bennelong in New South Wales, as of the 2016 federal election.
Created 1949
MP John Alexander
Party Liberal
Namesake Bennelong
Electors 106,005 (2016)
Area 60 km2 (23.2 sq mi)
Demographic Inner Metropolitan

The Division of Bennelong is an Australian electoral division in the state of New South Wales. The division was created in 1949 and is named for Bennelong, an Aboriginal man befriended by the first Governor of New South Wales, Arthur Phillip.

Bennelong is based in Sydney's Northern Suburbs, including the suburbs of Denistone, Denistone East, Denistone West, East Ryde, Eastwood, Epping, Macquarie Park, Marsfield, Meadowbank, Melrose Park, North Epping, North Ryde, Putney, Ryde, Tennyson Point and West Ryde; as well as parts of Beecroft, Carlingford, Chatswood West, Dundas, Ermington and Gladesville.

It was represented from 1974 until 2007 by John Howard, who served as the Prime Minister of Australia from 1996 until 2007. As well as his government then being defeated, Howard also became the second sitting Australian Prime Minister to lose his own seat. Maxine McKew of the Australian Labor Party won the seat, making her the first Labor MP for Bennelong. However, the division has often been marginal, and McKew lost the seat back to the Liberals at the 2010 election.

The current Member for Bennelong, since the 2010 federal election, is John Alexander, a member of the Liberal Party of Australia who is a former professional tennis player.

Electoral history

When the Division of Bennelong was created in 1949, it covered mainly the suburbs of Ryde, Hunters Hill and Lane Cove, all of which were (and still are) relatively affluent areas, and as such it has historically been a "fairly safe" Liberal seat.

Over the years Bennelong became increasingly marginal, and this has been attributed to two factors. Firstly, the electoral boundary of Bennelong has been redrawn ("redistributed") numerous times, pushing it further westward into Labor-friendly territory. Successive redistributions eliminated wealthy Lane Cove and Hunters Hill in the east and incorporated Eastwood, Epping, Carlingford and middle-class Ermington in the north and west. Secondly, the demographic has changed as well: since the early 1990s, Eastwood and surrounding suburbs have seen an influx of migrants from China, Hong Kong, South Korea and India, who are relatively affluent and conservative, but are sensitive towards political policies on immigration and multiculturalism.[1]

1998 election

In 1998, Prime Minister John Howard finished just short of a majority on the first count in the seat, and was only assured of re-election on the ninth count. He ultimately won a fairly comfortable 56 percent of the two-party-preferred vote.

2004 election

In 2004, for the second time since becoming Prime Minister, Howard came up short of a majority in the first count for the seat. He was assured of re-election on the third count, ultimately winning 53.3 percent of the two-party-preferred vote. The two-party-preferred vote for the Liberals declined 3.4% in the 2004 election, contrary to a strong national trend to the Coalition (and a particularly strong one to the Coalition in outer-suburban metropolitan seats), making Bennelong a marginal seat at that time, with a margin of just 4.3%. The 2006 redistribution pushed this margin slightly further into Labor territory, due to the inclusion of the predominantly working-class and public housing suburb of Ermington in Bennelong's boundaries.[2] The Greens increased their vote at this election by 12.34% to 16.37% at this election, owing to the pre-selection of the high-profile Andrew Wilkie as candidate.

2007 election

Balloons demonstrating the extent of the electioneering that occurred in Bennelong at the 2007 federal election.
An Epping polling booth within Bennelong.

In the 2007 election, the incumbent Member for Bennelong, then-Prime Minister John Howard, lost the seat to Labor candidate Maxine McKew, after holding it for 33 years. This was only the second time in Australian history that an incumbent Prime Minister had been defeated in his own electorate, the first being Stanley Bruce in 1929. The election marked the first time a Labor candidate won, and also the first time a woman won the seat.

In his national address conceding the election, Howard admitted that it was "very likely" that he had lost the seat, and many media outlets listed Bennelong as a Labor gain on election night.[3] Following initial reluctance to officially call the outcome (despite confidence of success),[4][5] McKew declared victory officially on 1 December.[6][7] At that time, the Australian Electoral Commission showed McKew ahead on a two-candidate-preferred basis, by 43,272 votes to 41,159;[8] however, pre-poll, postal and absent votes were still being counted and could possibly have affected the outcome.

Howard formally conceded defeat in Bennelong on 12 December.[9] The Electoral Commission declared the seat, with 44,685 votes for McKew to 42,251 for Howard. McKew led for most of the night, and ultimately won on the 14th count after over three-fourths of Green preferences flowed to her. Voter turnout in Bennelong was 95%.[10]


Bennelong – Two-party-preferred
3 October 1998 1998 election[11]56.03%43.97%
4–5 April 2001 Roy Morgan[12]57%43%
10 November 2001 2001 election[13]57.70%42.30%
9 October 2004 2004 election[14]54.33%45.67%
14–15 February 2007 Roy Morgan[15]45%55%
9–10 May 2007 Galaxy48%52%
8–9 August 2007 Galaxy47%53%


For the 2010 federal election, the Liberal Party pre-selected former tennis professional and tennis commentator John Alexander to contest the marginal seat. McKew recontested the seat for Labor.[16] After a long and high-profile campaign, Alexander won the seat back from Labor; he increased both the Liberals' two-party-preferred and primary vote for the first time since 2001, and gained the largest swing towards the Liberals since 1996. Alexander defeated McKew with a two-party-preferred swing of 4.52% (cf. the 2.58% national swing in the 2010 federal election), contributing to the Gillard Government's loss of its parliamentary majority.[17]

McKew said Labor had failed to repeat the professional and targeted campaign of 2007. She also conceded that the removal of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister had been a factor in the party's poor showing, along with the Government's dumping of the emissions trading scheme and a lacklustre national campaign.[18]

Alexander picked up a four-percent swing in the 2013 federal election as the Coalition returned to government, returning Bennelong to its traditional status as a safe Liberal seat. He was reelected in 2016 with a small swing in his favour, even as the Coalition barely won a second term.


  John Cramer Liberal 1949–1974
  John Howard Liberal 1974–2007
  Maxine McKew Labor 2007–2010
  John Alexander Liberal 2010–present

Election results

Australian federal election, 2016: Bennelong[19]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal John Alexander 46,497 50.41 −2.58
Labor Lyndal Howison 26,270 28.48 −3.97
Greens Justin Alick 8,424 9.13 +0.71
Christian Democrats Julie Worsley 5,903 6.40 +3.99
Independent Martin Mulcare 2,885 3.13 +3.13
Pirate John August 1,260 1.37 +1.37
Arts Christopher Gordon 992 1.08 +1.08
Total formal votes 92,231 94.91 +2.43
Informal votes 4,942 5.09 −2.43
Turnout 97,173 91.67 −3.43
Two-party-preferred result
Liberal John Alexander 55,077 59.72 +1.95
Labor Lyndal Howison 37,154 40.28 −1.95
Liberal hold Swing +1.95


  1. Saville, Margot (2007). The Battle for Bennelong: The adventures of Maxine McKew, aged 50something. Melbourne University Press.
  2. "Archive for the 'Federal Redistributions' Category". The Poll Bludger. 13 September 2006. Retrieved 2007-11-25.
  3. "Defeated Howard thanks Australia". ABC News. Australia. 25 November 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-25.
  4. "McKew refuses to call Bennelong". News.com.au. 25 November 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-01.
  5. "McKew confident but can wait to declare". The Australian. 26 November 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-01.
  6. "McKew declares victory in Bennelong". ABC News. Australia. 1 December 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-01.
  7. "Maxine McKew claims victory in Bennelong". The Sydney Morning Herald. 1 December 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-01.
  8. "House of Representatives Division First Preferences". Australian Electoral Commission. 30 November 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-01.
  9. "Finally, Howard admits McKew has it". The Sydney Morning Herald. 12 December 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-13.
  10. "House of Representatives Division First Preferences". Australian Electoral Commission. 11 December 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-13.
  11. "House of Representatives – Two Party Preferred Statistics by Division (1998)". Australian Electoral Commission. 9 August 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-25.
  12. ""Safe" Liberal Seats Not So Safe According To Latest Bulletin-Morgan Poll.". Roy Morgan Research. 17 April 2001. Retrieved 2007-11-25.
  13. "House of Representatives: Divisional Results". Australian Electoral Commission. Retrieved 2007-11-25.
  14. "Bennelong – Divisional Profiles". Australian Electoral Commission. 15 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-25.
  15. "Special Crikey Morgan Poll: Howard Would Lose Bennelong". Roy Morgan Research. 19 February 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-25.
  16. "Four Liberals vying for Bennelong seat". ABC News. 20 November 2009. Retrieved 2010-02-28.
  17. "Bennelong, NSW". Election 2010. Australian Electoral Commission. 2010.
  18. "Labor bloodbath begins and Maxine McKew throws the first punch". news.com.au. 22 August 2010.
  19. Bennelong, NSW, Virtual Tally Room 2016, Australian Electoral Commission.

External links

Coordinates: 33°47′35″S 151°05′56″E / 33.793°S 151.099°E / -33.793; 151.099

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