06 December 2015
by Adam Gartrell
Liberal Trent Zimmerman wins North Sydney byelection despite swing
Liberal Candidate Trent Zimmerman at Saint Aloysius College polling booth on Saturday.
Liberal Trent Zimmerman has won the North Sydney byelection, holding on to former treasurer Joe Hockey's seat despite a significant swing against the party.
With 57 per cent of the vote counted, Mr Zimmerman claimed victory at 9.30pm on Saturday. He attracted an estimated 47.6 per cent of the primary vote, fending off 12 other candidates.
The result makes him the first openly gay man elected to Federal Parliament's lower house.
In his acceptance speech, the 47-year-old former staffer to Mr Hockey pledged to work for all the people of North Sydney, not just those who voted for him.
"I'm not going to be someone who's just there as a seat warmer, I'm going to be someone who is there to contribute to the Parliament," he said.
He said he was very cognisant that his sexuality made his win "historic". He paid tribute to Mr Hockey and to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's "inspirational" vision for Australia.
The result represents a 13.4 per cent swing against the Liberals on first preferences based on Mr Hockey's 2013 result.
Labor did not run a candidate for the conservative seat, which has been in Liberal hands for all but six years since 1949.
Pundits have largely put the swing down to Mr Hockey's personal popularity in the seat he held for almost two decades, although disquiet over NSW government council amalgamations has also been cited as a factor.
Independent Stephen Ruff ran second with 18.7 per cent of the vote and the Greens' Arthur Chesterfield-Evans was third on 16.3 per cent.
The byelection was sparked by Mr Hockey's decision to resign from Parliament after Mr Turnbull took the prime ministership from Tony Abbott.
Mr Hockey is expected to be named Australia's next ambassador to the United States within weeks.
Dr Chesterfield-Evans said the result had delivered a "stinging rebuke" to Mr Turnbull and his government.
"In 2013 the Liberals got 61 per cent of the vote in North Sydney, and now with no Labor candidate they're down to below 50 per cent. The Liberals also outspent us about 20:1, which makes democracy something of a farce," he said.
Meanwhile Labor says it will ask electoral authorities to investigate whether the Liberals used illegal posters of Mr Turnbull on polling day.
ALP National Secretary George Wright will write to the Australian Electoral Commission over corflute posters of a grinning Mr Turnbull – on display across the electorate as voters went to the polls – with no clearly visible party authorisation.
Mr Wright believes the posters could contravene the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which dictates that all such campaign material must contain the name and address of the authorising person.
A Liberal Party spokesperson said all the party's campaign material contained the necessary authorisation details. Indeed, a close look at one of the corflutes revealed an authorisation was there – but hidden behind a frame and so minuscule it was barely visible.
The federal Department of Finance's 2013 Electoral Law Authorisation Guidelines says while there is no requirement that authorisations be a particular size, they should be "reasonably legible and accord with relevant signage industry practice".