NSW State Election - March 2023

Labor is within striking distance of government in NSW for the first time in more than a decade, but with polls tightening and still a massive undecided vote it is expected to go down to the wire.

In brief:

  • The retirement of nine Coalition members is likely to be a significant factor in the election result, as the Coalition fights for a record fourth consecutive term in government
  • While the election has been largely short on controversy, recent scare campaigns have focused on the threat of privatising Sydney Water and potential budget blowouts associated with the public service wage cap removal
  • In the event of neither side forming majority, negotiations will start with the crossbench, causing uncertainty in the final result

To get across the line, the Labor Opposition led by Chris Minns needs to win nine seats (factoring redistributions) with a state-wide swing of almost 7 per cent – a big ask, especially because swings are never uniform.

The Liberal and Nationals Coalition Government only has five seats with a margin of less than 5 per cent, but with a number of retiring members, a range of high-profile issues, and after 12 years in government, a swag of seats are up for grabs.

While Premier Dominic Perrottet made a valiant effort to shift the narrative in the last weeks of the campaign to his marquee future fund policy, punters will have one thing front of mind on Saturday – a crippling cost of living crisis that never favours the incumbent.

Rental shocks, interest rate rises, tolls, skyrocketing grocery bills and rising energy prices, all largely out of the government’s control will have an impact. While Minns has narrowed Perrottet’s lead as preferred Premier, the Government is fighting hard to hang on and secure a record fourth term for a Coalition government in NSW.

Retirements the deciding factor?

With the polls tight and an estimated one fifth of voters not having made up their mind this close to polling day, the retirement of nine Coalition members, including five prominent Ministers, could be the difference. 

Labor is encouraged by the opportunity provided by retiring Coalition members in four seats (Parramatta, Riverstone, Ryde and South Coast). Labor performed well in these areas federally and are now feeling increasingly confident at a State level.

These retiring members all enjoyed strong personal support but in their absence these seats are now all in play.

The Legislative Assembly (Lower House)

  • 93 seats in the Parliament, 47 seats forms a majority 
  • Coalition holds 5 seats under 5 per cent  
  • Coalition (46 seats currently) starting from minority  
  • Labor holds 6 seats under 5 per cent 
  • Labor (38 seats currently) needs 9 to win majority (factoring redistribution) 

Scare Campaigns

While it’s largely been an election short on controversy, a Labor scare campaign on the privatisation of Sydney Water has started to bite despite the Premier ruling it out as well as any future privatisations. On the other side, the Coalition has focused on Labor’s policy to scrap the public service wage cap of 3 per cent, with claims of blowouts and budget blackholes as a result.

The Teals and Community Independents

A NSW Teal tsunami may struggle to even make a wave with election spending caps and optional preferential voting making it harder for independents to replicate their results from the federal election. With a strong record on climate action and increased investments in renewables, there is no doubt that the Treasurer and Energy Minister Matt Kean has been critical in ensuring there are no baseball bats out for the Coalition.

Having said that, one to two seats look tight and the seat of Wakehurst vacated by retiring Minister Brad Hazzard will be hard for the Liberals to hold against a (non-teal) Independent, Northern Beaches Mayor, Michael Regan. The Teal factor has a more covert impact by forcing the redirection of campaign resources from key seats in Western Sydney to historical blue ribbon seats across Sydney’s northern suburbs.

The Kingmakers

If the election result is close and neither side can win a majority with 47 seats, negotiations will start with the crossbench, which could lead to uncertainty in the final result. While many of the crossbenchers naturally lean conservatively and have worked well with the Government, others have tied their future support to the introduction of a cashless gaming card. In the outcome of a hung parliament, it remains to be seen what else is put on the table to gain the supply and confidence of the cross bench to form a new government.

Both the Government and Labor have been reluctant to date to publicly commit to any deals with the crossbench. But there should be no doubt that if there is no clear result on Saturday night, the TV speeches of both Mr Minns and Mr Perrottet will be a subliminal pitch to the Kingmakers.

Joe McGirr Helen Dalton Alex Greenwich
Joe McGirr
Member for Wagga Wagga
Helen Dalton
Member for Murray
Independent (Ex Shooters, Fishers and Farmers)
Alex Greenwich
Member for Sydney
Greg Piper Roy Butler Philip Donato
Greg Piper
Member for Lake Macquarie
Roy Butler
Independent (Ex Shooters, Fishers and Farmers)
Philip Donato
Independent (Ex Shooters, Fishers and Farmers)

Seats to watch

Both sides seem to agree the now nominally Labor seat of Heathcote as well as East Hills look set to change hands on Saturday. This means the following key seats will be key to determining whether Labor can win in its own right or do battle with the Coalition in winning the hearts and votes of the Independents.

Seat Party Member Margin  
Parramatta Labor Retiring Minister Geoff Lee 6.5% Right on the border of the swing Labor needs to form government, a retiring member always open up the competition for a new player. We understand Labor is quietly confident about winning this seat.
Goulburn Liberal Minister Wendy Tuckerman 3.1% Within striking range, Labor must unseat Minister Tuckerman if they want to have any chance of forming government.
Upper Hunter Nationals David Layzell 0.5% The Nationals won the seat in a by-election that is now held by the slimmest margins. Will this seat balance out, or will Labor add it to the win column?
Penrith Liberal Stuart Ayres 0.6% With an even slimmer margin after an unfavourable redistribution, former Minister Ayres has a fight on his hands, but his ability to campaign shouldn’t be underestimated.
Wakehurst Liberal Brad Hazzard (retiring) 21.9% Popular Northern Beaches Mayor, Michael Regan is challenging what is traditionally a safe Liberal seat.
Kiama Independent Gareth Ward 12% After being forced to the crossbench for being before the courts on sexual assault charges, Ward has maintained his innocence and running as an independent. Ward is still very popular with his electorate but is it enough to get re-elected?


Outside of these, one thing we can guarantee is that there will be a surprise or two. It promises to be a fascinating night. 

What’s next?

If there is a winner on Saturday night, celebrations will be short-lived. Amidst a tight fiscal environment and changing economic conditions, the next NSW Government will face pressure to deliver existing projects and key services more efficiently and increase revenue in a bid to address unprecedented debt in the state.

It is expected that they will need to do this while contending with a larger and more volatile crossbench in both Houses of Parliament.


Contact us for more information about the NSW State Election and what the outcome means for you.

Jodie Brough, Partner and Sydney Office Head, SEC Newgate Communications – [email protected]

Clint McGilvray, Partner, SEC Newgate Communications – [email protected]

Declan Drake, Senior Consultant, SEC Newgate Communications – [email protected]

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