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Labor returns in minority government

The state election saw a strong swing against the Coalition government, who suffered losses to both Labor and the crossbench, and the election of the Minns Labor government.

Labor’s campaign emphasised both the age of the Coalition government and opposition to its wide-ranging privatisation agenda – sometimes called “asset recycling”. Labor’s commitment to keep public housing in public hands will come as a real relief to those in Glebe facing ongoing evictions, but the future of Waterloo remains less certain. The grassroots campaign in defence of public housing now has an opportunity to fight to expand social public housing.

The result is unusual in seeing a transition from a minority Coalition to a likely minority Labor government. While the Coalition was elected with a narrow majority in 2019 it lost seats to various scandals leaving it reliant on the crossbench. Despite its minority status, the last government was relatively stable, with little suggestion the Coalition might lose office, and the same stability is likely in the next parliament given Labor is only narrowly short of a majority and has already received support on confidence and supply issues from three independents, including Sydney’s Alex Greenwich.

The election saw crossbench numbers grow, from nine to 12 out of 93 members of the lower house. Three of the four local South Sydney seats – Sydney, Newtown and Balmain – were again won by crossbench MPs, with Labor’s Ron Hoenig retaining Heffron. All three incumbent MPs gained significant swings, led by Jenny Leong whose primary vote rose by over 10 per cent. In Balmain, Inner West councillor Kobi Shetty successfully replaced Jamie Parker. Parker is the first lower house Greens MP to retire in Australia, making Shetty’s victory more significant.

The upper house also saw a progressive shift. Labor received a strong swing, while One Nation saw their vote decline, despite high-profile leader Mark Latham resigning from his eight-year term early to head the ticket. The crossbench is also likely to expand with Legalise Cannabis and possibly the Liberal Democrats claiming seats for the first time.

The last minority government saw progress on several social issues including abortion rights and euthanasia. It is likely the new parliament will present similar opportunities as Labor seeks support from progressive independents and the Greens. Tenant rights and gambling reform will lead the way, alongside a shift in economic priorities to support public sector wages and public ownership.


Ben Spies-Butcher teaches Economy and Society and is Discipline Chair of Sociology in the Macquarie School of Social Sciences.



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