Based around Penrith 50 kilometres west of Sydney, Lindsay was created with the expansion of parliament in 1984 to accommodate growth in the city’s outer west. It currently extends into conservative semi-rural territory to the north (Castlereagh and Llandilo) and south (Mulgoa and Orchard Hills), but most of the voters come from an urban concentration around Penrith. This area is stronger for the Liberals in the south and west (Glenmore Park and Emu Plains respectively) and for Labor in the east (Werrington). Before Lindsay was created, Penrith had shifted from Macquarie to Mitchell to Chifley, the general area becoming progressively stronger for Labor as it became more urbanised after the war. Lindsay had a notional Labor margin of 12.3 per cent when it was created, and the area remains a happy hunting ground for the party at state level: the corresponding seats are held by margins of 7.0 per cent (Londonderry), 9.2 per cent (Penrith) and 10.9 per cent (Mulgoa). My 2004 election booth result and swing maps for the electorate can be viewed at Crikey.
Labor’s Ross Free held Lindsay by margins of around 10 per cent throughout the Hawke-Keating years, having previously been member for Macquarie from 1980. He was most unpleasantly surprised to find himself voted out in 1996, following an epochal 11.9 per cent swing to Liberal candidate Jackie Kelly. Free was able to secure a re-match because Kelly, who did not expect to win, had failed to get her affairs in order before nominating (she was still serving as an RAAF officer, an office for profit under the Crown). Voters dragged back to the polls on a technicality rewarded Free with a further 6.8 per cent drop in the primary vote, and Kelly picked up another 5.0 per cent on two-party preferred. The combined 16.9 per cent swing to the Liberals meant the electorate’s demographic profile came to be seen as typifying John Howard’s constituency high numbers of skilled workers on good incomes, low levels of tertiary education and a distinctly less multicultural flavour than suburbs closer to the city. Kelly was able to limit the Labor swing in 1998 to 0.3 per cent, one of a number of decisive marginal seat outcomes that ensured the return of the Howard government from a minority of the two-party vote. This secured Kelly’s status as a prime ministerial favourite, helping her win promotion to the position of Sport and Tourism Minister. Many thought this to be beyond her competence, and she did not return to the ministry after leaving it while pregnant immediately after the 2001 election. She nonetheless continued to perform well electorally, picking up a 2.4 per cent swing in 2001 and almost holding even in 2004.
Two events during the current term have given good cause to think that Lindsay might finally return to Labor at the coming election. The first was the unveiling of new electoral boundaries last July, which added Labor-voting St Marys, Oxley Park and Colyton in the east from Chifley, and transferred Liberal-leaning Glenbrook in the Blue Mountains foothills to Macquarie in the west. These changes cut the Liberal margin from 5.3 per cent to 2.9 per cent. The second came in May when Kelly announced her intention to retire, much to the Prime Minister’s dismay. Kelly immediately named Penrith councillor Mark Davies as her preferred successor, but he evidently found little support from the party. The Prime Minister and the Right faction hoped to enlist Penrith Panthers recruitment manager Peter Mulholland, but their approach was declined. The nomination instead went to Kelly’s electorate officer Karen Chijoff (right), who picked up a 6 per cent swing as candidate for Mulgoa at the March state election.
Labor’s candidate for the third successive election is David Bradbury (left), Blake Dawson Waldron lawyer, Penrith councillor and former mayor, who for all his campaign experience is still only 31. Bradbury was installed as candidate by the national executive using the power the national conference granted it in April to determine preselections in sensitive seats. This displeased the National Union of Workers, said by a number of sources to have been marshalling forces for union official Mark Ptolemy although Brad Norington of The Australian reported in May that it was in fact backing Ptolemy’s fiancee, 23-year-old school teacher May Hayek. Ptolemy was Labor’s candidate for Macquarie in 2004, and turned his attention to Lindsay when it became clear the Macquarie nomination would go to Bob Debus. Norington reported the conflict in terms of a split in the Right, with Bradbury having historical links to the Transport Workers Union.