Heffron by-election: August 25

The ballot paper draw has been conducted for the Heffron by-election, which will be held on August 25 to replace Kristina Keneally. The four candidates listed in ballot paper order:

Ron Hoenig (Labor). A barrister of Jewish extraction who has been mayor of Botany Bay for no fewer than 31 consecutive years. Half of the Heffron electorate is located in the Botany Bay municipality, and the other half in the City of Sydney.

Robyn Peebles (Christian Democratic Party).

Mehreen Faruqi (Greens). Of Pakistani origin, Faruqi was also the Greens candidate at last year’s election. She was described at the time as “a civil/environmental engineer and sustainability expert who has worked in numerous senior roles at universities, consulting firms and in local government”.

Drew Simmons (Australian Democrats).

Heffron is located due south of the city, from Redfern south through Sydenham and Kensington to Sydney Airport and Botany Bay. The seat was created in 1973 in place of abolished Randwick, a bellwether electorate that had changed hands along with government in 1930, 1932 and 1941. The area became stronger over time for Labor, who have comfortably held the seat throughout its existence. In common with a great many other electorates, the Liberals achieved their best ever result at the March 2011 election, increasing from 21.8% to 33.3% on the primary vote and 26.3% to 42.9% on two-party preferred. Labor’s primary vote was down from 56.4% to 41.2%, with the Greens down from 19.7% to 19.0%.

The winner of the by-election will become only the seat’s fourth member, the preceding members having been Laurie Brereton (1973-1990), Brereton’s sister Deirdre Grusovin (1990-2003), and Kristina Keneally (2003-2012). Brereton, who had previously held Randwick for a term, became a senior front-bencher in the Wran-Unsworth government before entering federal politics in 1990 as member for Kingsford-Smith. Grusovin had been an upper house member since 1978 prior to assuming the seat. She went on to lose preselection at the 2003 election after a complicated power struggle between Brereton, who by one account was seeking to secure the succession for his son Anthony, and then state party secretary Eric Roozendaal, who argued Grusovin should make way for a younger candidate. That candidate ended up being Keneally, who went on to be elevated to the ministry in 2007 before accepting the poisoned chalice of the premiership in December 2009.

The more recent preselection was less eventful, with Hoenig emerging uncontested after an early front-runner, former government staffer Michael Comninos, decided not to contest. Hoenig had last been on the preselection scene in 1990, when Laurie Brereton defeated him in Kingsford-Smith.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

11 comments on “Heffron by-election: August 25”

  1. A very small field for a by-election, reflects the strength of the ALP in the southern half of the electorate. A very popular local Mayor will overwhelm the northern part of the electorates green tendencies. Not at all like the recent Melbourne by-election..

  2. I know Governments don’t contest by-elections like this but you’d think a triumphant Baz would want to put his foot on the throat of the ALP less than eighteen months after his crushing win. Wouldn’t he? A little bit of a scaredy cat when it comes to swings?

  3. There are very few NSW electorates named after a person rather than geographically. There must be an interesting story of Heffron’s naming

  4. To update the history, the 1970 redistribution abolished the seat of Randwick which covered the northern end of what became Heffron (Kensington etc.) and also abolished the seat of Cooks River which covered the southern Botany, Mascot end.

    Laurie Brereton had been member for Randwick as William mentioned. Geoff Cahill who had been member for Cooks River went to Marrickville.

    By the by, there is website called the ‘Atlas of NSW’ which provides maps of all redistributions – very pseph wonky but a good discovery.

    OC – possibly Heffron was seen as a good compromise name for what might have been seen at the time as a seat with disparate parts.

  5. My only link with the seat was that I handed out HTV cards for the Democrats at the 1990 by election. The ALP had a crew of about 20 on the ground all day (I wonder if they could manage that now?). My other abiding memory is hearing the discussion between the two Greens HTVers about how they belonged to both the Greens and the Socialist Workers Party – does that still happen? SWP entryism to the Greens that is – as opposed to Greens HTVers talking to each other.

  6. The Fabian Socialists Sidney and Beatrice Webb were instrumental in turning Brisbane, in
    1923, into the equivalent of the Greater London Council.
    Destroying a host of local governments and ensuring that not very many popular local mayors were up for election in the Can Do landslide in Brisbane.
    Explains much about democracy in Qld. Many would love the choice of a Heffron style polity.

  7. @ Blackburnseph. A proscription on membership of other parties was passed by the first NSW Greens State Delegates conference held that same year, 1990.
    Hasn’t happened, then, in the last twenty two years, not that anyone would know with all the “Watermelon” drivel bandied about in that time.
    Though I have heard of dried watermelon. Could it still be edible after two decades?
    I know that the Australian Democrats fed on it for many years.
    But they do have a candidate, good luck to them.

  8. Not impressed by Faruqi. Lost of 24 news cycle-esque posturing before the last election. Lots of misleading information re: development in Erskineville (Labor wants Monster developments – untrue, Labor wasn’t commenting because it was before the planning commission), roads in Tempe (Labor wants to build a freeway through Tempe – flatout untrue, but that’s the M’ville Greens for you), trains in Mascot and Green Square (should bring back to same price as other stations, then when it happened, somehow claimed that the people of Heffron were being mistreated because they didn’t subsidise the airport ones). Living in St Peters I received a number of pamphlets from ‘community groups’ that were clearly Green creations trying to sound independent.

    Will be pleased to vote for Hoenig, a honest and intelligent man who won’t BS to the community.

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