Seat of the week: Werriwa

It’s a measure of Labor’s woes in Sydney that the seat of Gough Whitlam and Mark Latham is routinely being included on lists of the potential casualties.

Famously held by Gough Whitlam throughout a parliamentary career lasting from 1952 to 1978, the south-western Sydney seat of Werriwa has been in Labor hands since 1931. However, it is now considered endangered for the first time in living memory after the margin was cut from 15.1% to 6.8% in 2010, followed by the devastating example of the state election the following March. The electorate in its current form covers suburbs clustered around the South Western Freeway and the Campbelltown rail line, from Macquarie Fields south to Ingleburn and Minto and north to Hoxton Park and Liverpool South, together with Liberal-voting semi-rural territory further to the west. The seat has been fundamentally altered a number of times since its creation at federation, at which time it covered Goulburn 200 kilometres to the south-west of Sydney. It was shifted eastwards to the Illawarra in 1934, when it commenced its life as a safe Labor seat, then moved northwards as far as the Sutherland Shire in 1949, and finally adopted its south-western Sydney orientation in 1955, when it covered Cabramatta and Liverpool. In remaining at Sydney’s outer edge since, it has tended to be pushed further south-westerwards over subsequent redistributions.

Labor’s Hubert Lazzarini followed his shifting electorate from 1919 until his death in 1952, except for a term after the 1931 election when it fell to the Country Party. Lazzarini was succeeded by Gough Whitlam, whose tale does not need reiterating here. John Kerin became member in 1978 when Whitlam quit in the wake of the 1977 election disaster, going on to serve a forgettable stint as Treasurer after the failure of Paul Keating’s first leadership challenge in June 1991. Kerin was followed in 1994 by the seat’s second Labor leader, Mark Latham. Although Labor’s hold on the seat was never endangered, Latham went through a wild ride in his time here in more ways than one: the seat swung 9.3% to the Liberals in 1996, 6.5% to Labor in 1998, and 4.8% to the Liberals in 2001. Latham was also disrupted when his strongest party branches were removed from the electorate in the redistribution before the 2001 election. His factional enemies, who were apparently not in short supply, argued he should instead be made to try his luck in marginal Macarthur.

Latham quit politics in January 2005 and was succeeded at a by-election by Chris Hayes, an official of the Right faction Australian Workers Union, who easily retained the seat in the absence of a Liberal candidate. Another round of Labor upheaval followed when the redistribution before the 2010 election effectively abolished the safe Labor inner Sydney seat of Reid (which survived in name but was effectively merged with neighbouring Lowe). Labor’s member for Reid was Laurie Ferguson, brother of Martin Ferguson, with whom he formed the base of a Left sub-faction that had counted Julia Gillard among its number. Ferguson was at first determined to be accommodated in Fowler, to be vacated at the election by Julia Irwin, but a deal was in force reserving the seat for the locally dominant Right. He instead settled for Werriwa under a deal Gillard was able to reach against opposition of Anthony Albanese and the Left, in which Hayes would take Fowler instead. That in turn froze out Ed Husic, national president of the Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union, for whom Fowler had been earmarked, but he was accommodated in Chifley following Roger Price’s decision to retire.

The Liberal candidate for the coming election is Kent Johns, the Liberal mayor of Sutherland Shire, who was once a Labor mayor of Rockdale before becoming an independent. Johns reportedly won preselection with backing from factional moderate Scott Morrison. This has generated grumblings from locals aligned with the Right, who complain of having an outsider foisted upon them. Chief among the aggrieved is thwarted preselection hopeful Mark Koosache, a local school librarian and former soldier who has campaigned against cuts to entitlements for defence personnel, who says he is contemplating running as an independent and directing preferences to Labor. There has also been talk that Ferguson might bow out at the election, but he has told the local media his nomination forms have been submitted and he is set on serving another term.

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.

1,128 comments on “Seat of the week: Werriwa”

  1. frednk

    And that is an interesting point.

    If the Jan 14 Newspoll has just MOE as the difference between winning a losing then there are some skittish souls who actually have not decided who to support in any kind of on-going way.

    As William has reminded us more than once, 50% of the electorate make up their minds which way to vote on the day of the election.

    I don’t know where and when the research was done for this but no political party should give up right until election day.

    Unfortunately, for the conservatives, the PM and Labor will not “lay down and die”.

    In a round about way, any improvement for the conservatives is about as secure a quicksand.

    The amazing point is that the polls, based on the best efforts of the Liberal/Nationals media, is not write off territory for Labor.

    Despite all, Labor is competitive 8 months out and we are not in the dark days of winter 2011.

    One wonders if the conservatives can sustain it all.

    At the moment not much scrutiny, still, of what the conservatives have on offer and sooner or later, they will have to put their mouth where their money is or is not.

  2. Galaxy poll

    Thinking about federal politics. If a federal election for the house of representatives was held today, which one of the following would you vote for?
    Labor Party 35
    Coalition 48
    The Greens 10
    Another party or an independent candidate 7

    Two party preferred.
    Labor Party 46
    Coalition 54

    Thinking now about the leaders of the parties. Firstly, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way Julia Gillard is doing her job as Prime Minister?
    Supporters
    Total Labor Coalition
    % % %
    Satisfied 38 65 16
    Dissatisfied 57 27 82
    Uncommitted 5 8 2

    And are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way Tony Abbott is doing his job as Leader of the Opposition?
    Supporters
    Total Labor Coalition
    % % %
    Satisfied 36 15 58
    Dissatisfied 57 75 37
    Uncommitted 7 10 5

    During the week Julia Gillard announced that the next federal election will be held on September 14. As it has now been called, do you think the election should be held now or in September?
    Supporters
    Total Labor Coalition
    % % %
    Held now 38 18 57
    Held in September 55 76 39
    Uncommitted 7 6 4

    Julia Gillard said that she announced the date of the federal election to end the speculation over when the poll will be held and to provide certainty to the country. Do you believe this explanation?
    Supporters
    Total Labor Coalition
    % % %
    Yes 41 67 21
    No 53 25 76
    Uncommitted 6 8 3

    These surveys were conducted by Galaxy Research. The most recent survey was administered on the weekend of 1-3 February 2013. The results are based on the opinions of 1015 voters.

  3. You mean after Labor in chaos/crisis, PM’s protection racket, Thommo strip search, KRudd Bollywood – Galaxy (LNP Pollster) is still 54-46

  4. Newspoll will show a move to the Coalition, otherwise Chris Kenny would have said nothing. The Galaxy poll benchmark is from a while ago (December?) The Newspoll, which moved back to the Govt in Jan, normally sits under galaxy, but we’ll see.

  5. I think Newspoll result will dishearten a lot of people here and the conspiracy theories will start flying.

    The only theory that works, however, is that it’s been a bad week for Labor thanks to Craig Thomson and the NSW ALP preselecting him against all warnings. The rest of the “disasters” this week the public doesn’t care about.

  6. Would News Ltd pay two pollsters and release the results of both on the same day?

    I reckon Newspoll will be out for Tuesdays fish and chips.

  7. [Labor Party 35
    Coalition 48
    The Greens 10
    Another party or an independent candidate 7]

    Interestingly these Galaxy numbers are exactly the same as this weeks Essential, in all respects.

  8. TT does get a bit gloomy, CTar1. But I think he can be excused on the grounds of unprecedented territory. I can’t remember another time when the agenda has been controlled so completely by Murdoch/News Ltd, with Abbott-Credlin exploiting that to the hilt.

    Gillard and her government are playing an entirely different game. They’re getting program and policy achievements locked in, along with tax/interest levels and employment all under control, contrary to most of the western world.

    As Ratsak has outlined so well here, and Andrew Elder has at Politically Homeless, when voters eventually get around to considering their vote … this continuous theme of a government in disarray is going to be hard to sustain.

    Voters will be making decisions on what they’ve got and what they’re likely to get. The government will be offering a lot more tangible things, both what’s occurred so far and where we’re going.

    Platitudes, which is all we’ve heard from the Ops so far and seemingly unlikely to change [trying to do real programs with costs will simply be horrendous]. So they’ll probably try and keep it in platitudes and slogans. I’m pretty sure they won’t cut it when it comes to the hip-pocket nerve.

    TT is reflecting some consumers concerns, but in the coming months, especially with the media over-egging everything, there will surely be a bit of ‘crying wolf’ response from the public.

    Show us the substance will probably be the main concern. The ministerial shifts will work in Labor’s favour once we’re over this disarray bullshit. Dreyfus has already signalled a more aggressive counter-claim to the usual coalition bull. O”Connor will do likewise. Clare and Butler are still rising.

    It’s weird having two entirely opposite strategies. The weakness in the coalition one is that it’s dependent on winning the airwaves and press battles, with little else.

    They’ll simply have to get more shrill with nothing of substance to offer.

  9. absolutetwaddle/1108

    Same could be said about most Coalition MP’s (Cory Bernardi, Andrew Laming)

    The only thing is the Media don’t go on and on about it.

  10. http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/eastern-states-block-plan-to-stop-power-price-exploitation/story-e6frea83-1226567755662
    [Eastern states block plan to stop power price exploitation
    Miles Kemp
    adelaidenow
    February 03, 2013 9:18PM

    THE eastern states have thwarted attempts to stop electricity generators exploiting the market to push up prices and electricity bills.

    At a national meeting of energy ministers NSW, Queensland and Victoria joined forces to block attempts by the South Australian Government to ban the so-called “gaming” of the wholesale electricity market.]

  11. So Galaxy was in the field this weekend?

    Would the results they picked up on Friday (before the reshuffle) be different to those picked up today?
    An OK Newspoll this week (say 52-48) may not reflect the effect of the “Labor in crisis, Government in crisis, Gillard Downfall” crap, however it may take time to wash through, as the AWU bull did last year.

  12. Toorak Toff@1107


    Sorry CTar1. Just trying to supply a bit of balance to the mindless optimism on display here.

    Good on you TT!
    I for one appreciate your efforts.

    The first step in dealing with a problem is to recognise it’s existence.

  13. [margo kingston ‏@margokingston1
    No more #Ashby questions for Pyne please. @geeksrulz is collating now – will publish tonight.]

    Excellent. Ready for his Qanda appearance tomorrow.

  14. ruawake

    Gillard’s declaration that Thomson had her “full support” is now looking like the kind of statement that deserves one of of those memory-wiping sticks from the Men In Black trilogy.

    I don’t like the guy, partly because it’s very likely he’s a thief and a whoring scumbag liar and mostly because his ridiculous antics (if proven in court like I suspect they will) will do no small part in bringing Abbott to office.

    If you’re a fan of Thomson good luck to you. You’re taking a lot on faith though.

  15. For those being Job’s comforters (or criticising others for ‘mindless optimism’)it is worth reminding these misery gutses that the party they so say support, but cry “Woe and thrice woe!” require support not hand-wringing “We’ll all be rooned…….stuff”.

    I would really appreciate it if they moved on from the gloom and doom stuff.

    As if we all can’t see the mountain Labor has yet to climb.

    Instead of trying the “holier than thou” stuff, they should instead celebrate the fact that we have had the third longest run of Labor governments, unemployment is low, interest rates are low, the stock market has picked up billions – and this is since the Carbon Tax and we have a leader who is streets ahead of her opponent.

    Some of us are happy to be optimistic and I wish the complainers (calling themselves ‘supporters’) would change their tune.

    You remind me of the words of a very old song from the 1950s – monologue really – called Life Gets Tedious Don’t It?

    One of the lines refers to a dog howling because it is sitting on a thorn but is too lazy to move off it and thereby keeps howling.

    Some here remind me of that damn dog. Oh so want Labor to win (and so-say not want Tony Abbott) and then criticise everything that Labor does.

    And, to boot, then have the gall to accuse others here as being mindless optimists.

  16. ‘I think Newspoll result will dishearten a lot of people here and the conspiracy theories will start flying.’

    I don’t think I feel anymore disheartened than I already do.
    Well, perhaps the morning after Abbott has become Prime minister is going to set a new benchmark.

    At least if the government manages by some abso-fucking-lutely (sorry Rossmore) miracle to pull off a win I’m gonna feel a whole lot better than good.

  17. Soldier suicides in the USA
    __________
    Now outstriping battlefield deaths .the US army has a major problem with soldiers suiciding

    Oddly when the Senate panel this week interviewed Hagel the nominee for the Def Sec/ job..the right-wingers snd tea party senators …had only two questions of Hagel re this major military problem…but they had 147 questions re his attitude to Israel
    Says a lot really about some Senators !!

    The Guardian article below
    ww.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/01/us-military-suicide-epidemic-veteran

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