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”

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  1. davidwh

    We will have to wait and see what comes out if anything. All I know is that Pyne does not like being asked about Ashby. If enough pressure is applied, he is likely to crack me thinks

  2. Fran Barlow, you deserve that honour for your post of the year re: Kelly & Grattan.

    I do like that my predictive keyboard, which just then threw up the suggested word “unethical” just after I typed Kelly. My tablet keyboard knows me too well!

  3. Davidwh

    [When it come down to the crunch the election will be decided on the economy and perceptions of leadership quality.]

    And policy.

  4. Boerwar
    From the last thread.
    John Howard had a cabinet reshuffle in January 2007 when Amanda Vanstone was removed from cabinet. She resigned from politics in April 2007 and was appointed Ambassador to Italy in June 2007. So some general tidying up at the beginning of the year in preparation for an election and Ms Vanstone getting a cushy appointment. Sound familiar?

    In the reshuffle –
    Senator Ian Campbell went from Environemt and Heritage to Human Services.
    He resigned from the Senate in March 2007 and Senator Chris Ellison was given the Human Services portfolio

    Joe Hockey moved from Human Services to Employment and Workplace Relations.

    Kevin Andrews moved to Immigration and Citizenship, replacing Amanda Vanstone

    Malcolm Turnbull became minister for the Environment and Water Resources, taking over from Senator Ian Campbell. Turnbull had previously been Parliamentary secretary with special responsibility for water.

  5. [When it come down to the crunch the election will be decided on the economy and perceptions of leadership quality.
    And policy.]

    Does that apply for Howies four election wins as well?

  6. Timing is everything in politics isn’t it? If Rares had delivered his judgement this week instead of just before Christmas the Libs would be up to their neck in horse shit right now. Let’s hope their luck runs out soon.

  7. Wonder how Pyne feels being left out of real solutions plan by Abbott?

    Interesting that the Coalition has promoted Julie Bishop to sit tallest in the photo…

  8. I don’t think that too bad results for Labor for newspoll.

    It depends on the voters in the states whether or not they will pay attention to political crap or what the government is doing to help people in QLD/NSW RE: Floods etc.

  9. Darn

    And another thing Brough is not appealing anything. How can he be? He is not part of Ashby’s proceedings. Brough is subject to a possible investigation by the AFP as requested By Mr Perrett MP

  10. I suppose it bears repeating, but over the last years of the current government, we have had sessions on here where dire predictions of the future abound – based on some current passing matter.

    The media magnifies, amplifies and then junks when the caravan moves on.

    Already the changes to the ministry are dropping down the news order and I suspect by Monday, most of it will have gone.

    Two weeks from now it will be “Who is Nova Peris?”.

    Remember, just before Christmas it was predicted the world would end in the USA by it going over some cliff.

    Who remembers, who cares?

    For a PM supposedly “rocked” and “looking down the barrel” and 20 comments similar ad nauseum, all I can say is JG looked relaxed, in charge – a PM in fact.

    The press rat pack on the other hand, are reduced to infantile questions.

  11. DisplayName:

    [A bit too eager there, Fran ]

    Frist in a thread is an old LarvatusProdeo meme. I was doing homage. 😉


    [1. frist 21 up, 3 down
    a variation of “first” posted to an online comment section to indicate that you were the first to post. the “i” and “r” often are intentionally transposed to convey the typist’s haste.]

    Urban Dictionary

    I assume this is smilar to how “pwned” got started.

  12. I wasn’t interested in details of any rumors just wondering if he is supposed to have done something that required him to resign.

  13. kezza

    [So, the final OKAY of an article is the responsibility of an EDITOR not a subbie. ]

    I think we’re talking, but actually arguing about nothing.

    Wright the Younger is just claiming someone fiddled with her last draft.

    Who did it? Stuffed if I know. (The last time I saw her she would have been about 4).

  14. [victoria
    Posted Saturday, February 2, 2013 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    And another thing Brough is not appealing anything. How can he be? He is not part of Ashby’s proceedings. Brough is subject to a possible investigation by the AFP as requested By Mr Perrett MP]

    Maybe – just maybe – that load of horse shit will still arrive. Fingers crossed.

  15. Notice Malcolm last at the back of the photo.


    It may mean that the Coalition is more worried about the female vote than the moderate Lib vote.

  16. Tricot

    But of course on a weekly basis, the polls are affected, and that is what the msm and coalition rely on to bash the govt with

  17. Mr Pyne could have sired 20 children – it does not change who he is.

    Interestingly, his liaisons with a certain disgraced Slipper staffer were quickly brushed over by the Gallery.

    How do they keep a straight face when he goes on about his personal fertility in press conferences?

  18. Darren

    [Fran Barlow, you deserve that honour for your post of the year re: Kelly & Grattan.]

    Glad you liked it.

    Re your auto-correct — computer knows best Want to type Kelly? Computer says Nooooo (c) Little Britain

  19. [CTar1
    Posted Saturday, February 2, 2013 at 4:54 pm | PERMALINK

    Subbies are not responsible for a massaged intro, the EDITOR is.

    And? All she is saying, if she is to be believed, is the first bit has been changed.

    Who did it? Her boss or the NZ subbies?

    What is the difference and does it count?]

    I haven’t read the article CTar1
    Only the tweets.

    If Jessica Wright says the first para was “massaged” by the subbies, then she’s wrong.

    Subbies do the headings, they may edit an article itself for grammar or for facts, but they do not have the final say. The EDITOR does.

    And the editor would have the initial copy.

    Any “massaging” or editing of copy is done by the editor. The editor has the final say of what goes to print.

    Not a subbie in NZ or Qld for that matter.

    So, the final OKAY of an article is the responsibility of an EDITOR not a subbie.

    Much as they like to blame subbies.

    And, so, to answer your question, editors make a helluva lot of difference to the flavour/message disseminated from an article.

    Did you get a positive message?
    Or a negative message?

    It’s all in the lead (pronounced ‘leed’) – both the head and the first par.

    Unless that’s interesting no-one’s going to read any further, and will be influenced by same.

    Propoganda 101. Attracting Advertising 101, too!

  20. Davidwh
    [Gecko policy yes although hip pocket policy is generally dominant in many folks minds.]
    NDIS, Gonski, Carbon pricing, NBN, Ocean reserves, Murray/Darling and Health are hardly hip pocket policy my friend.

  21. Brough has sort of answered questions however his version doesn’t coincide with the court ruling. In Australia we give greater weight to the court which means Brough is telling porkies. Doubt we have heard the end of the Brough saga which may be a plus to Labor eventually. Depends on how the various appeals etc go.

  22. So are these Western Sydney battlers going to roll over for an almighty rogering from Tony Abbott or will they develop concern for their hip pocket nerve and their family’s future?

  23. CTar1
    [Wright the Younger is just claiming someone fiddled with her last draft.

    Who did it? Stuffed if I know. (The last time I saw her she would have been about 4).]
    Well, I just told you who fiddled with her article.
    If you didn’t want to know, why ask?

  24. They are where they impact people’s hip pockets Gecko. Problem with many people is they want the government to do all these things as long as they don’t have to pay much for them. In some ways we are a demanding but selfish lot.

  25. So are these Western Sydney battlers going to roll over for an almighty rogering from Tony Abbott or will they develop concern for their hip pocket nerve and their family’s future?

    If they perceive the Coalition to be better economic managers then hello Tony.

  26. About the Chrisyopher Pyne “rumour” – which is as far as I can tell not an actual rumour but a rumour that there is a rumour… if it turns out, as has been theorized, that he’s gay who gives a shit?

    I’d be more amazed if it turned out he was straight. Either way he’s a gigantic annoying prick.

    Other than that I can’t imagine anything substantive or scandalous being leveled against him. He has disembodied hands scraping a chalkboard where his personality should be.

  27. 4

    My guess is that it is a dig a the misspelling of first in point 7 of the comment moderation guidelines (which bans silly starts to posts).

  28. kez –

    [Propoganda 101. Attracting Advertising 101, too!]

    I don’t know how it works but when someone who purports to have written it and the output is different openly complains, then there must be other very unhappy contributors.

    Tony, I guess is a shield – he is fiercely protective.

  29. davidwh

    The appeal by Ashby has nothing at all to do with Brough. He asked Ashby and Karen Doane to provide him with copies of Slipper’s diary and then gave them to journo Steve Lewis. No matter which way you look at it, Brough has no excuse for this conduct. How can Brough who had been atfempting to push Slipper out of his seat, and finally gets preselected for it, explain why he sought without permission copies of Slipper’s parliamentary diary from the staffer suing him for harrassment. It actually beggers belief that Brough has not withdrawn his candidacy.

  30. victoria @ 3712 on the previous post

    You think the polls will be good for the LNP? You’re probably right. But I think there is an alternative. Call me wishful, but consider:

    The people see the LOTO playing make-believe again, and then a version of policy hide-and-seek at the National Press Club.

    The people notice the economic news remains healthy, and their personal circumstances have improved a some more. They approve of this, just as they enjoy putting butter and salt on their potatoes. A little pleasure can go a long way.

    The people notice the PM, looking very shiny, embellished and replete. They see her laughing at times, and then speaking (at the NPC) to remind us of her power. Then they see her sad-but-happy, releasing her friends from service, and then armed with some new talent too.

    They see the PM and note she has a full hold on power and has shaped it to her own hands. People will not mistake this. She has primed us for for the new election, confident in herself and the eventual decision.

    They see the jabbering fools in the media and dismiss them.

    There’s no need to weigh-up. There’s just the PM, her power and her increasing ranks.

    I’m serious about this. For a while after 2010, there was a sense of a power-vacuum, and while this was not literally true, the media and the LNP tried to inflate this idea, tried to turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    But there is no vacuum. There is the PM and her Government, in possession of power and looking good with it. And if they are not exactly like other Governments, this does not matter. They have passed every test that has been presented.

    Meanwhile, with every week that passes, the LOTO looks more like the want of power and ever more like the two-edged, futile moan he has always been.

  31. briefly

    We observe politics closely, but most dont. They get their news in soundbites, and it is generally negative for Labor. I truly hope your observations are correct.

  32. @davidwh/36

    Your not making sense, if Coalition takes stuff away (Remember Newman being praised by Abbott) then they want their tax payers worth.

  33. Zoidlord I think neither of is making sense from the others perspective.

    My point was that people want better health, better education, better aged-care, NDIS etc etc but get less enthusiastic if they have to pay for it through special taxes, levies etc.

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