Seat of the week: McMahon

Held by principal Kevin Rudd backer Chris Bowen, McMahon is among the western Sydney seats where Labor appears in danger of a once unthinkable defeat.

UPDATE (8/4/2013): Essential Research has Labor up a point to 32%, the Coalition steady on 49% and the Greens down two to 9%, with two-party preferred steady on 56-44. Perceptions of the economy have improved (good up 10 points since a year ago to 45% and poor down three to 26%). Those who answered good or poor were respectively asked why the government wasn’t popular, and what it was that made them think that given low unemployment and inflation. Strong support was also found for taxing superannuation earnings and contributions of high-income earners, at 55% compared with 35% opposed.

Known prior to the 2010 election as Prospect, the western Sydney electorate of McMahon covers two distinct suburban areas separated by Prospect Reservoir and semi-rural areas immediately to the west. Closer to the city are the suburbs of Greystanes and Fairfield approximately 30 kilometres from the CBD, together with Bossley Park and the Wetherill Park industrial area immediately to the west. These areas collectively account for about 80% of the electorate’s population. In the north-west of the electorate are the City of Penrith suburbs of St Clair and Erskine Park. There is a wide variability in ethnic diversity among the electorate’s suburbs, with English speakers accounting for over three-quarters of the population in St Clair and Erskine Park compared with barely a fifth in and around Fairfield, home to large Arabic and Vietnamese populations. This is broadly reflected in income levels, with family income in the former areas roughly double those of the latter.

Prospect was created at the 1969 election, at which time it covered Liverpool some distance to the south. It was drawn closer to the city with the expansion of parliament in 1984, which saw Liverpool accommodated by the new seat of Fowler. Labor has held the seat at all times, but a weakening trend has been evident since a 5.8% swing in 2004 reduced the margin to 7.1%. This was doubled by the swing to Labor in 2007, but a 6.0% swing in 2010 brought it back down to 7.8%. The area covered by the electorate turned from red to blue in the 2011 state election landslide, the only holdout being Fairfield (the majority of which is in McMahon’s eastern neighbour Blaxland) where the margin was reduced from 20.4% to 1.7%. The swings in Mulgoa, which covers St Clair and Erskine Park, and Smithfield, including Bossley Park and surrounding suburbs, were over 20%.

Prospect/McMahon has been held since 2004 by Chris Bowen, the previous members having been Richard Klugman until 1990 and Janice Crosio thereafter. A member of the New South Wales Right, Bowen served his political apprenticeship as chief-of-staff to state government minister Carl Scully. He was promoted to the front bench in 2006, and on the election of the Rudd government became Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs. His elevation to cabinet came when he filled the vacancy created by the resignation of factional colleague Joel Fitzgibbon in June 2009. He at first assumed the human services, financial services, superannuation and corporate law portfolios, before being delivered the hospital pass of immigration and citizenship after the 2010 election.

Chris Bowen emerged during the current term as one of the principal agitators for Kevin Rudd to return to the leadership, and he was discussed as a possible contender for Treasury and/or the deputy leadership if Rudd’s challenge in February 2012 had succeeded. He emerged unscathed from the reshuffle that followed, and was reassigned to Chris Evans’ portfolios of tertiary education, skills, science and research when Evans bowed out in February 2013. After the collapse of a second bid to draft Kevin Rudd the following month, Bowen forestalled imminent dismissal by joining fellow Rudd backers Martin Ferguson and Kim Carr in an exodus from cabinet.

The preselected Liberal candidate is Ray King, police superintendent for the Liverpool area who served in the same capacity in Fairfield from 2005 to 2008. Fairfield councillor Frank Oliveri had initially been considered the front-runner, but he withdrew amid an Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry into non-disclosure of election fundraising ahead of the 2007 election. Other contenders for the preselection were Casula real estate agent Joe Romeo and the candidate from 2010, Iraqi immigrant and Fairfield grocery store owner Jamal Elishe.

A ReachTEL automated phone poll of 630 respondents in the electorate, conducted in early March to coincide with five days of campaigning in western Sydney by the Prime Minister, found Bowen to be heading for a heavy defeat with 31.8% of the primary vote against 52.5% for the Liberal Party, panning out to a 62-38 Liberal lead after preferences. A further question on how respondents would vote if Kevin Rudd was leading the Labor Party had the Liberal lead at 53-47.

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.

2,449 comments on “Seat of the week: McMahon”

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  1. poroti:

    This is an interesting philosophical question actually…can we explore?

    What do you think about the Christian extremists who protest at the funerals of soldiers who died in Iraq as they opposed the war?

    What about those who protest at the funerals of gay people saying “They are going to hell”?

    By your comment, you favour this activity, do you?

  2. Margaret Thatcher was a very important figure in global political history. As a woman achieving high political office in a major nation in her own right (rather than as the daughter or widow of a deceased male ruler) she was a trailblazer (Golda Meir, the original “iron lady”, being her only significant predecessor).

    As a champion of the free market and the dismantling of inefficient state monopolies, she will always be a heroine of mine. Sure, she took it too far, but the UK desperately needed her to do it. That country has benefitted enormously from her program of reform: there are many other European countries whose people are now suffering because their leaders didn’t take similar steps.

    Being a fan of Maggie is an incredibly unfashionable position to take among the latte-sipping bleeding heart armchair socialists I generally mix with. But I am unashamed about being a fan. Yes, she had dreadful faults. But she achieved a lot too.

    I’m sure many on here won’t agree with me. That’s fine: I’m not in the mood for an argument Vale MT. If there’s a god where you’re going, I’m sure he’ll appreciate your advice but I’d suggest you mightn’t want to be too bossy.

  3. [Can you imagine if someone had posted something along those lines when Gillard’s father died?]

    Gillard’s father was never Prime Minister of Britain.

  4. [confessions
    Posted Monday, April 8, 2013 at 10:18 pm | PERMALINK
    One has to remember that they run on hate.

    Just look at Rudd vs. Gillard

    Hilarious. So speaks today’s Right.

    One of your historic icons dies and all you can do is handwring about your opponents and what they say about her.

    It’s no wonder Malcolm Fraser deserted you lot for the centre and sanity.]

    I am not shedding any tears, confessions. It doesn’t really bother me at all at a personal level.

    Its just that I do not rejoice in her death, unlike some.

  5. Mod Lib

    [What do you think about the Christian extremists who protest at the funerals of soldiers who died in Iraq as they opposed the war?]
    I think you have the wrong avatar.

  6. [Are you saying no one should complain if the same thing happens when Gough dies?]

    Not at all.

    One thing I can guarantee however, is that when Gough dies there will be mile long crowd there to defend what he achieved in govt.

  7. Its a fair question, actually.

    What do Bludgers think about the US extremists who protest at funerals, yelling at the mourners that the individual is going straight to hell.

    Do you support them or not?

  8. [Are you saying no one should complain if the same thing happens when Gough dies?

    Not at all.

    Then why it any different when its Thatcher.

  9. [Gillard’s father was never Prime Minister of Britain.]

    That is your criteria for determining how you respond to a death is it?

  10. [2338
    Compact Crank
    Posted Monday, April 8, 2013 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    The Left really do enjoy their hating.

    Is it genetic or learnt behaviour?]

    You’re living in the wrong century, CC. You may think of yourself as Right. You’ve merely fallen for some Leninist propaganda. You are merely an irrelevance.

  11. Briefly @2362

    How so?

    I present the deleted comment @2353 as evidence of the depth of hate the Left revells in.

  12. [Then why it any different when its Thatcher.]

    Because nobody is lining up to defend, or even own her record in govt.

  13. In an earlier post here I misreported the time of the Nelson (Tas) Legislative Council candidate debate this Wednesday. It is 7-8:30 not 6-7:30 at the Dr Syntax hotel.

    There’s some quite interesting stuff going on regarding the Legislative Council expenditure limits with super-PAC style reform groups having found what may be a way to circumvent them (endorsing multiple candidates). I may have a detailed article on this up soon.

  14. [That is your criteria for determining how you respond to a death is it?]

    Yes, esp when it concerns political foes.

    Gillard’s father was not a politician, and therefore should not be off the radar for partisan attacks.

  15. [Gillard’s father was not a politician, and therefore should not be off the radar for partisan attacks.]


    Whitlam or Hawke were Prime Ministers, so its open slather with them then, eh?

  16. [2352….meher baba]

    The Belgrano
    The Poll Tax
    The Coalminers’ Strike
    The Trident Program

    She was also lucky enough to rule when North Sea oil was firing up.

  17. “@moonytweets: Henry Kissinger: Margaret #Thatcher was a great leader, a great friend of the US, an important representative of Britain #abcnews24”

  18. joe carli – well aren’t you just a towering figure of moral certitude.

    Must really be gutting to realise that in a short time frame it is quite possible that there will be no ALP governments anywhere in Australia.

  19. “@suigenerisjen: #Thatcher 1987: The ANC “a typical terrorist organisation”. Anyone who thought it would run South Africa was “living in cloud-cuckoo land”.”

  20. ML and others
    Hate is very destructive and is destroying the ALP but in today’s Western democracies the Greens/LoonieLeft take the gold logie because they present themselves as the opposite, but can’t help themselves so Fran’s and Poroti’s comments are not surprising. Have a look at some of the hate the Loonie Left eschews in demos in the streets of London, particularly when they team up with the jihadists who hand out sweets when Jews are murdered. The extreme right are no better but they are by definition thugs and unlike the Loonie Left they are not lauded by the far left academia. Never rejoice in the death of a human being – that’s what it says in the Bible, well in mine anyway, and it’s good advice.

  21. Glancing at QnoA, the chivalry bit has raised its head.

    As a female, I invariably raise a hand to help, invariably give up my seat, invariably assist anyone who may need a hand.

    I expect anyone stronger than I to do the same thing.

  22. “@rwillingham: Labor preselection ballot of local members result in Gellibrand:
    Hall – 87
    Mason – 4
    Kitching – 105
    McKinnon 42
    Watts – 126
    #auspol #Labor”

  23. First i pay my respect to the Iron Lady

    I am not sure if i am a fan or not, some of her policies were good but like any reformist Government she got some things very wrong.

    She was right to privatise Government business likes British Airways but her social policies were wrong headed

    There is no doubt that in 1979 the U.K needed change, the country was a basket case that needed to be overhauled but in doing so i wonder if the Government was too busy backing some industries while not truly reforming others in a way that would enable them to grow.

  24. Briefly @2375 – Sinking the Belgrano was a legitmate act of war unless you think the Falklands Invasion was OK.

    I thought the UK was overly restrained in not directly attacking mainland Argentina in response.

  25. confessions@2368. I’m happy to defend her record.

    BTW, I remember back in the 80s the first thing that all the lefties I used to hang with would say when you asked them why they hated Maggie so much was because she closed all the coal mines.

    Switch to the 2010s, and the lefties themselves want to close all the coal mines.

    I guess there are coal mines and coal mines. The ones Maggie closed were uneconomic.

  26. crikey whitey@2381

    Glancing at QnoA, the chivalry bit has raised its head.

    As a female, I invariably raise a hand to help, invariably give up my seat, invariably assist anyone who may need a hand.

    I expect anyone stronger than I to do the same thing.

    I do the same.
    It seems to have fallen out of fashion with young people.

  27. “@David_Cameron: It was with great sadness that I learned of Lady Thatcher’s death. We have lost a great leader, a great Prime Minister, and a great Briton.”

  28. The big question nationally is: Has Kim Carr been invited back as a ‘good traitor’ like Albo and Bob Carr yet, given the car industry is going to Gowings all of a sudden?

  29. steve 777 @ 2297

    Here’s a link to the Bureau of Meteorology’s trend maps:

    Thanks Steve. If you click on the link above, rainfall for 1900- Present, Australia, you can see the point I was making about the MDB, South Eastern & Eastern Australia (trends flat or slightly increasing). Within these there are decreasing rainfall segments e.g circle in Central/Southern Victoria, the Victorian/South Aus border and parts of Queensland. The decreasing rainfall trend in South Western WA shows up clearly.

    Change to 1960- Present and the Eastern & South Eastern parts of Aus show significant negative rainfall trends compared to 1900- Present. The middle of last century, the start date of this selection, was generally a period of historically high rainfall in these regions.

  30. [Confessions sees no inconsistency in her position!]

    Don’t be ridiculous. If I were being consistent I’d simply be following the convention established by the party you intend on voting for and would be talking up dying of shame etc.

    [Whitlam or Hawke were Prime Ministers, so its open slather with them then, eh?]

    Have you not heard modern Liberals talking down Whitlam and his achievements?

    Were you not around during the Howard era when it was indeed open slather on Hawke and Keating?

    Sorry, but you have no claim to the moral high ground on this stuff, given you intend voting for the party of Crosby-Textor.

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