Seat of the week: Fowler

Three years ago, the outer western Sydney seat of Fowler was Labor’s third safest in the country. Now it fears it might lose.

Fowler covers an area of Labor’s western Sydney heartland from Lansvale, Liverpool and Cabramatta in the east, through Hinchinbrook and Cecil Hills to undeveloped territory beyond the Westlink. The electorate has the second highest number of non-English speakers of any electorate in the country, ranking in the top ten for persons of Chinese, Vietnamese, Serbian and Croatian extraction. The redistribution ahead of the 2010 election halved its geographic size by exchanging semi-rural territory around Badgerys Creek for urban areas around Liverpool and Lansvale (largely reversing changes made before the 2004 election), boosting the Labor margin by 4.5% and making it their third safest seat in notional terms. It then proceeded to swing more heavily against Labor than any other seat in the country, slashing the margin 22.6% to 8.8% – the first time Labor’s margin had fallen to single figures since the seat’s creation.

Fowler was created with the expansion of parliament in 1984, and held first by Ted Grace until 1998 and then by Julia Irwin until 2010. Chiefly noted as a critic of Israel, Irwin secured the seat with the backing of the old guard of the NSW Right, including Laurie Brereton and Leo McLeay. Irwin twice needed protection to secure her preselection in the past, and there were mixed reports about her likely job security at the 2010 election had she not not opted to retire. In doing so she resolved a headache for the ALP, which had been absorbed by a game of musical chairs resulting from the effective abolition of Laurie Ferguson’s seat of Reid. Ferguson was at first determined to be accommodated in Fowler, but a deal was in force reserving the seat for a Right faction which was also dominant in local branches. He was instead made to settle for Werriwa, displacing Chris Hayes to highly marginal Macarthur.

However, Irwin’s departure gave Hayes, a fellow member of the Right, an immensely more attractive safety net, and also allowed local favourite Nick Bleasdale to unsuccessfully contest Macarthur for a second time. Hayes was a former official with the Right faction Australian Workers Union official who entered parliament at the February 2005 by-election caused by the resignation of Mark Latham. Earlier this week he attained the position of chief government whip, which Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon vacated in March after backing Kevin Rudd’s abortive leadership push. The Liberal candidate is Andrew Nguyen (a name he shares with the LNP candidate for Oxley in Queensland), a former Fairfield councillor and long-standing figure in Cabramatta’s Vietnamese community.

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.

232 comments on “Seat of the week: Fowler”

  1. zoidlord:

    If an ALP poster makes the claim that a result that has been steady for 2 years is “shaky” am I not allowed to comment?

    I notice you made no comment about that poster, but you direct your comment at my response. Says it all really, don’t it? 🙂

  2. ML

    your numbers are stagnant at best, even drifting in the wrong direction.

    Most people haven’t really engaged with politics for a while, being utterly sick and tired of Tony Abbott’s negativism, scare campaigns and blatant lies.

    I suspect, like British Columbia, the coming election will be closer than what you are trumpeting.

  3. sprocket:

    In subsequent posts you go from describing the LNP primary vote from “shaky” to “stagnant”.

    You do realise we are talking about a primary vote just below 50% right? Given there are 20% (or more in some polls) worth of preferences to be distributed and these usually go about 50:50 to the LNP, getting close to 50% in just about every poll is not something that warrants the adjective “shaky”…..that is all I am saying.

    I suspect the election will be 53-54 to the Coalition, so yes, I reckon there will be a little tightening in the next 3.5 months….not much, but a little.

  4. @Mod lib/201

    Because that wouldn’t make sense now would it?

    Why would I comment on Labor poster if you “think” they still behind – but yet you “boast” about being in-front?

  5. [Mod Lib
    Posted Saturday, May 18, 2013 at 10:57 pm | Permalink
    Whoever said they had been polled today said Neilsen didn’t they?

    That suggests we will have a Galaxy today, A Neilsen tomorrow, an Essential on Monday and a Newspoll and Morgan soon after…..if not other “one-off” polls.]

    The trend has started. Another one percent gain to Labor in each of the above and the government should be in front by halfway through next week 😆

  6. [Another one percent gain to Labor]

    …only troubled by the fact that Galaxy hasn’t changed at all.

    It was 54-46.

    It still is 54-46.

    The only difference is there are now less than 3 months to the campaign…

  7. Hello everyone, first post here. I am a retiree, and have been a swing voter my whole life. I plan on voting Liberal at the next election. In my opinion, this government is the worst ever, and Swan and Gillard’s lie over the surplus is unforgivable.

  8. [Mod Lib
    Posted Saturday, May 18, 2013 at 11:12 pm | Permalink
    Another one percent gain to Labor

    …only troubled by the fact that Galaxy hasn’t changed at all.

    It was 54-46.

    It still is 54-46.

    The only difference is there are now less than 3 months to the campaign…]

    I prefer to think of it as only four months to wait until the fraud that Abbott and the Liberals have been playing on the Australian people begins to be revealed. Then we will see if all the lies and deception were really worth it.

    As I said earlier today, it looks to me as if Abbott is about to be handed a poisoned chalice.

  9. [I prefer to think of it as only four months to wait …]

    We have heard about “peak Abbott” so many times now…..nothing he does seems to change anything much.

    [As I said earlier today, it looks to me as if Abbott is about to be handed a poisoned chalice.]

    OK, I’ll bite, have been out most of the day,so missed this discussion, what is the “poisoned chalice”?

  10. wall to wall coalition negativity on the news i saw tonight. Libs increasing GST, killing super.
    Looks like by opening his mouth Abbott has exposed himself.
    Good, labor well and truly still in this.

  11. I didn’t say anything about “peak Abbott”. I’ve never understood or used the term.

    If you genuinely want to understand what the “poison Chalice” is you will need to go back and read what briefly has been saying for the past couple of weeks. The short version is that the Australian economy is in deep trouble and the policies of the Liberals will only make it worse not better. But if you want the detail – and there’s been plenty of it – you will need to go back to the source.

  12. [The short version is that the Australian economy is in deep trouble]
    Excuse me?

    You may wish to have chat to briefly.

    There are negative elements that we have to faced up to and the government is providing the delicate balance that will keep job growth and not spook the agencies.

  13. 214

    “Peak Abbott” is the point where Abbott`s reaches its highest point and then declines. It is the hope of those (including myself) who wish Abbott to loose, that he peaks and declines before the election, but not soon enough to be replaced, and thus looses the election.

  14. [Libs increasing GST, killing super.]

    The libs hate super for the workers, Abbott calls it a con job but had no problems with Howards $300,000 super gift to the rich.

    As Keating pointed out if the libs had not killed off his planned super increase from 9% to 15% there would now be $2 trillion in super funds instead of $1.3 trillion.

    The libs crow about creating a $50 billion future fund from a $300 billion revenue windfall.

    Thats not a future fund as mick would say, $1.3 trillion is a future fund.

  15. [This little black duck
    Posted Saturday, May 18, 2013 at 11:46 pm | Permalink
    The short version is that the Australian economy is in deep trouble

    Excuse me?

    You may wish to have chat to briefly.

    There are negative elements that we have to faced up to and the government is providing the delicate balance that will keep job growth and not spook the agencies.]

    TLBD

    The way I have been interpreting what briefly has been saying – and I have been following his comments very closely because he obviously knows what he is talking about – is that the Labour government has done remarkably well in dealing with the tricky hand it was dealt by the GFC. But there are major contradictions in the Australian economy that have not yet been addressed and the ideological policies of the Liberals, if they are elected, will only serve to make them a lot worse, not better.

  16. [In my opinion, this government is the worst ever, and Swan and Gillard’s lie over the surplus is unforgivable.]

    You sound like a Coalition laboratory rat who’s been sprung from the cage.

    No swing voter says things like that.

    Rabids, yes… swingers, no.

  17. [I prefer to think of it as only four months to wait until the fraud that Abbott and the Liberals have been playing on the Australian people begins to be revealed. Then we will see if all the lies and deception were really worth it.]

    One of the greatest problems facing Gillard/Swan in an election campaign when trying to run the line that Abbott and co are full of lies and deception is that the public paint Gillard with exactly those characteristics.

    Abbott can run exactly the same campaign and make it hurt more since it reinforces public perceptions of Gillard’s history.

    He can run the no carbon tax line, the surplus line, the backstabbing of Rudd line…and it hurts because they already don’t like her.

    The public have known Abbott for ages, he has been in the prominent public eye for a decade, they know what he is like, they discount it much more than they will with Gillard.

    Gillard has been and is Labor’s poison challice.

    This silly line that the public will wake up during an election campaign and ditch Abbott is exactly the same thing Abbott said about Rudd, that the public were sleep walking.

    And the most scary thing is that an election campaign is going to hurt Gillard more than Abbott. All they have to do is replay Swan, Gillard and the lot of them slagging the day lights out of Rudd….do you know awful that has and will make Labor look to the public. In fact Abbott need do no more than replay Gillard’s line of a govt that has lost its way…and the subsequent slagging of Rudd by various Gillard MPs.

    There could be a widening not a narrowing during the campaign. 54/46 could easily become 56/44

  18. I’ve been to several environmental themed workshops this last couple of weeks, and I’ve noticed there is a pattern of proceedure at each of them.

    It works like this…: You have the speaker/expert. and you have the audience. The speaker comes to the talk armed with research notes and topic-cred and a kind of bestowed authority. the audience consists of a group of lay-people, strangers to eachother who attend out of interest or social pastime….some too have “on-the-ground” statistics and anecdotal evidence.
    So when these two disparate groups meet, there is a kind of “disconnect” rather than a “connect” of interest, the clash between the “collegiate” of professionals who have difficulty accepting any ” on-ground” evidence without acceptable research backing…..and fair enough. On the other hand you have these lay-people who have witnessed with their own eyes, certain events which are sometimes in contradiction to the accepted orthodoxy…so a conflict of interpretation exists between the ‘collegiate” of insiders and the “Fellowship” of observers. Usually, the lay-people give ground out of (sometimes misguided) respect for the credentials of the expert…..but still retain a degree of suspicion that lays dormant till more convincing evidence is forthcoming…after all one has to believe what one sees with one’s own eyes!
    This, I believe is what is being played out with what BB. over at “The Pub” calls the “Pundits” of commentators….THEY have what they believe to be almost “scientific evidence” of “the good oil” on the reasons for political maneuvering gleaned from the motivations and reactions of an inside core of players…whereas WE, out in the electorate are actually seeing the “on-the-ground” reactions of those most affected by such plays.
    Who to believe?…..I think, in the end, it will be how much “brass-in-pocket” the individual has that affects the majority of voters….and with the Opp’n policies just now being brought to the fore and even then they are very vague…by the time of the real election cycle, it will be a case of put up or shut where not only the pundits, but the voters will be able to judge the reality for themselves, that the wheat will be quickly sorted from the chaff!

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