Seat of the week: Farrer

Health Minister Sussan Ley’s electorate of Farrer covers most of the New South Wales side of the Victorian border, and was last of electoral interest when it passed from Nationals to Liberal hands with Tim Fischer’s retirement in 2001.

Held for the Liberals since 2001 by Sussan Ley, the electorate of Farrer covers south-western New South Wales along most of the length of the Victorian border, thereby accommodating Murray-Darling farming districts and, in its south-eastern corner, the major population centre of Albury. The recently published draft redistribution proposal dramatically changes the electorate’s physical shape by transferring nearly 150,000 square kilometres in the north-west of New South Wales to Farrer, an area it gained for the first time in the 2007 redistribution. However, this transfer affects only 14,600 voters, most of them in Broken Hill. Compensating it for this loss, along with general regional population decline, is an infusion of around 30,000 voters around Griffith, a town that had previously been in Riverina (Riverina-Darling between 1984 and 1993) since federation. The loss of Broken Hill is the main contributor to a 4.1% increase in the already ample Liberal margin, which goes from 17.4% to 21.5%.




Farrer was created with the enlargement of parliament in 1949 to accommodate Albury and Wagga Wagga, which had hitherto formed the basis of the electorate of Hume – a name that was retained in an essentially new electorate further to the east. Hume had been held more often than not by Labor over the previous 30 years, but the 1949 election marked a turning point, and Labor has never been seriously competitive in Farrer. The Liberals held the seat until the enlargement of parliament in 1984 caused Wagga Wagga to be transferred to Hume (it is now in Riverina), prompting sitting member Wal Fife to contest that seat instead. Farrer was then comfortably won for the Nationals by Tim Fischer, who had served the area as state member for Sturt and Murray since 1971. Fischer went on to lead the Nationals from 1990, and was Deputy Prime Minister from the 1996 election victory until his resignation in mid-1999. With Fischer’s exit from parliament at the 2001 election, Sussan Ley won Farrer for the Liberals by a margin of 206 votes after preferences, after a heavy flow of preferences to the Nationals failed to chase down her 37.7% to 23.4% lead on the primary vote.

Sussan Ley was an official with the Australian Taxation Office for six years before entering parliament, and had previously been an air traffic controller and farmer. She attained parliamentary secretary status after the October 2004 election, and won promotion to the shadow junior ministry after the Howard government’s defeat in 2007. After the election of the Abbott government in September 2013 she took on the role of Assistant Minister for Education, before achieving cabinet status with her promotion to Health Minister in December 2014. Ley is regarded as a factional moderate, but The Australian’s account of the voting in the September 2015 leadership challenge featured her in a short list of members whose loyalties were unknown.

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 comments on “Seat of the week: Farrer”

  1. William

    The MP you refer to as Wally Fife was always referred to as WAL Fife – and his wikipedia page is labelled accordingly.

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