Seat of the week: Chifley

Seat of the week returns in what will hopefully be a twice-weekly format, to pick up the pace ahead of a looming federal election. First stop: the safe Labor seat of Chifley in western Sydney.

Held for Labor by Ed Husic on a secure post-redistribution margin of 11.1%, Chifley covers a stretch of Sydney’s western suburbs to the north of the Great Western Highway, from Blacktown and Mount Druitt through Plumpton and Glendinning to semi-rural Marsden Park in the north. The only substantive change in the redistribution has been the transfer of areas at the southern end to Greenway (a part of Blacktown) and McMahon (the suburb of Minchinbury). Both changes affect around 3500 voters, and their combined effect is to add 0.6% to the Labor margin.




Chifley was created at the 1969 election and has since covered a shifting area around Blacktown in the south-east, Mount Druitt in the south-west and Riverstone in the north, with the latter accommodated by Greenway since its creation in 1984. Labor had a notional margin of just 0.2% on its creation at the 1969 election, but it immediately swung to Labor by 16.6% and has been extremely safe ever since. The seat has had four members in its 47-year history, Husic’s predecessors having been John Armitage (1969 to 1983), Russ Gorman (1983 to 1984, when he transferred to Greenway, which he held until 1996) and Roger Price (1984 to 2010). Husic was national president of the Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union before entering parliament, and had earlier been a staffer to Roger Price in the early 1990s. His first run for parliament was in the neighbouring seat of Greenway at the 2004 election, but this proved a disappointing failure, with a 3.7% swing delivering an unexpected victory to Liberal candidate Louise Markus. There were suggestions at the time of an underhanded campaign against Husic capitalising on his Muslim heritage, which were later given substance when a bogus pamphlet from the campaign was published in a parliamentary committee report into the 2007 Lindsay pamphlet scandal.

After Roger Price announced his retiremnet ahead of the 2010 election, Husic was installed as Labor’s candidate by the party’s national executive, with the backing of the Right. An earlier deal within the Right had earmarked him for Fowler, which was to be made vacant by the retirement of Julia Irwin, but this was thwarted when the then Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, insisted that a home be found for her factional ally Laurie Ferguson after the effective abolition of his seat of Reid. This resulted in Chris Hayes moving from Werriwa to Fowler, and Laurie Ferguson being accommodated in Werriwa. Husic supported Kevin Rudd through his campaign to return to the leadership in 2012 and 2013, and won promotion to Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Parliamentary Secretary for Broadband when Rudd finally toppled Gillard in June 2013. This made Husic the first Muslim to serve on the federal government front bench, and he also became the first to take his oath on the Koran, despite having described himself as a non-practising Muslim. Husic has maintained shadow parliamentary secretary rank since the 2013 election defeat.

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: Chifley”

  1. In 47 years, the highest position reached by a member for Chifley is Parly Sec. This in one of the safest seats in the nation. Ed Husic may prove the exception but it just seems to be a drop off point for factional hacks – similar to senate tickets.

  2. It’s also not exactly a very taxing seat in regards to dealing with correspondence from constituents. Late into his term Roger Price told me that he kept all the letters he had ever received in a single document box. In the event that he had to argue a point in caucus he would brandish a selection of letters from the box to illustrate the “outrage” of his electors to his colleagues.

    Pricey was a pretty decent local member but and would always listen carefully and patiently to anyone who approached him in the street or at an event no matter how incoherent or apparently deranged the person was.

    Given the Chifley demographic a lot of his work and that of his office was more social work than political. Regardless of whether the matter was federal, state or local govt. they went out of their way to assist.

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