Seat du jour: Banks

David Coleman became the first Liberal ever to win the southern Sydney of Banks in 2013 and 2016, and is rated a solid chance of overcoming his party’s difficulties to make it three in a row.

Welcome to episode nine of Seat du jour, an opportunity for you to read about and (hopefully) discuss the individual contests that will determine the May 18 election. So far the series has taken us to Corangamite, Chisholm, Reid, Bass, Pearce, Lindsay, Gilmore, Dickson and La Trobe. Today’s subject is the southern Sydney seat of Banks, which has been held for the Liberals for the first time in the seat’s history over the last two elections.

Banks extends from the Georges River in the south to the South Western Motorway in the north, encompassing the Liberal-voting riverside suburbs of Oatley and Lugarno through to Labor-voting Padstow and Riverwood in the north. The seat has the nation’s fourth highest Chinese population, after Bennelong, Chisholm and Reid, which is particularly concentrated at the eastern end of the electorate, around Hurstville. Labor held the seat on double-digit margins for the first two decades after its creation in 1949, but a narrowing trend became evident in the 1970s and 1980s. The margin fell below 2% on three occasions after Daryl Melham became the Labor member in 1990: with the defeat of the Keating government in 1996, the weak result for Labor under Mark Latham in 2004, and the anti-Labor backlash across Sydney in 2010. The swing on the latter occasion was 8.9%, reversing a 7.9% swing in Melham’s favour in 2007.

David Coleman became the seat’s first ever Liberal member after a 3.3% swing in 2013, and his success in limiting the swing against him to 1.0% in 2016 was a decisive element in the government’s re-election. A former director of strategy and digital for Nine Entertainment, Coleman has variously been noted as a factional moderate of socially liberal views, and a supporter of Scott Morrison. He sided against Peter Dutton both in his initial unsuccessful spill motion against Malcolm Turnbull last August, and in the leadership ballot against Morrison later in the week. Labor has again endorsed its candidate from 2016, Chris Gambian, an official with the Left faction Community and Public Sector Union whose parents emigrated from India shortly before his birth in the mid-1970s.

Despite the narrow 1.4% margin, the expectation appears to be that Coleman will retain the seat. It has not featured on lists of the New South Wales seats the Liberals considered most endangered, which have typically featured Gilmore and Reid. Neither leader has visited the seat, although Kevin Rudd put his Mandarin skills to use during a mid-campaign visit to Hurstville. The Coalition is even given a slight edge in betting markets, which for the most part have looked highly bullish from Labor’s perspective.

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 du jour: Banks”

  1. Why on earth is Banks not expected to fall with such a narrow margin? Having the same boundaries as last time, it looks like it should be a sitting duck…

  2. Good question CF.

    I am not in Banks, but know a bit about the seat.

    Cameron Murphy has twice stood for the ALP for the state seat of East Hills, somewhat contiguous with the Federal seat of Banks, and twice been defeated.

    Murphy is a barrister who was president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties from 1999 to 2013. From my interactions with him, and from other feedback, he is a decent human being who does actually want to make life better for all. I even got a character reference for him from a Green’s person I was handing out with at the recent NSW state election.

    He was the subject of a smear campaign at the NSW 2015 election, with his corflutes being defaced, accusing him of being a pedophile. A Liberal party staffer was later charged under the electoral act regarding this. Still, it was enough to keep East Hills in Liberal hands.

    The state Liberal member for East Hills elected in 2015, Glen Brookes, was found to have breached campaign finance laws, and was dis-endorsed by the Liberal party:

    However, it was close in 2019, and Murphy was defeated by a relative unknown.

    My intel on the ground tells me that there are a large number of Pentecostal Big C christians in the seat, and these people are absolutely rusted-on Morrison supporters.

    I have this from two sources, one of which is my Labor voting, Cantonese-speaking friend in Hurstville. She is gobsmacked at what is now happening in the electorate she has lived in from the age of 16, after moving from Hong Kong.

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