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.