Margin: Labor 1.5%
Location: Southern Sydney, New South Wales
In a nutshell: Labor has had an unbroken hold on Banks going back to 1949, but it was thought for much of the current term that the coming election would put an end to that. With the party’s fortunes appearing to revive under Kevin Rudd, it now looms as a highly competitive contest.
The candidates (ballot paper order)
JAKE JOHN WELLHAM
ROBERT MICHAEL HADDAD
Located on the cusp of Labor’s inner Sydney heartland and marginal suburbia, Banks has been held by Labor at all times since its creation in 1949. However, there have been three occasions in recent decades when the margin fell below 2%: with the defeat of the Keating government in 1996, under Mark Latham’s leadership in 2004, and most ominously for Labor when a sharp swing across Sydney in 2010 left intact only 1.5% of a 10.4% margin (adjusted for redistribution) from the 2007 election.
Labor’s strength is concentrated in the electorate’s north, from Hurstville through Riverwood to Padstow, which is balanced by strong Liberal support in the Georges River waterside suburbs along the electorate’s southern boundary, from Blakehurst west through Oatley to Padstow Heights. As a knock-on effect from the abolition of Lowe, the redistribution before the 2010 election shifted the electorate substantially eastwards, exchanging areas around Bankstown for the Blakehurst and Hurstville Grove area (from Barton) and Hurstville (from Watson), which cut 1.4% from the Labor margin.
Labor’s member since 1990 has been Daryl Melham, a former barrister and member of the Left faction. Melham rose to the shadow ministry in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs portfolio after the 1996 election defeat, but quit in protest in August 2000 after the party declined to oppose Queensland’s contentious native title laws. He returned after the 2001 election, but voluntarily went to the back bench after the 2004 election saying he preferred to focus on committee work. Since the current government came to power he has served as chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters.
The Liberal candidate at the coming election is David Coleman, director of strategy and digital for Nine Entertainment, whom The Australian’s Media Diary describes as a factional moderate and one of (Nine chief executive) David Gyngell’s closest lieutenants. Coleman won a local preselection ballot in March with 60 votes against 33 for the candidate from 2010, Ron Delezio, a businessman who came to public attention after his daughter Sophie received horrific injuries in separate accidents in 2003 and 2006.
A JWS Research poll with a sample of approximately 600 appeared at the end of the second week of the campaign, showing Daryl Melham trailing David Coleman by 52.8-47.2 on two-party preferred and by 50% to 43% on the primary vote. A Galaxy automated phone poll of about 575 respondents on August 20 had the Liberal lead at 52-48. Banks and the four other most marginal seats in Sydney were the subject of a Newspoll survey of 800 respondents conducted from August 23-28, which pointed to a 9% swing to the Liberals.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.