Margin: Labor 8.8%
Location: Western Sydney, New South Wales
In a nutshell: Part of Labor’s troubled western Sydney heartland, Fowler is represented by Chris Hayes, who transferred from Werriwa in 2010 as part of a post-redistribution game of musical chairs.
The candidates (ballot paper order)
DARREN C McLEAN
BRADLEY CHARLES PASTOORS
Fowler covers an area of Labor’s western Sydney heartland encompassing Lansvale, Liverpool and Cabramatta in the east, Hinchinbrook and Cecil Hills in the centre, and undeveloped territory beyond the Westlink in the west. The electorate has the second highest number of non-English speakers of any electorate in the country, ranking in the top ten for persons of Chinese, Vietnamese, Serbian and Croatian extraction. The redistribution ahead of the 2010 election halved its geographic size by exchanging semi-rural territory around Badgerys Creek for urban areas around Liverpool and Lansvale (largely reversing changes made before the 2004 election), which boosting Labor’s margin by 4.5% and made it their third safest seat in notional terms. It then proceeded to swing more heavily against Labor than any other seat in the country, slashing the margin from 22.6% to 8.8% the first time Labor’s margin had fallen to single figures since the seat’s creation.
Fowler was created with the expansion of parliament in 1984, and held firstly by Ted Grace until 1998 and then by Julia Irwin until 2010. Chiefly noted as a critic of Israel, Irwin secured the seat with the backing of the old guard of the NSW Right, including Laurie Brereton and Leo McLeay. Irwin twice needed head office intervention to secure her preselection over her 12-year parliamentary career, and there were mixed reports about her job security at the 2010 election had she not opted to retire. In doing so she resolved a headache for the party, which had been absorbed by a game of musical chairs resulting from the effective abolition of Laurie Ferguson’s seat of Reid. Ferguson was at first determined to be accommodated in Fowler, but a deal was in force reserving the seat for a Right faction which was also dominant in local branches. He was instead made to settle for Werriwa, which at first displaced its member Chris Hayes to highly marginal Macarthur. Irwin’s departure created an immensely more attractive opening for Hayes in Fowler, which also allowed local favourite Nick Bleasdale to contest Macarthur for a second time (albeit unsuccessfully).
Hayes was a former official with the Right faction Australian Workers Union official who entered parliament at the February 2005 by-election caused by the resignation of Mark Latham. In May he attained the position of chief government whip, which Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon had vacated after backing Kevin Rudd’s abortive leadership push in March. Among other things, this gave Hayes the high profile task of announcing to the media the result of Rudd’s successful leadership challenge in late June. His Liberal opponent is Andrew Nguyen (a name he shares with the Liberal National Party candidate for Oxley in Queensland), a former Fairfield councillor and long-standing figure in Cabramatta’s Vietnamese community.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.