Electorate: Reid

Margin: Labor 2.7%
Location: Western Sydney, New South Wales

In a nutshell: Reid has never once been in conservative hands in a history that goes back 91 years. That may well be about to change, thanks to its effective merger with neighbouring Lowe before the 2010 election and the ongoing weakness of Labor’s electoral position across Sydney.

The candidates (ballot paper order)


Labor (top)

Australian Independents


Katter’s Australian Party

Palmer United Party

Democratic Labour Party

Liberal (bottom)

Christian Democratic Party


Reid covers Sydney’s inner south along the southern bank of the Parramatta River from Drummoyne west to Silverwater, extending south to Burwood, Strathfield, and Auburn. It was substantially reconfigured in the redistribution before the 2010 election, which caused it to assume about 70% of the voters from its abolished eastern neighbour Lowe, retaining only the area to the west of Homebush Bay Drive and Centenary Drive, from Silverwater south to Rookwood. It was originally proposed that the redrawn electorate bear the new name of McMahon, in honour of Sir William McMahon, but objections to the loss of the name Reid (so named after George Reid, titan of the state’s late colonial free trade forces and the nation’s fourth prime minister) led to the name of McMahon instead being accommodated by renaming the outer western Sydney seat of Prospect. In its original incarnation the electorate was oriented around Bankstown, but it shifted northwards when Blaxland was created with the expansion of parliament in 1949.

Lowe was created in 1949 from areas covered by the since-abolished Martin and Parkes (the latter bearing no relation to the current rural electorate of that name), and had a very slight notional Labor margin on its creation. Billy McMahon nonetheless gained the seat for the Liberals in 1949 and held it until the end of his career in 1983, withstanding particularly strong Labor challenges in 1961 and 1980. Labor’s Michael Maher won the by-election that followed McMahon’s resignation, and it thereafter changed hands with some regularity. Bob Woods gained the seat for the Liberals in 1987, but was weakened by redistribution and then tipped out by a swing to Labor’s Mary Easson in 1993. It then fell to Liberal candidate Paul Zammit in the 1996 landslide, before Zammit quit the party in 1998 in protest against the Howard government’s airport policy. John Murphy was able recover it for Labor at the 1998 election, having won preselection over the rather better credentialled Michael Costello, the secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Murphy held parliamentary secretary positions from December 2001 until February 2009 when he stood down citing family illness, but he is perhaps better remembered for complaining in parliament about the size of a beef stroganoff serving his wife had received from the parliamentary cafeteria.

The effective merger of Reid with Lowe at the 2010 election created a stronger prospect for the Liberals of the nominal seat of Reid, which had never been in conservative hands since its creation in 1922. The only interruptions to Labor’s hold had come when a candidate of Jack Lang’s breakaway state ALP branch held the seat from 1931 to 1940, and when Lang himself became member for a single term after a surprise win in 1946 under the ALP (Non-Communist) banner. Lang unsuccessfully contested Blaxland in 1949 and Reid was recovered for Labor by Charles Morgan, the member Lang had unseated three years previously. Morgan lost preselection at the 1958 election to Tom Uren, a future minister in the Whitlam and Hawke governments, who was in turn succeeded by Left potentate Laurie Ferguson in 1990. When the redistribution was announced in 2009 it was thought that a preselection showdown would ensue between Ferguson and John Murphy, but it soon became apparent that Ferguson’s eyes were elsewhere. He originally hoped to succeed the retiring Julia Irwin in Fowler but was ultimately accommodated in Werriwa, whose member Chris Hayes moved to Fowler. Murphy meanwhile retained preselection for Reid unopposed, and went on to have his margin slashed from 10.8% to 2.7% at the 2010 election as part of the backlash against Labor throughout Sydney.

The Liberal candidate for the coming election is Craig Laundy, heir to and general manager of his father’s “$500 million hotel empire”, who won an April 2012 preselection with backing from Tony Abbott. Laundy’s main rival for the preselection was Dai Le, an ABC Radio National producer and two-time state candidate for Cabramatta.

cuA Galaxy automated phone poll of about 575 respondents on August 20 suggested John Murphy was headed for defeat, with the Liberals holding a 53-47 lead. Reid 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.

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