Margin: Labor 12.4%
Region: Western Sydney, New South Wales
In a nutshell: Paul Keating’s old western Sydney seat of Blaxland is now held by Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare, and has been very safe for Labor since its creation in 1949.
Candidates in ballot paper order
The western Sydney seat of Blaxland has been held by Labor without interruption since its creation in 1949, and provided Paul Keating with a seat throughout a parliamentary career lasting from 1969 to 1996. The electorate encompasses central Bankstown in the south-east, extending northwards through Chester Hill to eastern Guildford. The area is marked by a strong Arabic presence, especially around Guildford, together with a large Turkish community around Auburn and a concentration of Chinese and Vietnamese at Regents Park. The Liberals’ strongest area is Bass Hill and Georges Hall at the southern end, which is middle-income and contains the electorate’s highest proportion of English speakers.
The redistribution has added most of Auburn in the north-east, encompassing around 20,000 voters formerly in Reid, and extended the southern boundary from Milperra Road and Canterbury Road to the South-Western Motorway, adding 3200 voters at Milperra from Hughes and 1300 in a part of Revesby from Banks. This is balanced by the loss of north-western territory beyond Woodville Road, where 7000 voters around Fairfield East are transferred to Fowler, and 15,000 around western Guildford go to McMahon. The changes have boosted the Labor margin from 11.4% to 12.4%.
Blaxland has been held for Labor since 2007 by Jason Clare, a former Transurban executive and adviser to NSW Premier Bob Carr, whose preselection opponents included high-profile constitutional law expert George Williams. With backing from the Right, Clare was progressively promoted to parliamentary secretary in 2009, the outer ministry after the 2010 election, and then to cabinet as cabinet secretary in February 2013. He was a late convert to the Kevin Rudd cause before his successful leadership challenge in June 2013, but was nonetheless dumped from cabinet in the ensuing reshuffle. Rudd reportedly considered Clare had “over-egged” the drugs in sport issue when he famously spoke of the “blackest day in sport” when the Australian Crime Commission released a report into the matter earlier in the year. Since the 2013 election defeat he has held a shadow cabinet position in the communications portfolio.
Prior to Clare, Blaxland was held by Michael Hatton, who succeeded Paul Keating at a by-election in 1996. Hatton had a rather less illustrious career than his predecessor, and was ultimately dumped by the party’s national executive ahead of the 2007 election. The seat’s greatest moment of electoral interest was at its inaugural election in 1949, when Jack Lang attempted to move to it after winning Reid as a Labor renegade in 1946. He failed, and Labor has never since held the seat by a margin of less than 8.8%. Most recently, the seat has recorded what by Sydney standards were modest swings to the Liberals of 4.4% in 2010 and 0.8% in 2013.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.