Seat du jour: Werriwa

Labor came close to losing Gough Whitlam’s old seat when its vote fell to historic lows in Sydney in 2013, but a shift northwards in the latest redistribution has added some extra fat to the margin.

The outer south-western Sydney seat of Werriwa has been held by Labor without interruption since 1934, and is best known for being Gough Whitlam’s seat through a parliamentary career lasting from 1952 to 1978. Labor’s long-secure hold was weakened by successive swings of 8.3% in 2010 and 4.5% in 2013, but a substantial shift northwards in the latest redistribution has boosted the margin from 2.2% to 5.9%. The seat is set to be vacated with the retirement of Laurie Ferguson, who became member in 2010 after serving in the inner west Sydney seat of Reid from 1990 to 2010, and was previously the state member for Granville from 1984 to 1990.

Werriwa has existed in name since federation, but it was originally a rural electorate that encompassed Goulburn and territory further to the west. Labor’s period of control began when Goulburn was removed from the electorate in 1934, leaving the seat concentrated around Wollongong and Campbelltown. It was again substantially redrawn with the enlargement of parliament in 1949, extending along Sydney’s southern fringe from Liverpool to Sutherland Shire, until the latter area was transferred to the new seat of Hughes as post-war development took hold in 1955. Werriwa has since covered shifting territory around the Hume Motorway corridor from Liverpool south-west to Campbelltown, extending on the latest boundaries from Lurnea to Ingleburn and Macquarie Fields. The latest redistribution has added 45,000 voters around Hinchinbrook and Bonnyrigg Heights further to the north, along with 3500 in semi-rural territory to the west of this area from Macarthur. In the south, over 40,000 voters in Ingleburn, Eagle Vale and Minto go to Macarthur, while another 5000 voters in southern Liverpool go to Fowler.

Labor’s Hubert Lazzarini held the seat through its shifting incarnations from 1919 until his death in 1952, with a one-term interruption after the Country Party’s victory in the landslide of 1931. It was then held in succession by Gough Whitlam and John Kerin, the latter becoming member at a by-election in March 1978, and proceeding to a ministerial career that was capped by a forgettable stint as Treasurer after Paul Keating’s failed first leadership challenge in June 1991. Kerin was followed in 1994 by the seat’s second Labor leader, Mark Latham, who would eventually quit politics after losing first the October 2004 election, and then the party leadership in January 2005. The resulting by-election was won by Chris Hayes, an official of the Right faction Australian Workers Union.

Laurie Ferguson came to the seat in 2010 after his existing seat of Reid in Sydney’s inner west was effectively merged with the abolished seat of Lowe, turning his safe seat into a marginal one. Ferguson was at first determined to be accommodated in Fowler, to be vacated at the election by Julia Irwin, but a deal was in force reserving the seat for the locally dominant Right. He instead settled for Werriwa under a deal Gillard was able to reach in the face of opposition from Anthony Albanese and the Left, resulting in Hayes taking Fowler instead. That in turn froze out Ed Husic, national president of the Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union, for whom Fowler had originally been earmarked, but he ended up being accommodated in Chifley after Roger Price announced his retirement.

Ferguson announced his retirement in January, and the ensuing preselection was won without opposition by his own favoured successor, Liverpool councillor Anne Stanley.

Seat du jour: Macarthur

What was once a bellwether seat in Sydney’s outer west has become stronger for the Liberals at recent elections, but the latest redistribution has tilted the ground back in favour of Labor.

The seat of Macarthur at Sydney’s south-western edge once had a record as a bellwether to surpass Eden-Monaro, having been held by the winning party at every election from 1949 to 2007, but it has recently taken a more conservative turn and stayed with the Liberals through the Rudd-Gillard years. The electorate is centred upon Campbelltown, located 50 kilometres south-west of central Sydney, and encompasses suburban territory around the Hume Motorway and semi-rural areas to the north. The ongoing urban development of this region makes it prone to dramatic redrawing at redistributions, and the latest has been no exception. The electorate has been drawn deeper into the suburbs by absorbing 40,000 voters around Ingleburn, Eagle Vale and Minto, formerly in Werriwa, which is balanced by the loss Camden and surrounding areas of the urban fringe to Hume. The exchange has been dramatically favourable to Labor, bringing the Liberal margin down from 11.3% to 3.3%. This has had disruptive consequences for the Liberal Party, with Macarthur MP Russell Matheson having to be dissuaded from challenging Angus Taylor for preselection in Hume.

Macarthur extended considerably further to the south after its creation in 1949, when it ran from Camden through the Southern Highlands to southern coastal Illawarra. The latter areas were transferred to the new seat of Throsby when parliament was enlarged in 1984, and Macarthur was compensated with the northern end of the Illawarra around Bulli. It finally lost contact with the Illawarra in 1993, when it moved back into the Southern Highlands around Bowral, and gained a more clearly suburban orientation in 2001, becoming concentrated around Campbelltown and Camden. The Liberal member through the party’s era of ascendancy from 1949 to 1972 was Jeff Bate, who ran as an independent at the 1972 election after losing preselection. The seat was then held for Labor during the Whitlam years by John Kerin, and for the Liberals during the Fraser years by Michael Baume. Both would return after their respective defeats, Kerin as member for Werriwa in 1978, and Baume as a Senator in 1984. The seat had three Labor members during the Hawke-Keating years: Colin Hollis from 1983 to 1984, when he moved to the new seat of Throsby; Stephen Martin from 1984 to 1993, when he moved to Cunningham after an unfavourable redistribution; and Chris Haviland from 1993 to 1996, when he lost his endorsement.

With the election of the Howard government in 1996, Macarthur was won for the Liberals by John Fahey, who was moving to federal politics after serving as Premier of New South Wales from 1992 until the government’s defeat in 1995. The redistribution before the 2001 election produced a familiar situation in which the Liberals’ position in Macarthur was weakened through a transfer of low-income suburbs in outer Sydney, causing the sitting member to eye off the safer neighbouring seat of Hume. However, Fahey’s designs on Hume met with what looked likely to be successful resistance from its sitting member, Alby Schultz. Fahey was ultimately compelled to retire on health grounds, and his seat was contested for the Liberals by Pat Farmer, a former ultra-marathon runner noted for his 15,000 kilometre charity run round Australia after his wife died of heart failure. Farmer did outstandingly well to hold the seat with a swing in his favour of 8.7%, easily accounting for its notional Labor margin of 1.7%. A further 2.5% swing in 2004 boosted his margin to 11.1%, which he needed every bit of to withstand a 10.4% swing to Labor in 2007.

Farmer alienated local opinion by moving to the expensive north shore suburb of Mosman after the 2007 election, and there was some surprise when he put his name forward again for preselection in 2010. He was soundly rebuffed in the ensing ballot, suffering a 22-9 defeat at the hands of Russell Matheson, a police sergeant and former mayor of Campbelltown. Redistribution had again left Macarthur with a notional Labor margin, but Labor’s standing in Sydney at the time of the 2010 election was such that Matheson was able to retain it with a swing in his favour of 3.5%. This was followed at the 2013 election by a further swing of 8.3%, the eighth biggest of the election. Matheson is identified with a local party faction known as the “southern cartel”, together with state Wollondilly MP Jai Rowell, which shifted its allegiance from the Right to the ascendant moderates late in 2015. The faction is notably strong in the Camden branch, which would have given Matheson a ready-made base of support from which to challenge Angus Taylor, the Right-aligned member for Hume. However, the prospect caused considerable consternation due to Taylor’s reputation as senior ministerial prospect, and the lack of any similar expectations for Matheson. In February, Malcolm Turnbull promoted Taylor to an assistant minister position, and told Matheson he was expected to stay in Macarthur.

Labor’s candidate is Michael Freelander, a Campbelltown paediatrician.

Seat du jour: Berowra

The northern Sydney Liberal fiefdom of Berowra is set to pass on from the Father of the House, Phillip Ruddock, to Julian Leeser, former executive director of Liberal-aligned think tank the Menzies Research Centre.

The safe Liberal seat of Berowra in northern Sydney is to be vacated at the coming election by current parliament’s longest serving member, Phillip Ruddock, who entered parliament in 1973 and came to Berowra in 1993. The electorate combines a populous southern end consisting of affulent suburbs in Sydney’s outer north, including Pennant Hills, Cherrybrook and western Hornsby, with national parks and thinly populated territory out to the Hawkesbury River in the north. The latest redistribution adds two areas in the west and east of the southern end of the electorate, respectively encompassing parts of Castle Hill (from Mitchell) and Thornleigh and Normanhurst (from Bradfield), each of which accounts for between 3500 and 4000 voters. The changes have had no effect on the Liberal margin.

Berowra was created in 1969 from an area that had been accommodated by Mitchell during a period of rapid development from 1955 onwards. The Liberals have held the seat at all times, the smallest margin having been 8.9% at the 2007 election. It was held for the first term of its existence by Tom Hughes, Attorney-General in the Gorton government and father-in-law of the current Prime Minister, who came to the new seat upon the abolition of his existing south-western Sydney seat of Parkes (no relation to today’s rural electorate of the same name). Hughes was succeeded on his retirement in 1972 by Harry Edwards, who was in turn succeeded by Phillip Ruddock in 1993.

Phillip Ruddock was first elected in September 1973 to the seat of Parramatta, where he picked up a 7% swing at the first by-election faced by the Whitlam government. When Parramatta was divided down the middle at the 1977 redistribution, Ruddock assumed the reasonably safe new seat of Dundas, which took the old Parramatta’s eastern end. Dundas was abolished in 1993, and Berowra absorbed its particularly wealthy and conservative area of Dundas around Beecroft, while most of the rest went back to the now Labor-held seat of Parramatta. A potential stand-off was avoided through the retirement of Harry Edwards, allowing Ruddock to complete his transition from marginal Parramatta to safe Berowra.

Ruddock’s positions as Immigration Minister and Attorney-General made him a key figure in the Howard government, and there was some surprise at his determination to serve three further terms beyond its demise. Liberal branches in Berowra became a focus of considerable activity in anticipation of his retirement, with the growing strength of the religious Right a cause of concern to both Ruddock and his ultimate Liberal successor, Julian Leeser. Ruddock indicated he would be interested in replacing Bronwyn Bishop as Speaker in August 2015, but the party instead turned to Victorian MP Tony Smith. Now aged 72, Ruddock finally announced his intention to retire in February, amid doubts he would have been able to retain his preselection if he remained.

Julian Leeser easily won the ensuing preselection ballot with 97 votes in the first round, compared with just ten for local barrister Robert Armitage, who came second in a field of four. Leeser is a former executive director of Liberal-aligned think tank the Menzies Research Centre, and has more recently been director of government policy and strategy at the Australian Catholic University. He is of Jewish background, and has variously been said to be factionally unaligned or attached to the Centre Right. Leeser’s first bid for preselection was when Bredan Nelson retired in the neighbouring seat of Bradfield in late 2009, in which he was defeated 60-51 in the final round by Paul Fletcher.

Seat du jour: Mackellar

With Liberal preselectors having voted on the weekend to put an end to Bronwyn Bishop’s reign of terror, the blue-ribbon northern beaches Sydney seat of Mackellar is set to pass on to only its fourth member since it was created in 1949.

Mackellar covers blue-ribbon territory on Sydney’s northern beaches, and has been held by the Liberal Party since its creation in 1949. After one of the highest profile preselection battles of recent history, the seat is set to be vacated at the coming election by Bronwyn Bishop, its member since 1994. The electorate runs along the coast from Collaroy north to the Pittwater peninsula and inland to Duffys Forest and Frenchs Forest, and has not been affected by the redistribution. This area was covered by Warringah since its creation in 1922, and previously by North Sydney. None of the relevant seats was ever held by Labor, whose closest margin in Mackellar was 5.2% when the Whitlam government came to power in 1972. Bishop is only the third member in Mackellar’s history, her predecessors having been Jim Carlton from 1977 to to 1994, and William Wentworth from 1949 to 1977.

Bronwyn Bishop was elected to the Senate in 1987, and rose to fame with a blunderbuss assault on Trevor Boucher of the Australian Taxation Commission during a committee inquiry. It was with an eye to the prime ministership that she moved to Mackellar at a by-election in March 1994, but her electoral performance proved surprisingly poor, with 23.1% of the vote going to independent candidate Bob Ellis, the late pro-Labor writer and commentator. Bishop took the Liberal primary vote backwards by 4.4%, despite the lack of a Labor candidate. Bishop was given the junior defence industry portfolio when the Howard government was collected, winning promotion to aged care after the 1998 election. She went on to serve in junior ministry positions in the early Howard years, but her standing suffered when she oversaw the kereosene baths affair as Aged Care Minister in 2000, so named for a treatment for scabies that had been used in a Melbourne nursing home.

An ambition to become Speaker appeared to motivate Bishop to sustain her political career after Labor came to power in 2007, so it came as a surprise when Tony Abbott found a place for her in the shadow outer ministry when he became leader in December 2009, notwithstanding Abbott’s description of himself as “the ideological love-child of John Howard and Bronwyn Bishop”. She was duly elevated to the Speakership when Abbott led the Coalition to power in September 2013, and was universally acclaimed as the most partisan occupant of the position in living memory. Her tenure in the position came to an end in August 2015 after a media firestorm over her chartering of a helicopter to attend a party fundraiser, and related acts of extravagance. Abbott stood by Bishop for a fortnight before her position became intolerable, dangerously weakening his hold on the leadership in the months before he was deposed by Malcolm Turnbull. Bishop rewarded Abbott by voting for Turnbull, evidently being of the view that his defence of her should have continued indefinitely.

Bishop’s first preselection battle came before the 2013 election, when she was challenged unsuccessfully by Jim Longley, who had held the state seat of Pittwater from 1986 to 1996 and served as a minister in John Fahey’s government. She was 72 by the time she lost the Speakership, but showed characteristic determination in insisting on seeking another term. Seven challengers initially nominated, the most durable of whom proved to be Jason Falinksi, owner of a health care equipment business, former adviser to John Hewson and Barry O’Farrell and campaign manager to Malcolm Turnbull in Wentworth in 2004, and Walter Villatora, a party activist who has spearheaded a campaign for preselection reforms that are principally favoured by the hard Right, and a close ally of Tony Abbott’s as the president of the Liberal Party’s Warringah branch.

Reports initially suggested that Bishop would be saved by her base of local support and backing from the Centre Right faction, although conservatives were so angered by her support for Turnbull they favoured the seat going to a moderate. Attitudes hardened after prominent local Dick Smith threatened to run as an independent if Bishop won preselection, and a poll was circulated showing he would easily defeat her at the election. Shortly before the ballot, it was reported that Scott Morrison was signalling that the party leadership wished to see Bishop defeated. After the also-rans were excluded in the first round of the April 16 preselection vote, Falinski had 40 votes to Bishop’s 37 and Villatora’s 12. Villatora’s exclusion saw the hard Right vote lock in behind Falinski, who prevailed in the final round by 51 votes to 39.

Seat du jour: Moreton

The southern Brisbane seat of Moreton has a long history as a marginal seat, but it hasn’t always reflected the national trend – as Labor’s Graham Perrett showed when he slightly increased his majority in 2013.

Moreton is a traditionally marginal seat in southern Brisbane that the current member, Graham Perrett, did well to retain for Labor amid poor results for the party in Queensland in 2010 and 2013. It extends from the southern Brisbane riverside suburbs of Oxley, Sherwood and Yeronga out to Runcorn and Acacia Ridge, the latter area being the more favourable for Labor. The seat has existed in name since federation, but was based on the Gold Coast and Brisbane’s southern outskirts until McPherson was created to accommodate the Gold Coast when parliament expanded in 1949. Moreton then began a long drift north into the inner suburbs, transforming the seat from safely conservative to marginal.




The Liberals’ first near-miss came with Jim Killen’s famous 130-vote win in 1961, achieved with help from Communist Party preference leakage, which allowed the Menzies government to survive with a one-seat majority. Killen had come to the seat in 1955 and remained until 1983, serving as Defence Minister from 1975 to 1982. He retired in the aftermath of the Fraser government’s defeat in 1983, when his own margin was reduced to 1.6%, initiating a by-election held the following November. This was won for the Liberals on a margin of 2.8% by Don Cameron, who had served in Griffith from 1969 to 1977, then moved to the seat of Fadden south of Brisbane, where he was unseated at the 1983 election. Cameron was defeated in Moreton at the 1990 election by Labor’s Garrie Gibson, amid a weak performance for the Coalition across Queensland that reflected its low stocks at that point at state level.

Garrie Gibson survived a small swing to the Liberals in 1993 before being hit by the statewide tidal wave of 1996, when he suffered what by Queensland standards was a modest swing of 4.9%. The new Liberal member was Gary Hardgrave, a former children’s television host and media adviser to Senator David MacGibbon. Hardgrave held junior ministry positions from 2001 to 2005 while maintaining a tenuous grip on his seat, surviving a 4.2% swing in 1998 and an unfavourable redistribution in 2004. Redistribution further chipped away at his margin before the 2007 election, and he was unseated by a 7.5% swing to Labor in 2007. He has since kept in the public eye as the drive presenter on Fairfax Radio’s Brisbane station 4BC.

Moreton has since been held for Labor by Graham Perrett, who had previously been an adviser to the Queensland Resources Council, and was earlier a state ministerial staffer and official with the Queensland Independent Education Union. Perrett enjoyed what proved to be a decisive 1.4% boost at the redistribution before the 2010 election, after which a 4.9% swing cut his margin to 1.1%. During Labor’s second term in office he threatened to quit parliament if the party changed leaders again, a position he backed away from when Kevin Rudd was marshalling his unsuccessful leadership challenge in February 2012. With Rudd back as leader, Labor had a better result in Queensland than it had long feared, with Perrett actually recording a 0.4% swing in his favour. In July 2014 he was promoted to the position of Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Attorney-General.

The Liberal National Party has preselected Nic Monsour, managing director of a consultancy and brother-in-law of Campbell Newman.

Seat du jour: Griffith

Kevin Rudd’s former electorate was last lost by Labor during his failed first bid for parliament in 1996, but the Liberal National Party came close to reeling it in at the by-election held upon his retirement in February 2014.

Held from 1998 to 2014 by Kevin Rudd, the Labor-held seat of Griffith covers inner Brisbane immediately south of the Brisbane River, from South Brisbane east to Bulimba and Queensport, south to Annerley and south-west to Carina Heights. The area is a mixed bag electorally, and includes the Greens’ strongest support base in Queensland around South Brisbane and West End, the scene of the party’s victory in The Gabba ward at the Brisbane City Council election in March. Griffith has an effectively unbroken existence going back to federation, but it was called Oxley prior to 1934, a name that was later revived for an unrelated new Ipswich-based seat in 1949. It has been highly marginal for much of its history, having changed hands between Liberal and Labor in 1949, 1954, 1958, 1961, 1966, 1977, 1996 and 1998. The Labor margin narrowed to 3.0% at Rudd’s swansong election in 2013, and then to 1.8% at the by-election held to replace him on February 8, 2014. The last extended period of Liberal control was from 1966 to 1977, when Don Cameron first gained it as part of the Harold Holt landslide, then retained it through the Whitlam years with help from a favourable redistribution in 1969. The next redistribution before the 1977 election shifted the seat heavily in Labor’s favour, resulting in Cameron’s move to the new Gold Coast seat of Fadden, and Griffith being won for Labor by Ben Humphreys.




The Labor preselection held when Humphreys retired ahead of the 1996 election was won by Kevin Rudd, a former diplomat who had wielded great influence as chief-of-staff to Wayne Goss during his tenure as Queensland Premier from 1989 to 1996. Rudd established a factional association during this time with the locally dominant Australian Workers Union sub-faction of the Right, which secured his preselection despite grumblings that the state branch was failing to meet affirmative action obligations. In the event, the statewide rout suffered by Labor in 1996 saw Rudd fall at his first electoral hurdle, with Graeme McDougall gaining the seat for the Liberals with a swing of 6.2%. Rudd returned for a second attempt amid the far more favourable circumstances of 1998, and picked up a 3.9% swing to prevail over McDougall by a margin of 2.4%.

Rudd established a formidable electoral record during his time as member for Griffith, picking up 3.3% and 2.4% swings against the trend of the 2001 and 2004 elections. The electorate was substantially reshaped by redistribution at the 2004 election, absorbing inner city areas at East Brisbane, South Brisbane and Dutton Park, while its eastern parts were hived off to the new seat of Bonner. In what may have been an early portent of Rudd’s electoral impact, the booths which transferred out of the electorate swung heavily to the Liberals in his absence, contribuing to a surprise Labor defeat in Bonner. Rudd enjoyed a further 3.8% swing as his party’s candidate for the prime ministership in 2007, and as its recently spurned ex-leader in 2010 he suffered what by Queensland standards was a relatively mild swing of 3.9%. The mood appeared to have hardened when Rudd had the opportunity to contest the seat as Prime Minister in 2013, with a 5.5% swing reducing the margin to 3.0%.

Kevin Rudd made an unheralded announcement of his decision to retire from politics on November 13, 2013, initiating the by-election held three months later. This developed into a keenly fought contest between Labor’s Terri Butler, a Left-aligned industrial relations lawyer with Maurice Blackburn, and the Liberal National Party’s Bill Glasson, an ophthalmologist, former Australian Medical Association president and son of a former Nationals MP and state minister, who also ran against Rudd in 2013. With the collapse in support for the Abbott government after the 2014 budget still two months away, Butler fought off Glasson’s challenge only with difficulty, and emerged with an uncomfortable winning margin of 1.8%. In October 2015 she won promotion to the position of Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Child Safety and Prevention of Family Violence.

The Liberal National Party candidate is Fiona Ward, a small business owner, former staffer to Mermaid Beach MP Ray Stevens and candidate for South Brisbane at the 2015 state election. Greens candidate Karen Anderson is manager of a legal practice, and ran in the Holland Park ward at the council election in March.