Margin: Liberal 1.8%*
Region: South-Western Sydney
* Labor seat made notionally Liberal by redistribution
Outgoing member: Andrew McDonald (Labor)
Candidates in ballot paper order
2011 BOOTH RESULTS MAP
Two-party preferred booth results from 2011 state election showing Labor majority in red and Nationals in green. New boundaries in thicker blue lines, old ones in thinner red lines. Boundary data courtesy of Ben Raue of The Tally Room.
Encompassing parts of Sydney’s south-western suburban corridor along the Hume Motorway, Macquarie Fields was narrowly retained by Labor at the last election. However, it has since been transformed by the redistribution by moving south into territory formerly accommodated by Campbelltown, which provides the redrawn electorate with more of its voters than the old Macquarie Fields. The swing against Labor in 2011 was relatively modest at 9.7%, the lowest in any Labor-held Sydney seat, although this balanced an unusually strong swing to the Liberals in 2007. Andrew McDonald will retire as Labor member at the coming election, having served as member since September 2005. The Liberal candidate is Pat Farmer, who held the federal seat of Macarthur from 1996 to 2010.
The electorate remains centred on Macquarie Fields itself and its northern neighbour Glenfield, but the redistribution has pushed it into Ingleburn and Minto on the eastern side of the freeway, providing the electorate with nearly 25,000 voters from Campbelltown, and into Kearns, Raby and Eschol Park on its western side, adding a further 8000 from Camden. At the northern end, about half of the voters in the old Macquarie Fields are transferred to the new seat of Holsworthy, which gains 25,000 voters in an area encompassing Lurnea, Prestons and parts of Liverpool and Casula, while Liverpool gains 11,400 voters in Hoxton Park, West Hoxton and Horningsea Park immediately to the west, and Camden gets 2000 in semi-rural areas around Austral to the west. The changes have turned Labor’s 1.5% margin from 2011 into a notional Liberal one of 1.8%.
Macquarie Fields was first created as an electorate in 1988 in place of abolished Ingleburn, but was renamed Moorebank between the redistributions of 1991 and 1999. Ingleburn was held for its seven-year existence by Stan Knowles, who carried over as member for Macquarie Fields until his mid-term retirement in 1990. He was succeeded at a by-election by his son Craig Knowles, who in time was groomed for the leadership while serving as Health Minister and Transport Minister in the Carr government. Since neither area proved a notable success for the government, his gloss diminished over time and he was not rated as a front-runner when Bob Carr departed. Facing demotion under Morris Iemma, Knowles instead opted to join Carr and Treasurer Andrew Refshauge in retiring in August 2005, thereby initiating three simultaneous by-elections the following September.
Labor’s preselection for Macquarie Fields was won by Steven Chaytor, a Campbelltown councillor and senior adviser to Gough Whitlam from 1999 to 2005, who survived a 12.4% swing to the Liberals. His parliamentary career proved to be short-lived, as he was expelled from the ALP in January 2007 after being convicted of assaulting his girlfriend. Four months later the conviction was quashed and Chaytor’s ALP membership reinstated, after an appeal judge accepted his defence that he acted in self-defence and was attempting to stop the woman committing suicide. However, by this time he had exited from parliament and the seat had been bequeathed at a by-election to paediatrician Andrew McDonald.
In the face of high-profile competition from Liberal candidate Nola Fraser, who had come to attention by raising claims of malpractice at hospitals where she had worked as a nurse, Labor’s margin was cut from 23.3% at the 2003 election to 11.1% in 2007, the second-largest swing in the state. McDonald went on to attain parliamentary secretary status in September 2008 and took on the shadow portfolios of health and medical research after the 2011 election defeat, exchanging the latter for liquor regulation in December 2013. In September 2014 he moved to the back bench and announced he would not contest the coming election.
Labor’s new candidate is Anoulack Chanthivong, a Campbelltown councillor and former mayor. Chanthivong was rated the front-runner for the Campbelltown preselection ahead of the 2011 election, but it was then reported that the party’s head office was seeking alternative candidates, the rumoured motivation being concern that local voters would reject the Laotian-born Chanthivong because of his ethnicity. Former mayor Aaron Rule was named as one of those approached, but he was said to have “flatly refused” on the basis that he supported Chanthivong. In the event the preselection process was referred to the party’s national executive which gave the nod to Nick Bleasdale, who went on to defeat at the hands of Liberal candidate Nick Bleasdale. Chathivong had a far less fraught time of it on this occasion, winning the preselection for Macquarie Fields without opposition.
Liberal candidate Pat Farmer first came to attention as an ultra-marathon runner who conducted a 15,000 kilometre charity run round Australia after his wife died of heart failure. He won Liberal preselection for Macarthur at the 2001 federal election, after it had been made notionally Labor by redistribution, and performed outstandingly to hold the seat with a swing of 8.7%. After coming close to defeat in 2007, Farmer alienated local opinion by moving from the electorate to the expensive north shore suburb of Mosman, leading most to conclude he would not be seeking an extra term. When he chose to do so, he was soundly rebuffed by local preselectors, who delivered the nomination to Russell Matheson by 22 votes to nine. Farmer tested the waters for preselection in Camden ahead of the 2011 state election, but it was clear the position was secure for the local mayor, Chris Patterson.
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