Margin: Liberal 8.8%
Region: Western Sydney
Federal: Greenway (48%)/Parramatta (30%)/Mitchell (22%)
New electorate created in place of Toongabbie
Outgoing member: Nathan Rees (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.
Seven Hills is a new electorate centred around 25 kilometres to the west of central Sydney, created in place of abolished Toongabbie, which former Premier Nathan Rees narrowly retained for Labor at the 2011 election. The old Toongabbie provides the electorate with its western half and 31,300 voters, including Seven Hills itself, which is supplemented in the east by Winston Hills and Northmead, providing 16,000 voters formerly in Baulkham Hills, and an area to the south around Westmead, which was in Parramatta and contains 5800 voters. The areas gained from Baulkham Hills are especially strong for the Liberals, resulting in a notional margin of 8.8% in their favour, compared with Labor’s 0.3% margin in Toongabbie.
Toongabbie was created at the 2007 redistribution as part of a rearrangement that abolished the seat of Wentworthville to the south, most of its territory having previously been in Blacktown, which was reoriented further to the west. The new seat provided an entry to parliament for a much-touted rising star of the Left, Nathan Rees. Left faction warlord Laurie Ferguson had hoped the seat might go to Tanya Gadiel so her existing seat of Parramatta could be made available to the local Lord Mayor, David Borger, but Morris Iemma had the party’s national executive intervene to install Rees, who had previously worked as his adviser.
Rees was immediately fast-tracked into cabinet, and elevated to the premiership just 18 months later when a factional rebellion over a proposed cabinet reshuffle prompted Morris Iemma to resign. His success in securing the premiership as a member of the Left defied the party’s history, and was widely interpreted as representing the Right’s failure to produce a credible candidate. However, it also meant that his grip on the job proved highly precarious, and his party room support collapsed in late 2009 as the polls continued to sour. A spill motion was passed in December after the Right threw its weight behind Kristina Keneally, who went on to defeat Rees in the leadership ballot by 47 votes to 21.
Rees did little to keep himself ingratiated with party powerbrokers as his demise unfolded, announcing that any candidate who unseated him would be “a puppet of Joe Tripodi and Eddie Obeid”. But when a threat to his preselection emerged in late 2010, the driving force was not the Right but the Ferguson Left, which evidently remained aggrieved by the circumstances of the 2007 preselection. The rival Left tendency associated with Anthony Albanese weighed in in support of Rees, which was seen in the context of rivalry which manifested in Albanese’s support for Kevin Rudd when Ferguson protégé Julia Gillard deposed him in June 2010. Confident of the local numbers, the Ferguson camp pushed for a rank-and-file ballot, but the national executive again stepped in to secure Rees’s position. Rees went on to retain the seat by a margin of 0.3% following a 14.2% swing, leaving him as one of 20 Labor survivors of the Coalition landslide.
Rees resigned from the opposition front bench in November 2013 after admitting to an affair with a local constituent, and announced the following March that he would retire from politics at the next election. Labor’s candidate for Seven Hills will be Blacktown councillor Susai Benjamin, who had been the favoured candidate of the Ferguson Left to replace Rees in 2011. Benjamin hit a hurdle in August last year following the circulation of an article he had written in 2012 which appeared to caution migrant women against calling the police with domestic violence complaints, causing the party to subject him to a renewed candidate review process. The Liberal candidate is Mark Taylor, a Hills Shire councillor, who won the local preselection ballot over University of Notre Dame lecturer Steven Treloar by 36 votes to eight.
Corrections, complaints and feedback to William Bowe at pollbludger-at-bigpond-dot-com. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.