New South Wales election 2015


Margin: Liberal 6.4%
Region: Inner Western Sydney
Federal: Reid (49%)/Watson (45%)/Grayndler (6%)

Candidates in ballot paper order




No Land Tax

Labor (bottom)

Christian Democratic Party

Liberal (top)




Two-party preferred booth results from 2011 state election showing Liberal majority in blue and Labor in red. New boundaries in thicker blue lines, old ones in thinner red lines. Boundary data courtesy of Ben Raue of The Tally Room.

Swept away in the rout of 2011, the inner western Sydney seat of Strathfield will be contested at the coming election by star Labor candidate Jodi McKay, who held the seat of Newcastle from 2007 to 2011. McKay has lately attained hero status through the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s inquiries into how her foes on both sides of the political fence did business on her former turf. The electorate extends from Croydon west through Burwood and Enfield to Strathfield itself, and has undergone three changes in the redistribution, gaining the southern part of Croydon Park at the southern end, adding nearly 4000 voters formerly in Canterbury; gaining over 6500 voters around Homebush in the north, formerly in Drummoyne; and losing its eastern territories in Ashfield and Summer Hill to the new Summer Hill electorate, which takes around 9500 of its voters. The changes have been to the advantage of the Liberals, adding 2.0% to the margin.

Strathfield was created at the 1988 election in place of abolished Burwood, which had only been won for Labor in the 1978 and 1981 “Wranslides” in a history going back to 1927. Paul Zammit recovered Burwood for the Liberals in 1984 and transferred to Strathfield in 1988, retaining the seat until his entry to federal politics in 1996 as the member for Lowe, which he went on to lose to Labor’s John Murphy in 1998. Bruce MacCarthy retained Strathfield for the Liberals at the ensuing by-election, but it fell to Labor in 1999 after an unfavourable redistribution and an 11.1% swing. The incoming Labor member was Carr government Police Minister Paul Whelan, who had previously held the abolished seat of Ashfield since 1976.

Whelan was succeeded upon his retirement at the 2003 election by Strathfield mayor Virginia Judge, who retained the seat for Labor with a further 7.4% swing. Judge had won Labor preselection unopposed with the backing of Eddie Obeid, aligning her with his “Terrigals” sub-faction of the Right. Judge and Obeid reportedly fell out subsequently over a branch-stacking war, which was said to have started when it became apparent that Obeid no longer had any influence over her. Judge served in the ministry from September 2008 until the defeat of the government at the 2011 election, at which her own 15.1% margin was demolished by a 19.5% swing to the Liberals. The seat has since been held by Charles Casuscelli, who had previously been the principal of a firm called Operations and Logistic Management Consulting and Services, and also held a part-time position in the Australian Defence Force with the rank of major.

Jodi McKay’s entry to the world of politics came when the Labor leadership enlisted her to contest Newcastle in 2007 in place of troublesome incumbent Bryce Gaudry, as she was seen to fit the bill due to her high profile as a local newsreader. She was promoted in September 2008 as Minister for Tourism and the Hunter, the latter role bringing her into conflict with mining magnate Nathan Tinkler over his efforts to have a coal loading facility built at the Newcastle port. McKay’s opposition to the project also incurred the wrath of Treasurer Eric Roozendaal and Right faction powerbroker Joe Tripodi. As ICAC conducted its investigations in 2014 into Tinkler’s activities in channelling political donations he was banned from making as a property developer, and wielding considerable influence on both sides of politics in the process, it emerged that he had conspired with Tripodi to run a covert smear campaign against McKay in Newcastle to the advantage of Liberal candidate Tim Owen, who ended up unseating her at the 2011 election by a 2.6% margin after a 20.4% swing.

With political casualties from ICAC’s inquiries continuing to pile up on the Liberal side, it was something of a coup for Labor when McKay announced her intention to make a comeback in November. Somewhat ironically, her preselection in Strathfield was secured through a fast-track process conducted by the party’s national executive, despite the seat having been earmarked as one of five for its “community preselection” experiment, through which equal weight was to be given a local party membership ballot and a “community” vote open to anyone enrolled in the electorate who was willing to sign on as a party supporter. McKay had insisted she wanted no preferential treatment in the process, but then party leader John Robertson deemed it “critical that Labor has a strong candidate in the field as soon as possible”, perhaps with an eye to having her endorsement coincide with the October 25 by-election in her old seat of Newcastle. Rival aspirants thwarted by the move included Burwood mayor John Faker and Strathfield mayor Daniel Bott.

After assuming the party leadership in January, Luke Foley sought to further maximise the advantage from McKay’s return to the fold by by appointing her Shadow Planning Minister, despite her not yet holding a seat in parliament.

Corrections, complaints and feedback to William Bowe at pollbludger-at-bigpond-dot-com. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.

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