The biggest target in the well-stocked Sydney firing line is Greenway, where newly selected Liberal candidate Jaymes Diaz is shooting for second time lucky against Labor’s Michelle Rowland.
The western Sydney electorate of Greenway delivered the government a crucial win at the 2010 election, prompting much soul-searching from a Liberal Party which had been tardy in preselecting candidates in this and other key New South Wales seats. Greenway now stands as Labor’s most vulnerable seat ahead of an anticipated tidal wave in suburban Sydney.
The current boundaries of Greenway extend northwards from Blacktown and Toongabbie, about 30 kilometres west of the central business district, through Lalor Park and Kings Langley to Kellyville Ridge and Riverstone. The seat was substantially redrawn at successive redistributions before the 2007 and 2010 elections, of which the first increased the Liberal margin from 0.6% to 11.0% and the second created a Labor margin of 5.8%, boosted by a 6.5% swing to Labor at the intervening election. The more recent redistribution largely reversed the effects of the former, restoring the suburbs south of the M7 which had been accommodated in the interim by Parramatta and Chifley. The scale of the changes was such that the redrawn Greenway had more voters from Parramatta than the electorate as previously constituted. To Macquarie it lost the areas of Hawkesbury which had temporarily given it a semi-rural rather than outer suburban character.
Greenway was created in 1984 and held for Labor by margins at or near the double-digit range until 1996, when inaugural member Russell Gorman was succeeded by Frank Mossfield. Mossfield retired after a low-profile parliamentary career in 2004, after suffering a 6.5% swing that reduced his seat to the marginal zone in 2001. He was succeeded as Labor candidate by Ed Husic, spokesman for Integral Energy and a non-practising Muslim of Bosnian background. The Liberals were perhaps more astute in nominating Louise Markus, a community worker with Hillsong Church, then located in the electorate. Amid muttering of a whispering campaign targeting Husic’s religion, Markus secured a narrow victory with a 3.7% swing, aided in part by an 11.8% informal vote fuelled by a bloated field of candidates and the electorate’s large proportion of non-English speaking voters. This delayed Husic’s entry to parliament until 2010, when he won the outer western suburbs seat of Chifley.
The buffer added by the subsequent redistribution allowed Markus to comfortably survive the 2007 swing, and its effective reversal at the 2010 election had her seeking refuge in marginal Macquarie, which had absorbed the electorate’s outskirts areas. In what at first seemed a secure new seat for the party, Labor endorsed Michelle Rowland, a former Blacktown councillor. Rowland was said to have been “courted” by the party, and was imposed as candidate by the national executive with the backing of the Right. This met with displeasure among local party branches, as such interventions usually do, with critics said to have included Frank Mossfield. Rowland went on to survive a 4.8% swing at the election to retain the seat by 0.9%.
A Liberal preselection ballot held last weekend was won by Jaymes Diaz, a Blacktown immigration lawyer of Filipino extraction, who was also the party’s candidate in 2010. Diaz is associated with the Christian Right faction of state upper house MP David Clarke, and is said to have forged strong local connections through his work as a Blacktown immigration lawyer. It was reported in early 2012 that the party planned to choose the candidate from a US-style primary in a “calculated bid” to freeze out Diaz, with Tony Abbott said to favour a different candidate (there was a disputed suggestion he had approached former rugby league player Matt Adamson).
In the event the matter determined through a normal local party ballot, the result of which confirmed his strength in the local party. Sixty-nine votes were recorded for Diaz against 27 for Brett Murray, a motivational speaker and anti-bullying campaigner associated with the “soft Right” faction of Mitchell MP Alex Hawke, and a solitary vote for accountant Mark Jackson. Other high-profile contenders were former Rose Tattoo singer Gary “Angry” Anderson and Hills councillor Yvonne Keane, both of whom withdrew when it became clear Diaz had the numbers. Padding out the original field of nominees were business coach Robert Borg, gym owner Rowan Dickens, senior financial analyst Mathew Marasigan, marketing manager Ben Jackson, Hills councillor Mark Owen Taylor, security supervisor Renata Lusica and, curiously, Josephina Diaz, mother of Jaymes.