Margin: Labor 0.9%
Location: Western Sydney, New South Wales
In a nutshell: Labor’s success in retaining Greenway in the face of a Sydney-wide backlash at the 2010 election prompted much soul-searching from a Liberal Party which had been tardy in preselecting its candidate. This time around it endorsed the same candidate well ahead of time – for better or worse.
The candidates (ballot paper order)
JODIE CAMILLE WOOTTON
ANTHONY GINO BELCASTRO
The most marginal of Labor’s Sydney seats, Greenway extends 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, respectively in Liberal and Labor’s favour. The first increased the Liberal margin from 0.6% and 11.0%, giving the Liberals a comfortable buffer against the 2007 election swing. The second transformed Greenway into a notionally Labor seat with a margin of 5.8%, by restoring the suburbs south of the M7 which had been accommodated in the interim by Parramatta and Chifley and transferring the Liberal-voting Hawkesbury area at Sydney’s fringe to Macquarie. The scale of the changes was such that redrawn Greenway had more voters from Parramatta than the electorate as previously constituted. Labor was left with just enough fat on their margin to survive the Sydney-wide swing against them in 2010.
Greenway was created in 1984 and held for Labor by margins near or beyond the 10% mark until 1996, when inaugural member Russell Gorman was succeeded by Frank Mossfield. Mossfield retired after a low-profile parliamentary career in 2004, having suffered a 6.5% swing that reduced his seat to the marginal zone in 2001. He was succeeded as Labor candidate in 2004 by Ed Husic, a spokesman for Integral Energy and 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 talk 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. In what at first seemed a secure new seat for the party, Labor endorsed former Blacktown councillor Michelle Rowland. 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 often 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%.
For the second election running the Liberals will be represented by Jaymes Diaz, a Blacktown immigration lawyer of Filipino extraction. Diaz won a preselection ballot held in February with support from the Christian Right faction associated with state upper house MP David Clarke, having reportedly 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 negate support that Diaz’s recruitment activities had built up in party branches. Among those not impressed by his credentials was Tony Abbott, who reportedly approached Baulkham Hills MP David Elliott and state government policy adviser Nick Tyrell to stand against him.
In the event the matter was determined through a normal local party ballot, the result of which confirmed Diaz’s 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 who withdrew when it became clear Diaz had the numbers were Gary “Angry” Anderson, the Rose Tattoo singer now running for the Nationals in Throsby, and Yvonne Keane, a Hills councillor and television presenter whose gigs have included Today Tonight and Hot Property. Padding out the original field of nominees were business coach Robert Borg, gym owner Rowan Dickens, financial analyst Mathew Marasigan, marketing manager Ben Jackson, Hills councillor Mark Owen Taylor, security supervisor Renata Lusica and, curiously, Josephina Diaz, mother of Jaymes.
Jaymes Diaz was a big hit on social media over the early part of the campaign after a Ten Network reporter quizzed him about the content of his party’s six-point plan to “stop the boats”. Diaz could manage only one, offering only the clumsiest of platitudes in place of the other five. He was eventually put out of his misery when a minder intervened to bring the interview to a close. The Sydney Morning Herald later observed a “systemic” silence among Liberal candidates in Sydney, “with multiple examples emerging of candidates pulling out of events or interviews”. The low profile assumed by Diaz was particularly noted, after he failed to show for a candidates forum in Blacktown.
Late in the second week of the campaign, a JWS Research poll with a sample of approximately 600 was one of the few such polls to emerge at the time showing Labor in a non-disastrous position. It had Michelle Rowland leading Jaymes Diaz by 51-49 on two-party preferred, from primary votes of 44% for Rowland against 46% for Diaz. A Galaxy automated phone poll of about 575 respondents on August 20 had the Liberals leading 51-49, likewise showing an unusually low swing in comparison with similar polling elsewhere in Sydney. Greenway and the four other most marginal seats in Sydney were the subject of a Newspoll survey of 800 respondents conducted from August 23-28, which pointed to a collective 9% swing.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.