Margin: Labor 12.2%
Location: Western Sydney, New South Wales
In a nutshell: Paul Keating’s old seat is now held for Labor by Jason Clare, whose rapid political progress hit a speed bump when he was dropped from cabinet after Kevin Rudd’s return.
The candidates (ballot paper order)
The western Sydney seat of Blaxland has been held by Labor without interruption since its creation in 1949, and provided Paul Keating with a seat throughout a parliamentary career lasting from 1969 to 1996. The electorate currently extends from Bankstown in the south through Bass Hill and Regents Park to Guildford in the north. The area is marked by a strong Arabic presence, especially around Guildford, together with a large Turkish community around Auburn and concentrations of Chinese and Vietnamese at Fairfield East and Regents Park. The two strongest areas for the Liberals, Woodpark and Guildford West in the electorate’s north-western corner and Bass Hill and Georges Hall in the south, are middle-income and contain the highest proportion of English speakers. The abolition of a neighbouring electorate to the north caused the electorate to be substantially redrawn at the 2010 election, adding 24,000 of the abolished electorate’s voters around Auburn South together with 14,000 at Bankstown in the south (which had been removed from the electorate in the 2007 redistribution). Transferred out of the electorate were 20,000 voters around Cabramatta to the west and 18,000 around Greenacre to the south.
Blaxland’s greatest moment of electoral interest came with its inauguration at the 1949 election, when Jack Lang attempted to move to the new seat after winning Reid as a Labor renegade in 1946. He failed, and the seat has since been won for Labor by margins of never less than 8.8%. James Harrison held the seat for the 20 years before the arrival of Paul Keating, who was succeeded at a 1996 by-election by Michael Hatton. Hatton’s career proved rather less illustrious than his predecessor’s, and he was dumped by the party’s national executive ahead of the 2007 election. The ensuing preselection was won by the Right-backed Jason Clare, a Transurban executive and former adviser to NSW Premier Bob Carr, who prevailed over constitutional law expert George Williams and Bankstown mayor Tania Mihailuk. Clare suffered what by Sydney standards was a modest 4.4% swing at the 2010 election, reducing the margin to 12.2%. The electorate’s five corresponding state electorates swung by between 13.8% and 20.3% at the state election the following March, with Granville and East Hills falling to the Liberals and Bankstown, Auburn and Fairfield remaining with Labor.
Jason Clare won promotion to parliamentary secretary in 2009, and then to the outer ministry after the 2010 election in the defence materiel portfolio. He shifted to home affairs and justice in December 2011, further recovering defence materiel after Kevin Rudd’s failed leadership bid the following February. He was promoted to cabinet as cabinet secretary in the February 2013 reshuffle which followed the retirement announcements of Nicola Roxon and Chris Evans, again trading in defence materiel while maintaining home affairs and justice. Clare was a late convert to the Kevin Rudd cause ahead of his successful leadership challenge in late June, but was nonetheless dumped from cabinet in the ensuing reshuffle. Rudd reportedly considered Clare had over-egged the drugs in sport issue when he famously spoke of the blackest day in sport upon the release of an Australian Crime Commission report into the matter in February.
The Liberal candidate in Blaxland is Anthony Khouri, a local businessman of Lebanese extraction who together with his brothers founded custom-made luxury car manufacturer Bufori.
A ReachTEL poll with a sample of approximately 600 appeared at the end of the second week of the campaigning showing Jason Clare hanging on in the face of a 10% swing by 52-48 on two-party preferred.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.