The Poll Bludger
Margin: Labor 5.9%
Region: Southern Sydney, New South Wales
Outgoing member: Laurie Ferguson (Labor)
In a nutshell: Labor came close to losing Gough Whitlam’s old seat in 2013, but a shift northwards in the latest redistribution has added some extra fat to the margin.
Candidates in ballot paper order
SIGNE LOUISE WESTERBERG
The outer south-western Sydney seat of Werriwa has been held by Labor without interruption since 1934, and is best known for being Gough Whitlam’s seat through a parliamentary career lasting from 1952 to 1978. Labor’s long-secure hold was weakened by successive swings of 8.3% in 2010 and 4.5% in 2013, but a substantial shift northwards in the latest redistribution has boosted the margin from 2.2% to 5.9%. The seat is set to be vacated with the retirement of Laurie Ferguson, who became member in 2010 after serving in the inner west Sydney seat of Reid from 1990 to 2010, and was previously the state member for Granville from 1984 to 1990.
Werriwa has existed in name since federation, but it was originally a rural electorate that encompassed Goulburn and territory further to the west. Labor’s period of control began when Goulburn was removed from the electorate in 1934, leaving the seat concentrated around Wollongong and Campbelltown. It was again substantially redrawn with the enlargement of parliament in 1949, after which it extended along Sydney’s southern fringe from Liverpool to Sutherland Shire, until the latter area was transferred to the new seat of Hughes as post-war development took hold in 1955. Werriwa has since covered shifting territory around the Hume Motorway corridor from Liverpool south-west to Campbelltown, extending on the new boundaries from Lurnea to Ingleburn and Macquarie Fields. The redistribution has added 45,000 voters around Hinchinbrook and Bonnyrigg Heights further to the north, along with 3500 in semi-rural territory to the west of this area from Macarthur. In the south, over 40,000 voters in Ingleburn, Eagle Vale and Minto go to Macarthur, while another 5000 voters in southern Liverpool go to Fowler.
Labor’s Hubert Lazzarini held the seat through its shifting incarnations from 1919 until his death in 1952, outside of a one-term interruption after the Country Party’s victory in the landslide of 1931. It was then held in succession by Gough Whitlam and John Kerin, the latter becoming member at a by-election in March 1978, and proceeding to a ministerial career that was capped by a forgettable stint as Treasurer after Paul Keating’s failed first leadership challenge in June 1991. Kerin was followed in 1994 by the seat’s second Labor leader, Mark Latham, who would eventually quit politics after losing first the October 2004 election, and then the party leadership in January 2005. The resulting by-election was won by Chris Hayes, an official of the Right faction Australian Workers Union.
Laurie Ferguson came to the seat in 2010 after his existing seat of Reid in Sydney’s inner west was effectively merged with the abolished seat of Lowe, rendering his hitherto safe seat potentially loseable. Ferguson was at first determined to be accommodated in Fowler, which was to be vacated by the retirement of Julia Irwin, but a deal was in force reserving it for the locally dominant Right. He instead settled for Werriwa under a deal Gillard was able to reach in the face of opposition from Anthony Albanese and the Left, resulting in Hayes taking Fowler instead. That in turn froze out Ed Husic, national president of the Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union, for whom Fowler had originally been earmarked, but he ended up being accommodated in Chifley after Roger Price announced his retirement.
Ferguson announced he would not seek another term in January, and the ensuing preselection was won without opposition by his own favoured successor, Liverpool councillor Anne Stanley.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.