New South Wales election 2015

Riverstone

Margin: Liberal 20.1%
Region: Western Sydney
Federal: Greenway (92%)/Chifley (8%)

Candidates in ballot paper order

riverstone-lib

riverstone-alp

ALLAN GREEN
Christian Democratic Party

ROB VAIL
Greens

IAN MORRISON
Labor (bottom)

KEVIN CONOLLY
Liberal (top)

KAREN CACCIOTTI
No Land Tax

2011 BOOTH RESULTS MAP

PAST RESULTS

DEMOGRAPHICS

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.

Among the most remarkable results of the 2011 landslide was the 30.2% swing in the north-western Sydney seat of Riverstone, which converted Labor’s 10.0% margin into a Liberal one of 20.2%. The electorate is bounded to the south by the Westlink Motorway and encompasses the suburbs of Glenwood and Quakers Hill immediately to the north, from which it extends northwards through Stanhope Gardens, Kellyville Ridge and Rouse Hill to Riverstone proper. Reflecting the area’s rapid growth, the redistribution has excised the northern end of the electorate, sending nearly 13,000 voters around Bligh Park and Windsor to Hawkesbury, while in the south-west a further 2200 around Dean Park are transferred to Mount Druitt. The changes have had a negligible impact on the Liberal margin.

Prior to 2011, Riverstone had been held by Labor since its creation in 1981, and was for much of that time a focal point of preselection struggles. One such episode followed the cut in parliamentary numbers in 1991, which produced a scramble among Labor MPs for the reduced number of safe seats, and caused the Labor margin in Riverstone to be substantially reduced. The seat’s member at that time was Richard Amery, a figurehead of the Right sub-faction known as the “Troglodytes”, which proposed that he be given a safer berth in neighbouring Mount Druitt. This would leave Riverstone to be contested by Pam Allan of the Left, whose seat of Wentworthville had been abolished. However, the Left argued that Amery should stay put, and Allan be granted the safer seat to fulfil the party’s commitment to affirmative action. The situation was resolved when the Right’s John Aquilina volunteered to contest Riverstone, making his own safe seat of Blacktown available to Allan.

Aquilina served as a minister in the Unsworth government and again during first two terms of the Carr government, but was dropped after the 2003 election. On his retirement at the 2011 election, Aquilina successfully pressed to have lawyer and local party branch president Michael Vassili succeed him, in what was seen as an endeavour to prevent a candidate being imposed by head office. However, this did nothing to improve Labor’s electoral stocks, and Vassili went down to a massive defeat at the hands of Liberal candidate Kevin Conolly, who had run unsuccessfully in 2003 and 2007. Conolly had previously been a Catholic Education Office project officer and high school teacher, and retained preselection with the backing of Right faction powerbroker David Clarke. His principal opponent was Nick Tyrell, a 29-year-old Blacktown councillor who had been approached by Tony Abbott to run in the federal seat of Greenway.

Conolly initially won preselection for the coming election without opposition, but local branches subsequently passed a motion to disendorse him in February 2014. His backers attributed this to “ethnic branch-stacking” orchestrated by Jess Diaz, Blacktown councillor and father of Jaymes Diaz, the twice unsuccessful federal candidate for Greenway. Diaz had initially backed Conolly, but reportedly developed ambitions of his own after failing in his bid to win the Blacktown mayoralty. While Diaz did not proceed with his own nomination, nor did he revert to supporting Conolly, instead backing Bart Bassett in his bid to move to Riverstone after the redistribution weakened his position in his existing seat of Londonderry. However, Bassett was compelled to quit the parliamentary Liberal Party in November after the Independent Commission Against Corruption heard his 2011 campaign may have received an illegal donation from a company owned by former mining magnate Nathan Tinkler. Bassett nonetheless pressed on with his Riverstone nomination, but was thwarted when the Liberal state executive intervened in January to secure the position for Conolly. Other nominees included Erlinder Santos, a lawyer, and Yvonne Keane, a Hills Shire councillor and former television presenter who was said to have been seeking exposure ahead of a run for the federal Greenway preselection.

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

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