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Poll Bludger’s seat of the week: vulnerable Greenway

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 — the first increased the Liberal margin from 0.6% to 11%, and the second created a Labor margin of 5.8%, boosted by a 6.5% swing to Labor at the intervening election.

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%.

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