Electorate analysis: The electorate of Bankstown is centred 15 kilometres west of the Sydney city centre, extending from Bankstown itself west to Bass Hill and east to Punchbowl. It has been held by Labor since its creation in 1927, the inaugural member being James McGirr, Premier from 1947 to 1952. Bankstown has been held since 1999 by Labor’s Tony Stewart, who entered parliament as member for Lakemba in 1995. His change of electorates followed a complicated round of factional brawling brought on by the Carr government’s dangerous decision to cut Legislative Assembly numbers from 99 to 93. This provoked a branch stacking war between the two rival Right sub-factions, Stewart’s “Troglodytes” and the opposing “Terrigals”, as members sought to shore up their strength in preparation for the redistribution. A deal was eventually struck in which Stewart replaced the retiring Shedden and Iemma replaced Stewart in Lakemba, part of a broader arrangement in which Police Minister Paul Whelan was forced to contest the Liberal-held seat of Strathfield after his own seat of Ashfield was abolished.
During the course of his parliamentary career Stewart suffered two arson attacks on his campaign office in the lead-up to the 1999 election, and the firing of seven shots into a Lakemba house which police believed were intended for one of his supporters. The Sydney Morning Herald reported at the time that Stewart had “crafted a profile as a no-nonsense anti-gang and anti-drugs crusader and vocal supporter of zero-tolerance policing policies”. His parliamentary CV is rather less interesting; he became a parliamentary secretary after the 1999 election, serving in the police and utilities portfolios until September 2006. He was then compelled to stand aside after losing his drivers’ licence for a third time after blowing 0.06 at a breath test.
Stewart announced in late 2010 that he would not seek another term, and he will be succeeded as Labor candidate by local mayor Tania Mihailuk. The Liberal candidate is Bill Chahine, who is Lebanese descent but is described by the party’s website only as a “project manager”. Labor has been targeting Chahine over an apartment block owned by Chahine and his father, with the Sun-Herald reporting the project would benefit from an intersection upgrade for which he has been campaigning. The Sun-Herald also reported Tony Stewart was considering running as an independent, although this has not transpired.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.