Electorate analysis: Created in the redistribution which accompanied the cut in parliamentary numbers at the 1999 election, the safe Liberal seat of Epping covers suburbs from Eastwood and Epping north through Cheltenham to Westleigh, about 20 kilometres to the north-west of the city. The inaugural member was Andrew Tink, who had been the member for Eastwood since 1988. Tink’s retirement announcement in 2006 initiated a spectacular preselection stoush involving eight candidates, from which there were two clear front-runners: Pru Goward, Sex Discrimination Commissioner, former ABC journalist and confidant of the Prime Minister, and Greg Smith, the New South Wales deputy director of public prosecutions. Also in the mix were Ben Franklin, a senior adviser to Peter Debnam with some moderate backing, and Hornsby mayor Nick Berman, who shifted his gaze here after testing the waters against Judy Hopwood in Hornsby. The contest opened yet another front in the war between the state party’s Left and Right, the former mostly backing the pro-choice Goward and the latter supporting Smith, who had been president of the state’s Right to Life Association. Public endorsements for Goward were forthcoming from Alan Jones, Liberal federal director Lynton Crosby and John Howard’s former chief-of-staff Grahame Morris though not from Howard himself, contrary to a claim Goward reportedly made to preselectors. Smith won public backing from federal Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews.
As the manoeuvring intensified, Goward’s supporters loudly complained that Smith was the beneficiary of Right faction branch stacking among members of the Lebanese Maronite community. Former federal leader John Hewson claimed the Cherrybrook branch had experienced a membership increase from something like 11 to about 191, which was flatly denied by party state director Graham Jaeschke. Smith ultimately won an easy victory with 61 of the 120 votes against 32 for Goward. Fifteen votes were recorded for high-profile Ku-ring-gai councillor Adrienne Ryan, the ex-wife of former police commissioner Peter Ryan and a long-term preselection aspirant. Immediately after learning of her defeat, Goward was informed of Peta Seaton’s retirement and the consequent vacancy in Goulburn, which unlike Epping is located near her home in Yass. Smith meanwhile had no trouble retaining Epping for the Liberals at the election, and was immediately elevated to a senior position as Shadow Attorney-General and Justice Minister.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.