Electorate analysis: Heffron is located due south of the city, from Redfern south through Sydenham and Kensington to Sydney Airport and Botany Bay. The seat was created in 1973 in place of the abolished Randwick, a bellwether electorate that had changed hands along with government in 1930, 1932 and 1941. The area became stronger over time for Labor, who have held Heffron throughout its existence. The inaugural member was Laurie Brereton, member for Randwick since 1970, who became a senior front-bencher in the Wran-Unsworth government before entering federal politics in 1990 as member for Kingsford-Smith. He was succeeded in Heffron by his sister Deirdre Grusovin, who had been an upper house member since 1978.
Grusovin went on to lose preselection at the 2003 election after head office imposed an “N40” ballot, an often-abused mechanism designed to give head office power to impose female candidates against resistance from the party’s male-dominated power structures. Laurie Brereton claimed he voted in favour of it on the understanding it was being used for this purpose, but then party secretary Eric Roozendal’s position was that the 64-year-old Grusovin was too old and should make way for a younger candidate. His nominee was Kristina Keneally, a former St Vincent de Paul youth services director who was born, raised and educated in the United States before moving to Australia in 1994. Brad Norington of the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the dispute was considered a “proxy battle” between Brereton and Roozendal, and that it was believed Grusovin was only standing to smooth the path for Brereton’s son Anthony to succeed her.
Grusovin appealed unsuccessfully against the N40 ballot to the national executive, reportedly with the backing of then federal leader Simon Crean. However, Crean was persuaded to back down when Roozendal’s supporters told him it would lead to “trouble on the national conference floor”. As the national executive appeal could not succeed without Crean’s support, Brereton and Grusovin sought a Supreme Court injunction to prevent the preselection from proceeding, but agreed to withdraw it a week later. The N40 ballot was duly held and delivered a 40-27 victory to Keneally, who soon emerged as a hopeful for the ministry. This was realised after the 2007 election with her elevation to Disability Services Minister. She was further promoted to Planning Minister in the wash-up from Nathan Rees’ leadership takeover in September 2008.
Rees’s hold on the leadership was always complicated by his factional alignment with the Left, with the Right being seen to have backed him because it had failed to produce a credible candidate of its own. When a continued souring of the polls throughout 2009 caused his party room to collapse, the faction took a second look at its ministerial ranks and saw in Keneally a chance to refresh the party’s dangerously stale image. In December the faction agreed to back a spill motion and throw its weight behind Keneally over rival contender Frank Sartor. The ensuing party room vote saw Keneally defeat Rees by 47 votes to 21.
The Liberals have endorsed Patrice Pandeleos, a “digital advertising director”. The Greens candidate is Mehreen Faruqi, “a civil/environmental engineer and sustainability expert who has worked in numerous senior roles at universities,consulting firms and in local government”.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.