Electorate analysis: Noted as a Lebanese enclave, the suburb of Lakemba is located about 10 kilometres south-west of the city centre. From here the electorate extends southwards to Peakhurst, east to Clemton Park and west to Punchbowl. The seat was held from 1995 to 1999 by Tony Stewart, who then moved to Bankstown in the wake of the Carr government’s stimulating decision to cut the Legislative Assembly from 99 members 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 seat of Strathfield after his own seat of Ashfield was abolished.
Morris Iemma had entered parliament at the age of 29 as the member for Hurstville, where he defeated Liberal member Phil White. Iemma progressed from parliamentary secretary after the 1995 election to the ministry after the 1999 election, emerging as Health Minister after 2003. When Carr retired in July 2005 it was initially thought that Smithfield MP and Police Minister Carl Scully was the front-runner, but party hard-heads subsequently concluded he was unelectable, largely on account of his role as Transport Minister when a series of train accidents occurred. Scully was forced to withdraw after former supporters including Fairfield MP Joe Tripodi fell in behind Iemma, who was elected unopposed. Iemma led the party to a fourth election victory in 2007, but he lost the support of his faction after attempting to impose a cabinet reshuffle in September 2008. After being dumped as Premier in favour of Nathan Rees he headed for the parliamentary exit, initiating one of four by-elections held on October 18.
Labor’s new candidate was Rob Furolo, who became the popularly elected mayor of Canterbury in 2004 with 55 per cent of the vote. He appeared not to face serious opposition in his bid for preselection. The 13.5 per cent swing suffered by Furolo was gigantic by normal standards, but very modest under the circumstances on the same day Labor copped swings of 21.8 per cent in Cabramatta and 23.1 per cent in Ryde, losing the latter seat to the Liberals. In Lakemba Furolo emerged with a still handsome margin of 20.5 per cent. The Liberals have again endorsed their candidate from the by-election, Canterbury councillor Michael Hawatt.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.