Electorate analysis: Mount Druitt covers suburbs about 30 kilometres due west of Sydney, from Colyton north to Hassall Grove. The seat was created in 1971, abolished in 1981 and recreated in 1991, and has been held at all times by Labor. Richard Amery has been the member since 1991, having previously held Riverstone. His future at that time was the subject of a dispute between the Left faction, which wished for him to stay in Riverstone after the redistribution cut the margin in half, and his own Right faction, which wanted him to take the secure Mount Druitt and have Riverstone go to Pam Allan, a Left member whose safe seat of Wentworthville had been abolished. This plan ruffled feathers because it put a female sitting member in jeopardy. The situation was defused when Blacktown MP John Aquilina agreed to contest Riverstone and make his own safe seat available to Allan.
Amery became Agriculture Minister with the election of the Carr government in 1995, and emerged over time as a figurehead of the Right sub-faction known as the “Troglodytes”. This group’s eclipse by the rival “Terrigals” worked against him on a number of occasions, at times putting his preselection in doubt. Terrigals member Paul Gibson mounted a challenge to him after his position in his existing seat of Londonderry was weakened when branch stacking charges led to the closure of two branches under his control. Gibson had reportedly been promised a safe seat due to his backing from the powerful National Union of Workers and capacity to raise funds from the hotel industry. The impasse was resolved by a deal which compelled Gibson to settle for his current seat of Blacktown, with Pam Allan returning to her recreated but less safe seat of Wentworthville (the name of which changed to Toongabbie at the 2007 election).
Amery was dumped from the ministry after the 2003 election when he lost the support of Bob Carr, who wished for him to make way for new blood. An attempt to marshall his factional forces in defiance of Carr failed, and he was defeated in the caucus ballot. There was a general sense of surprise when he sought to saddle up again for the coming election in the face of a mass exodus of his fellow veterans, and having done so he was not troubled during preselection. His Liberal opponent is Venus Priest, a local grocery store owner of Filipino background who ran in Chifley at the federal election.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.