Electorate analysis: The town centre of Parramatta is at the far southern end of an electorate that extends west to Wentworthville, east to Ermington and north to Telopea. The electorate has existed without interruption since the establishment of the New South Wales parliament in 1856, and it provided Jack Lang with a home when it was a five-member district in the proportional representation years from 1920 to 1927. It was otherwise a conservative electorate until 1953, having only been won by Labor as a one-member seat in 1930. Since the turning point of 1953 it has only been lost by Labor with the defeat of the Unsworth government in 1988, when John Books defeated Labor incumbent Barry Wilde by 0.5 per cent. Andrew Ziolkowski recovered the seat for Labor in 1991 following a redistribution that reversed the seat’s existing 0.5 per cent Liberal margin.
Ziolkowski died of cancer in April 1994 at the age of just 30, and was succeeded at the ensuing by-election by his widow Gabrielle Harrison. Harrison picked up a 9.5 per cent swing, partly assisted by Liberal candidate Wendy Jones’s assertion that she should have been looking after her grieving family. Harrison was appointed Sports and Recreation Minister when the Carr government came to power, but her political fortunes declined thereafter and she was dumped from the ministry in 1999. Amid talk the Right was gearing to have her replaced, Harrision retired at the 2003 election. Bob Carr hoped she would be succeeded by Parramatta Lord Mayor David Borger, an unsuccessful candidate for the federal seat of Parramatta in 2001, but he reportedly queered the deal by refusing to join the Right. The Right instead used an N40 ballot to install Tanya Gadiel, policy adviser to factional chieftain Michael Costa.
The issue re-emerged before the 2007 election when local Left chieftain Laurie Ferguson hoped Gadiel might make way for Borger by instead contesting Toongabbie, with his union ally Jim Lloyd of the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union to be accommodated by the retirement of Kim Yeadon in Granville. These machinations were thwarted when Morris Iemma enlisted the national executive to resolve preselections in these and two other seats, with the effect that Gadiel stayed put in Parramatta, Borger went to Granville and Toongabbie was reserved for one of Iemma’s staffers, Nathan Rees. Gadiel was one of five MPs Morris Iemma sought to bring into cabinet in the September 2008 reshuffle which provoked the Right faction rebellion which cost him his job, and she ultimately had to settle for the position of Deputy Speaker.
In late 2010 Gadiel was once again fighting for her position, seeking to have the preselection referred to the national executive to save her from the Ferguson-controlled local branches, who together with Eddie Obeid of the Right wanted the seat to go to local councillor Pierre Esber. It thus came as a surprise when she announced she would bow out at the election in early December. The national executive did in fact intervene in the preselection, but did so to smooth the path for Esber. The Liberals have endorsed University of Western Sydney associate dean Geoffrey Lee, who won preselection ahead of Hills Shire councillor Robyn Preston, solicitor Sid Hawach, youth motivational speaker Brett Murphy and NSW Housing Department project consultant Deb Murphy.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.