“Wentworth was once safely Liberal, but a redistribution of its boundaries has injected a larger number of young, gay and green-tinged voters,” The Australian reports today.

Indeed. What once applied to the Bosporus now applies to Bondi Junction. It is a place where one can see the confluence of civilisations. As he gazes out from his Bronte Road office, Malcolm Turnbull must feel as Alexander the Great did before him.

This confluence may wash Turnbull away. The Minister for the Environment has become the highest profile vulnerable Howard Government figure.

“Wentworth is an inner city seat in Sydney’s east, taking in Darlinghurst, Kings Cross, Paddington, Woollahra, Double Bay, Vaucluse, Bondi, Waverley and Bronte,” the Crikey Guide to the 2007 Federal Election explains.

Wentworth is the smallest, and one of the most densely populated and diverse electorates in the country. After living a block and half out of the seat, on the Darlinghurst/Surry Hills border, let me say that the “diverse” part of that may well be the most significant. All life is present here.

While we wait for the Parliamentary Library to crunch the numbers from the last census, Adam Carr from Psephos has prepared a demographic profile of the electorate.

According to Carr, Wentworth has the third highest median weekly family income, the 42nd highest number of persons born in non-English speaking countries, the fourth highest number of persons in professional occupations, the 44th highest number of persons aged 65 and over, one of the lowest numbers of couple families with dependent children – 145 out of 150 seats – the lowest number of dwellings being purchased and the highest numbers of flat, unit or apartment dwellings. And we didn’t even get onto the gay community.

The Liberal Party and its predecessors have held the seat since Federation. Although Labor has never won Wentworth, it seemed to have a chance in 2004 when sitting member Peter King was dumped by the Liberal Party and ran as an independent. King received 18% of the vote, but his preferences favoured the high-profile Turnbull by more than 60%, and he was elected reasonably comfortably.

Last year’s redistribution took parts of Randwick from Wentworth and gave it Darlinghurst, Woolloomooloo and Kings Cross instead. This will improve Labor’s chances, and they have recruited the Mayor of Waverley, human rights lawyer George Newhouse, as their candidate.

Manky monarchists want to topple Turnbull, but without a high-profile independent to siphon off Liberal votes, defeating him will be a bigger task than it perhaps looks.

Turnbull’s small “l” liberalism should see him in good stead in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

As Fred Daly said, when a swing’s on, it’s on. If a Labor tsunami sweeps the country, then Wentworth will fall. Not even the high ground near the ventilation stack for the Bondi sewage outfall will be safe.

But if that wave doesn’t come, Turnbull should hang on. We mentioned Alexander the Great beforehand. It may be better to refer to the Diadochi, the generals who inherited – and lost – his empire.

When – if – John Howard goes, Turnbull could be vital in ensuring history doesn’t repeat.

Peter Fray

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