Fowler covers an area of Labor’s western Sydney heartland from Lansvale, Liverpool and Cabramatta in the east, through Hinchinbrook and Cecil Hills to undeveloped territory beyond the Westlink. The electorate has the second-highest number of non-English speakers of any electorate in the country, ranking in the top 10 for people of Chinese, Vietnamese, Serbian and Croatian extraction.
The redistribution ahead of the 2010 election halved its geographic size by exchanging semi-rural territory around Badgerys Creek for urban areas around Liverpool and Lansvale (largely reversing changes made before the 2004 election), boosting the Labor margin by 4.5% and making it Labor’s third safest seat in notional terms. It then proceeded to swing more heavily against Labor than any other seat in the country, slashing the margin 22.6% to 8.8% — the first time Labor’s margin had fallen to single figures since the seat’s creation.
Fowler was created with the expansion of Parliament in 1984 and held first by Ted Grace until 1998 and then by Julia Irwin until 2010, when she retired. In doing so she resolved a headache for the ALP, which had been absorbed by a game of musical chairs resulting from the effective abolition of Laurie Ferguson’s seat of Reid.
Ferguson was at first determined to be accommodated in Fowler, but a deal was in force reserving the seat for a Right faction, which was also dominant in local branches. He was instead made to settle for Werriwa, displacing Chris Hayes to highly marginal Macarthur.
However, Irwin’s departure gave Hayes, a fellow member of the Right, an immensely more attractive safety net. The Liberal candidate is Andrew Nguyen (a name he shares with the LNP candidate for Oxley in Queensland), a former Fairfield councillor and long-standing figure in Cabramatta’s Vietnamese community.