Electoral Form Guide: Werriwa
Margin: Labor 15.0%
Location: Outer South-Western Sydney
Outgoing member: Chris Hayes (Labor)
In a nutshell: The electorate of Gough Whitlam and Mark Latham has been in Labor hands since 1934, although its location has varied dramatically over time. A redistribution-initiated game of musical chairs will see it contested for Labor by Reid MP Laurie Ferguson, with sitting member Chris Hayes to be accommodated in Fowler.
Electorate analysis: The outer south-western seat of Werriwa extends from Liverpool South in the area nearest the city, through Edmondson Park and Ingleburn to Minto and Eagle Vale. The redistribution has added 1500 voters in an area around Austral from Fowler in the north, and transferred 3800 around Blair Athol in the south to Macarthur. This is a relatively mild set of changes by the historical standards of a seat which began life at federation around Goulburn, 200 kilometres to the south-west of Sydney. It was changed fundamentally by the redistributions of 1934, which shifted it east to the Illawarra, 1949, when it moved north as far as the Sutherland Shire, and 1955, which placed it in the western outskirts at Cabramatta and Liverpool. Labor’s Hubert Lazzarini followed his shifting electorate from 1919 until his death in 1952, dropping it to the Country Party for one term in 1931. Lazzarini was succeeded by Gough Whitlam, whose life story does not need reiterating here. John Kerin became member in 1978 when Whitlam quit in the wake of the 1977 election disaster, going on to serve a forgettable stint as Treasurer when Paul Keating went to the back-bench in the wake of his first failed leadership challenge in 1991.
Kerin was followed in 1994 by the seat’s second Labor leader, Mark Latham. Although Labor’s hold on the seat was never endangered, Latham went through a wild ride in his time here in more ways than one: the seat swung 9.3 per cent to the Liberals in 1996, 6.5 per cent to Labor in 4.8 per cent to Liberal in 2001. Latham was also disrupted by the redistribution ahead of the 2001 election, when his strongest party branches were removed from the electorate. His factional enemies, who were apparently not in short supply, argued he should instead be made to try his luck in marginal Macarthur. Latham quit politics in January 2005, and was succeeded at a by-election by Chris Hayes, an official of the Australian Workers Union, who easily retained the seat in the absence of a Liberal candidate. Hayes will move to Fowler at the coming election and be replaced in Werriwa by Laurie Ferguson, currently the member for Reid.
The abolition of the safe Western Sydney seat of Reid caused headaches for Labor due to the determination of its incumbent, Laurie Ferguson, to be accommodated elsewhere. Ferguson was at first keen on Fowler, but a deal was in force reserving the seat for the Right, which also dominated local branches. He was instead made to settle for Werriwa, which at first looked set to displace Hayes to highly marginal Macarthur. However, the retirement of Hayes’s Right faction colleague Julia Irwin in Fowler provided him with an immensely more attractive safety net, and also allowed local favourite Nick Bleasdale to again contest Macarthur, where he narrowly fell short after a double-digit swing in 2007.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.