Margin: Labor 3.7% versus Greens
Region: Inner Western Sydney
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Electorate analysis: Balmain is located due west of the city centre, from Glebe west to Haberfield and north into the Balmain peninsula. Its name was changed from Port Jackson at the 2007 election due to a shift westwards, which transferred the city centre to the electorate’s eastern neighbour – the name of which was changed from Bligh to Sydney. Port Jackson was itself created in 1991 by a merger of Balmain, then held by swimming legend Dawn Fraser, and McKell, won for Labor in 1988 by Sandra Nori. Fraser and Nori both contested the new seat, and Nori won easily with 50.7 per cent of the primary vote to Fraser’s 18.9 per cent.
Nori was succeeded in 2007 by Verity Firth, deputy lord mayor and former Slater & Gordon lawyer. Firth won promotion to Education Minister when Nathan Rees replaced Morris Iemma as Premier in September 2008. In February she was in the news after her husband’s arrest for buying an ecstasy tablet, followed by an excruciating experience before the media in which she repeatedly refused to say whether she had ever taken the drug herself.
The Greens first emerged as a threat in Balmain in 2003, when Leichhardt councillor Jamie Parker polled well clear of the Liberals on 28.9 per cent, finishing with 42.7 per cent after preferences. A further 3.2 per cent was shaved from the margin by another Leichhardt councillor, Rochelle Porteous, although there was little change on the primary vote. They are again running at the coming election with Parker, who is now the mayor. The Liberal candidate is Risk Consulting Company principal James Falk, who won preselection over Leichhardt councillor Vera-Ann Hannaford.
On the day before the closure of nominations, former Leichhardt mayor Maire Sheehan announced she would contest the seat as an independent. This was widely interpreted as good news for Firth owing to her potential to split the anti-Labor vote. In 2004 Sheehan sided with Liberal and Labor councillors to deprive Jamie Parker of the mayoralty, which he would not obtain for another four years.
In the second last week of the campaign, Imre Salusinszky of The Australian reported Labor strategists had virtually written off Balmain while still holding out hope of holding off the Greens challenge in Marrickville. Liberal sources, however, believed the opposite to be the case.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.