Latham's Law - On the Western Front

Mark Latham discusses the importance of Western Sydney voters in the upcoming election

Mark Latham
Mon, 27 Jun, 12:00 AM

More than any other part of Australia, Western Sydney reflects the changing nature of the national political contest.

It has been the beneficiary of substantial economic growth and wealth creation over the past 30 years, with the emergence of a new ‘aspirational’ middle class.

These are small business owners, tradies and professional workers who grew up in Labor working class families but have shifted their votes to the Liberals.

For the aspirationals, the ALP’s trade union base and big spending reputation are electoral liabilities.

So too, on the cultural front, Labor’s embrace of prissy, inner-city political correctness is out-of-step with the down-to-earth, larrikin traditions of Western Sydney.

The overall trend has been for a steady increase in the Liberal vote.

An unpopular figure in the region, Bill Shorten is struggling to make inroads with Liberal-held seats and to defend his ALP strongholds.

Here’s a brief guide to the main contests:

Turnbull and Shorten have visited this seat, centred on Campbelltown, more often than any in the country – a sign that internal polling points to a very close contest. An adverse redistribution has reduced the margin of the sitting Liberal Member Russell Matheson (a former independent Mayor of Campbelltown) to 3.3 percent.

Matheson is no superstar but he is liked locally as a down-to-earth, sporty type. Labor has preselected Mike Freelander, a very popular local pediatrician. At the start of the campaign, I thought Freelander would win but some stupid, self-indulgent comments on refugee policy have made his task tougher. Matheson by a whisker ($2.20 William Hill).

Based on Penrith, it’s become the quintessential Western Sydney seat: upwardly mobile and usually won by the party of government. The opinion polls show that Liberal MP Fiona Scott ($1.25 William Hill) still has a comfortable buffer. She’s regarded as hard working and effective, so I wouldn’t expect Lindsay to vote her out after just one term.

Labor’s Emma Husar is a quality candidate but she may need to aim at 2019 to be successful.

While only defending a 1.3 percent margin, Labor’s Julie Owens ($1.12 LuxBet) is a strong, experienced local campaigner. She has a habit of winning against the odds and I expect this election to be no different.

My old seat, where the sitting Labor MP Laurie Ferguson is retiring – leaving behind a 6.5 percent margin. Werriwa is moving steadily away from Labor due to the development of new housing estates.

The ALP candidate, Anne Stanley, is a lacklustre municipal plodder, while the Liberals Ned Mannoun, Mayor of Liverpool, is far more appealing. If Shorten campaigns in Werriwa before polling day, put your money on a Mannoun ($6 William Hill) upset at juicy odds.

An interesting electorate because of what happened last time. In 2013 the Liberals had the candidate-from-hell, Jamie Diaz, yet Labor’s Michelle Rowland only won by 3 percent. While Rowland is a great local MP, she’s against a more polished Liberal opponent this time (Yvonne Keane ($3 Sportsbet) and may struggle. Again, keep an eye on Shorten’s campaign itinerary.

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