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rings around Labor « Previous | |Next »
September 15, 2004

I had always thought that NSW was the ALP state--the jewel in the Labor crown. I also thought that the federal ALP would hold its own there --unlike SA which is sliding away from the ALP. My understanding was NSW was the Labor heartland--hence all that talk about ladders of opportunity and suburban aspirationals. I also thought that those working within the global economy, with their ability to get good jobs and travel were cosmopolitan ALP professionals, were rusted on prosperous Keating types.

Then I read Jennifer Hewitt's piece in the Australian Financial Review (subscription required) entitled 'Labor's Albatross in Lathamland' and realised how out of touch I was. The albatross is the Carr Government, which is very much on the nose--and rightly so. I knew that. The Carr Government is even worse than the Rann Government.

It was what Jennifer said about federal ALP that suprised me. It challenged my image of the global city of Sydney and showed how out of date it was. I will outline her argument as it is not online. Jennifer says:

"The 1996 election that swept John Howard into power dislodged Labor's once form grip on Sydney's outer suburbs---and it shows little evidence of coming back in any one of the new housing estates pushing out Sydney's urban sprawl. Those particular Howard battlers are still battling with Howard in Sydney."

I was suprised to learn that federal Labor only holds 19 seats out of 50 in NSW, despite its history as a Labor heartland. And even more suprised to learn that Hewitt reckons that the common assessment is that ALP has given up any idea of making any big gains. So NSW will be basically a status quo state. It is about limiting the damage---and concentrating on Brisbane and Adelaide?

Jennifer then describes those 19 ALP seats. They appear to be in the middle arc of the inner west and south of Sydney: in the more traditional working class areas that include entrenched poverty, lower skilled migration, older housing stock, unemployment and welfare recepients.

This arch of seats is then contrasted with that of the outer suburban seats of the new housing estates from up on the central coast down through Penrith, Campbell town and Liverpool with their aspirational voters.That is increasingly Liberal territory. And there is a third arch of seats: those who have benefited from the dynamic global economy. This arc runs down the coast the north shore through the CBD and the eastern suburbs out to the airport ---is mainly Liberal territory.

Does that mean the ALP is being squeezed in Sydney town? That it is trying to break out of the squeeze? It would appear that the federal ALP has a Sydney problem. How is it going to fix it?


Is that why the ALP is now going strong on fighting terrorism smashing JI, finding Bin Laden, and doing it all in quicktime? It's their message to the outer suburban seats of the new housing estates?

Jennifer goes on to say that the ALP can make up 5 marginal seats in NSW, though only one is in Sydney town itself--Parramatta, which is held by Ross Cameron. What is crucial though is the Sydney problem: the ALP's defence of the middle arc the middle arc of the inner west and south of Sydney cuts into its appeal to the new outer sububan aspirational voter. It is not proving easy for the ALP to break out of the Liberal circle.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:18 PM | | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (1)

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference rings around Labor:

» Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar from The Road to Surfdom
Gary Sauer-Thompson writes about the difficulty Labor may have winning seats in the outer-suburban areas of Sydney but comes to a less-than compelling conclusion: Is that why the ALP is now going strong on fighting terrorism smashing JI, finding Bin... [Read More]



Labor should gain some seats in NSW as it can't do any worse than it did last election. Parramatta with all the Ross Cameron coverage shouldn't be too difficult, however the rest of the gains will probably be outside of Sydney. From polls I've read Labor is just in front in Richmond (with 15% Greens vote), Dobell on the Central Coast takes only 600 votes to change hands. These are the three I am confident about, also Paterson has a margin just over 1% but is an older demographic. The rural seat of Page also only requires a 2.8% swing. Oh, and Eden-Monaro is 1.7%, which has always fluctuated between Labor and Liberal, changing hands each time there has been a change of government. Not as confident about this one.

I agree with Mumble, most of Western Sydney despite the journalistic cliches is still rusted-on Labor (e.g. as Mumble likes to repeat in Parramatta the booths are about 67:33 Labor). However, if Labor was travelling better it should be winning seats like Lindsey and McArthur, which are mixed electorates, they'll probably pick up swings but can't see that being enough to make them change hands.

If Labor is going to win it needs to pick up 4+ seats in Queensland, 3+ from NSW, 2+ in Vic and hopefully the three marginals in SA and limit the damage in WA, oh and pick up the other NT seat. That would see them fall over the line. On last weeks polling the Poll Bludger has them about 5 seats short, but if there is a bit of debate bounce it might now be a little better. Also Latham probably has some goodies from the surplus for big splashes in health and higher ed. I'm not as optimistic as Chris Sneil, but I still think they are in with a good shout if Latham campaigns well.

You say the ALP will probably gain 5 seats in NSW.

But you do not say what seats the ALP may lose in NSW. One that comes to mind is Greenaway, the heartland of the Hillsong Pentecostal Church.

Nor do you address the effect of seachange in which many older Australians are moving to coastal seats eg., Paterson, Dobell and Richmond on the coast north of Sydney. Aren't these retirees rusted on Howard supporters? Has not Howard assidiously courted the grey voters?

That report in The Australian says that the grey vote is crucial to the Coalition and is the fastest-growing age group among voters. 5.5 million of the 13 million enrolled for this election are over 50. It reports that Coalition support among over-50s has risen six points to 55 per cent and Labor's has fallen two points from 36 per cent in just two weeks.These are big shifts.

Has not the federal ALP's 'Sydney problem' spilled into the regions?

Whatever, it makes Queensland and SA the keys to the ALP's return to power. It would appear that the Coalition is ahead in Queensland, whilst the ALP is ahead in SA.

The Coalition is ahead in Queensland due to its support from over 50s and the regional areas.

Does that mean the ALP is unable to get its target of 5 seats in Queensland?

I wouldn't be so sure about seachangers - I am one that moved to the Central Coast. Many of those that move want to get away from the rat (or should that be rodent) race and care about health, schooling etc as opposed to earning more money.

There are two types of Seachangers - the mid-life crisis with kids still in school and the pensioners who have been moving here for years. The pensioners were the ones so swayed by the Tampa but they are being diluted by the more tolerant.

You are right. Something similar (two types of sechangers) is happening along the southern Fleurieu coast near Adelaide.

But we also have people with young families moving there because the land is cheaper and a house with land is now out of their reach in the city.

I presume this is more far more intense in Sydney, given median house prices are now around $520,000. That is outside the reach of those with incomes around $50,000.

Is not this type of seachanger equivalent to the outer suburban aspirational voter worried about rising interest rates on their big mortgage and getting the kids to a good school?