Macarthur – Australia 2013

LIB 3.0%

Incumbent MP
Russell Matheson, since 2010.

Geography
Macarthur lies on the southwestern fringe of Sydney. It covers southern suburbs of Campbelltown LGA and all of Camden LGA. It also covers parts of Wollondilly LGA, particularly including the towns of Douglas Park and Appin.

In the north of the seat it covers the towns of Badgerys Creek, Bringelly, Warragamba and Silverdale in Penrith, Liverpool and Wollondilly LGAs.

History
Macarthur was first created at the 1949 election, and has moved around southwestern Sydney, the southern highlands and the Illawarra over the last sixty years. The seat was a bellwether seat from 1949 until 2007, when the Liberals managed to hold on to the seat.

The seat was held from 1949 until 1972 by Jeff Bate of the Liberal Party, who became an independent in 1972 after losing preselection, before losing to the ALP’s John Kerin. Kerin held the seat until 1975. He later won the neighbouring seat of Werriwa in a 1978 by-election following the retirement of Gough Whitlam and served as a minister in the Hawke government, including a brief term as Treasurer following Paul Keating’s move to the backbench.

Michael Baume won the seat for the Liberal Party in 1975 and held the seat until the 1983 election, when he too was defeated. Baume returned to politics as a Senator following the 1984 election. He was defeated in 1983 by the ALP’s Colin Hollis, who transferred to the Illawarra seat of Throsby in 1984 following the expansion of the House of Representatives.

Hollis was succeeded in 1984 by Stephen Martin, who transferred to the seat of Cunningham in 1993 following a redistribution which presumably shifted Macarthur out of the Illawarra, which is now covered by Cunningham and Throsby. Martin went on to serve as Speaker during the final term of the Keating government and his 2002 retirement triggered the Cunningham by-election, which was won by the Greens. Chris Haviland held the seat for one term before he was defeated for Labor preselection in 1996 and retirement.

The new Labor candidate was defeated by former Liberal premier John Fahey, who had previously been the state member for Southern Highlands before his government was defeated in 1995. Fahey served as Finance Minister in the first two terms of the Howard government.

A 2001 redistribution saw Macarthur move out of the Southern Highlands and take in parts of southern Campbelltown, which had previously been included in Werriwa. This gave the ALP a notional majority in the seat, and the party nominated recurrent Mayor of Campbelltown Meg Oates. Fahey originally planned to transfer to the seat of Hume, which now covered his heartland territory around Bowral and Moss Vale, although he eventually retired at the 2001 election due to health problems.

The Liberal Party eventually preselected ultramarathon runner and charity fundraiser Pat Farmer, a personal favourite of John Howard, and he managed to win the seat with a swing to the Liberal Party. The 2004 election saw Farmer solidify his hold on the seat, holding the seat with a 9.5% margin.

In the lead-up to the 2007 election, Macarthur was no longer considered a marginal seat, with a favourable redistribution increasing Farmer’s margin to over 11%, and it seemed likely the seat could be held by an Opposition MP for the first time. The ALP preselected Campbelltown builder Nick Bleasdale early. Bleasdale had no previous electoral experience and won the seat with no apparent opposition from the plethora of Labor figures in Campbelltown and Camden.

Despite the conventional wisdom that Farmer was highly popular and had solidified his hold on the seat, Bleasdale’s campaign was ramped up and Kevin Rudd made a number of visits to the seat. On election night the ALP gained a swing of over 10%, and the seat was considered too close to call. Farmer eventually held on over Bleasdale by 1108 votes.

Farmer’s response to the result didn’t endear him to anyone in the seat, lashing at the supposed ingratitude of local voters for delivering him one of the most severe swings in the country. He then proceeded to move his familyaway from Camden to the north shore suburb of Mosman in January 2008, which provoked local Liberal Party figures to condemn him and threaten his future preselection.

The redistribution prior to the 2010 election made Macarthur a notional Labor seat. Farmer was defeated for Liberal preselection by former Campbelltown mayor Russell Matheson. Matheson defeated Bleasdale with a 3.5% swing to the Liberal Party.

Candidates

  • Michael Williams (Katter’s Australian Party)
  • Russell Matheson (Liberal)
  • Sarah Ramsay (Christian Democratic Party)
  • Rob Grosche (Palmer United Party)
  • Ian Fulton (Labor)
  • Patrick Darley-Jones (Greens)

Assessment
Macarthur has been a longstanding marginal seat, and was a bellwether seat from 1949 until 2007. At the 2007 and 2010 elections Labor has come close to winning the seat but hasn’t managed it.

Matheson will benefit from a new personal vote that was absent in 2010. The seat could be vulnerable if there is a swing to the ALP in New South Wales.

2010 result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Russell Matheson LIB 37,069 47.40 +1.79
Nick Bleasdale ALP 30,151 38.55 -6.86
Jessica Di Blasio GRN 4,347 5.56 +1.29
Kate McCulloch ON 2,338 2.99 +2.99
Grant Herbert FF 1,757 2.25 +0.57
Nolene Norsworthy CDP 1,377 1.75 -0.15
Clinton Mead DEM 652 0.83 +0.14

2010 two-candidate-preferred result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Russell Matheson LIB 41,462 53.02 +3.53
Nick Bleasdale ALP 36,741 46.98 -3.53

 

Polling booths in Macarthur at the 2010 federal election. Campbelltown in blue, Ambarvale-Bradbury in purple, South in orange, Camden East in yellow, Camden west in green, North in red.

Booth breakdown
Macarthur covers parts of Campbelltown, Camden, Wollondilly, Liverpool and Penrith councils, with most of the population in Campbelltown and Camden.

The two booths in the southern parts of Wollondilly have been grouped as ‘South’. Booths in Liverpool, Penrith and northern Wollondilly councils have been grouped as ‘North’.

Booths in Campbelltown council have been divided between Ambarvale-Bradbury and Campbelltown. Booths in Camden council have been divided into east and west. Camden West covers the old town of Camden while Camden East covers newer suburbs including Narellan and Mount Annan.

The Liberal Party won a majority in four of six areas: around 55% in Camden East and the South, and 63-65% in Camden West and the North. The ALP polled 53-56% in Campbelltown and Ambarvale-Bradbury.

Voter group GRN % LIB 2PP % Total votes % of votes
Camden East 4.43 55.49 16,504 21.10
Ambarvale-Bradbury 5.89 46.70 16,202 20.72
Campbelltown 5.84 44.49 14,339 18.34
Camden West 5.78 63.35 8,549 10.93
North 4.09 64.50 6,698 8.65
South 5.85 55.65 1,470 1.88
Other votes 6.72 54.05 14,441 18.47

Two-party-preferred votes in Macarthur at the 2010 federal election.

Two-party-preferred votes in the Campbelltown part of Macarthur at the 2010 federal election.