Werriwa – Australia 2013

ALP 6.8%

Incumbent MP
Laurie Ferguson, since 2010. Previously state Member for Granville 1984-1990, Member for Reid 1990-2010.

South-western Sydney. Werriwa covers northern parts of the City of Campbelltown and western parts of the City of Liverpool, as well as a small part of Camden council. Key suburbs include Casula, Glenfield, Macquarie Fields, Ingleburn, Minto, St Andrews, Hoxton Park, Prestons, Rossmore and Austral.

Werriwa is an original federation electorate, named after an indigenous name for Lake George, near the ACT. The seat originally covered parts of southern NSW including what became northern parts of the ACT. It gradually shifted northeast to the Illawarra, eventually reaching the Liverpool-Campbelltown area. The seat has been a safe Labor seat since the 1930s, and has been held by a number of prominent Labor figures, including a Prime Minister, a Treasurer and a Leader of the Opposition. The seat has seen a record number of five federal by-elections, which have all seen Labor retain the seat, in 1912, 1952, 1978, 1994 and 2005.

The seat was first won by Alfred Conroy of the Free Trade Party in 1901. Conroy was defeated by David Hall (ALP) in 1906. Hall was re-elected in 1910, but resigned in 1912 to return to state politics. Hall served as Minister for Justice then Attorney-General from 1912 to 1920. Hall was expelled from the ALP in 1916 for supporting conscription, along with Premier William Holman.

Werriwa was won by the ALP’s Benjamin Bennett at the 1912 by-election, but retired at the 1913 election, when Conroy was re-elected for the Liberal Party. John Lynch gained the seat back from Conroy in 1914, and left the ALP in 1916 over conscription, becoming a Nationalist.

Lynch was re-elected as a Nationalist in 1917 but lost the seat to the ALP’s Hubert Lazzarini in 1919. Werriwa began to strongly shift from the Southern Highlands into the Illawarra region at the 1922 redistribution, and over the next thirty years Lazzarini saw the seat shift into the Liverpool district and eventually lose the Illawarra.

Lazzarini followed NSW Premier Jack Lang out of the ALP in 1931, and was one of the Labor splitters who brought down the Scullin government, and lost Werriwa to Country Party candidate Walter McNicoll at that year’s election.

Lazzarini regained Werriwa as a Lang Labor candidate in 1934, and returned to the ALP in 1936. Lazzarini served as a minister in the Curtin government and the first Chifley ministry in the 1940s, and held the seat until his death in 1952.

The 1952 by-election was won by ALP candidate Gough Whitlam. Whitlam ascended to the leadership of the Labor Party in 1967 and was elected Prime Minister in 1972. Whitlam was Prime Minister for three years, losing the 1975 election following the dismissal of his government. He remained Leader of the Opposition and led the ALP into the 1977 election, retiring in 1978.

The 1978 by-election was won by John Kerin, who had previously held the neighbouring seat of Macarthur from 1972 until his defeat in 1975. Kerin served as a minister for the entirety of the Hawke government, rising to the position of Treasurer after Paul Keating moved to the backbench in 1991, but a troubled period as Treasurer saw him move to the backbench just before Keating became Prime Minister, and he retired in 1994.

The 1994 by-election was won by Mayor of Liverpool and Whitlam protege Mark Latham. Latham quickly rose to the ALP frontbench following their 1996 election defeat, although he left the frontbench after the 1998 election because of conflicts with ALP leader Kim Beazley.

Latham returned to the frontbench following the 2001 election, when Simon Crean succeeded Kim Beazley as Leader of the Opposition, rising to the position of Shadow Treasurer before Crean resigned as Leader, and Latham was narrowly elected as Labor leader in December 2003.

Latham led the ALP to a defeat at the 2004 election and resigned in early 2005 as both Labor leader and Member for Werriwa. The ensuing by-election (at which the author stood as a candidate for the Greens) saw ALP candidate Chris Hayes safely elected, and he won re-election in 2007.

The 2010 redistribution saw the seat of Reid effectively abolished in its existing form, and this triggered a reshuffling of Labor MPs in Western Sydney. Laurie Ferguson moved from Reid to Werriwa. Hayes shifted north to Fowler.

Ferguson had been a state MP from 1984 to 1990 and had already served twenty years in federal Parliament when he shifted to Werriwa.

Hayes and Ferguson were both re-elected in their new seats, with Ferguson being hit by a large 8.3% swing.


  • John Ramsay (Christian Democratic Party)
  • Michael Byrne (Democratic Labour Party)
  • Kent Johns (Liberal)
  • Marella Harris (One Nation)
  • Laurie Ferguson (Labor)
  • Daniel Griffiths (Greens)
  • Katryna Thirup (Palmer United Party)
  • Kerryn Ball (Katter’s Australian Party)

Werriwa has traditionally been considered safe territory for Labor, but in current circumstances is considered vulnerable, thanks to a large swing in 2010 and poor performance by Labor in Western Sydney at recent state and local elections. Ferguson should benefit from more familiarity with the south-west compared to 2010, but the 6.8% margin is certainly vulnerable to the Liberal Party. If Labor lost Werriwa it would be a devastating result.

2010 result

Laurie FergusonALP36,58248.57-10.13
Sam EskarosLIB29,16538.72+8.33
Lauren MooreGRN9,56712.70+8.87

2010 two-candidate-preferred result

Laurie FergusonALP42,74056.75-8.32
Sam EskarosLIB32,57443.25+8.32
Polling places in Werriwa at the 2010 federal election. Hoxton-Rossmore in orange, Ingleburn-Glenfield in blue, Liverpool-Prestons in green, Minto-St Andrews in yellow. Click to enlarge.
Polling places in Werriwa at the 2010 federal election. Hoxton-Rossmore in orange, Ingleburn-Glenfield in blue, Liverpool-Prestons in green, Minto-St Andrews in yellow. Click to enlarge.

Booth breakdown
Booths have been divided into four areas. Two of these areas are totally contained in the City of Campbelltown, while the other two are predominantly in the City of Liverpool along with two polling places at the northern end of Camden Council. From north to south these are Hoxton-Rossmore, Liverpool-Prestons, Ingleburn-Glenfield and Minto-St Andrews.

The ALP won a majority in all four areas, varying from 50.8% in Hoxton-Rossmore to 59.4% in Minto-St Andrews.

The Greens vote varied from 13.3% in Minto-St Andrews to 10.1% in Hoxton-Rossmore.

Voter groupGRN %ALP 2PP %Total votes% of votes
Minto-St Andrews13.2559.3617,96623.85
Other votes14.2854.4314,28918.97
Two-party-preferred votes in Werriwa at the 2010 federal election.
Two-party-preferred votes in Werriwa at the 2010 federal election.
Greens primary votes in Werriwa at the 2010 federal election.
Greens primary votes in Werriwa at the 2010 federal election.


  1. Oh, let that not be true. The seat that Whitlam, Kerin and Latham, all Labor legends, have held falling to the Liberal Party? I struggle to grasp that concept.

    Sadly, though, all the indications post-2010, is that this seat is trending Liberal. Part of the reason that Labor will lose Werriwa is due to the fact that Laurie Ferguson is not a local, not to mention the myriad of issues that have plagued the Labor Party.

  2. I am sorry to say Laurie may lose this as it looks like the swing in NSW will be larger than other states such as Victoria and South Australia.

    Laurie even by backing Kevin Rudd, there maybe some soft spots for that undertaking by him, BUT NSW Labor is on the “nose”.

    Lib gain in September but by a small margin

  3. If Labor were to lose Werriwa, that would be a cumulative swing of over 15% over two elections.

    2010 was very bad circumstances for Laurie Ferguson: the loss of Hayes’ personal vote and no personal vote for Ferguson. While I expect more of a swing against him I think it’s more likely than not that he holds on.

    Remember Macquarie Fields (which covers the centre of Werriwa) swung by much less than neighbouring seats in the 2011 state landslide.

  4. Ben, I agree with the thoughts/concept, but the recent Reachtel poll showing 30.3% primary ALP (18% primary loss) vs 51.9% primary Lib (13% primary gain) sticks in my mind notwithstanding the probably for a high MoE. If anything since then, the major published polling has drifted to the Coalition. I wouldn’t totally dismiss this Reachtel poll out of hand as it is consistent with other polls in west and south-west Sydney showing on average 15% swings on primary vote against the ALP (both published and internal polls).

    I think it is not unreasonable to expect seats to be lost to Labor that have never been lost before in some regions. This is possibly one such region. There is some time remaining, but is it a case that voters have now made up their mind? I don’t have the answer.

  5. Money would have to be on the Liberal candidate Kent Johns winning this seat. Although Labor retained Macquarie Fields at the 2011 NSW State Election, they did so with a significantly reduced margain. I think Labor’s Laurie Ferguson isn’t overly popular in his electorate and will have a much tougher time in 2013 than he did in 2010.

  6. Before I was posted to 5RAR which was located in this electorate in the late 1960’sand 1970’s I was told that the local MP Gough Whitlam was invited to a Officers’ Mess formal dining-in night which he attended. The CO of 5RAR was Kevin Newman who later was posted to Tasmania and eventually resigned the Army and stood in Bass for the Liberals which was the start of the end of that ALP government. It must have been an interesting conversation at the formal dinner.

  7. Is it just me or does 12.7% seem a very high Green vote for a western Sydney seat? You see some booths here where the Greens are pushing into the mid-teens……..most other western Sydney seats they’re lucky to get close to double figures…..

  8. Yes it is very high.

    I know this seat very well – grew up here, ran here in 2004 and 2005, and I was handing out here in 2010.

    We got between 3% and 4% here in 2004 and 2007 (the by-election was about 5.5%, but that was very different circumstances).

    I can only think that the main reason for the high Green vote was a reaction to Chris Hayes getting shafted. The Greens campaign was probably bigger than in 2004 and 2007, but still was very low-key.

  9. Donkey vote has something to do with the large Green vote, as does the lack of other third-party candidates.

  10. How galling it’d be for Labor to lose this seat, especially when Gough Whitlam is still alive but probably frail at 90-something years of age.

  11. Any recent polling on this seat? Would be fascinating to see it fall.

    Public housing in this seat is being progressively sold/redeveloped – surely there won’t be booths in the 70s at this election. Also large land releases around Edmondson Park and Glenfield in the last few years could have an impact.

  12. Ben, are you going to be preparing booth maps for the post-election results for each electorate like the ones above?

  13. Werriwa Galaxy 20/08/2013 Sample 575 48% ALP 2PP

    A surprise to many, not to me. I really think there is a big chance of a Coalition gain here. Watch out for McMahon too.

  14. People of Werriwa are still a bit miffed by the parachute-landing of Ferguson – it certainly could go (especially as the demographic is changing).

    Don’t go counting McMahon as yours just yet, DB – there are a lot of people very uncomfortable with the media stuff about Ray King’s somewhat colourful past and equally colourful associates. Always good for people to have a long hard look at candidates as much as parties.

  15. Certainly not suggesting McMahon or Werriwa will be won by the Libs, but I do expect a larger swing than the average in western Sydney in both which could put them into play. The campaign being run against King (without evidence) is disgusting and only reflects the problems that Labor’s internal polling is showing.

  16. A bit like the campaign run against Slipper?

    All I’m saying is that people often don’t do a minimal level of due diligence to know their candidates, and it comes at their cost. King could also help people know him better if he turned up for any of the meet-the-candidate forums.

  17. Prediction: I tend to think a 7% swing on top of an 8% swing in 2010 might be too far of a mountain to climb for the Coalition. With a movement back to the ALP this will probably be safe, but it won’t be easy for them to hold.

  18. Observer,

    This seat will be a cliffhanger in 10 days. Labor internally are optimistic, but Liberal internal polls are pointing to a possible win.

  19. Well I’ll just point to two things.

    1. I do think those two areas will swing to labor, but i also think Glenfield will swing to the libs. But given how crucial Minto and Liverpool are, that could be enough to push Laurie over the line.

    2. The influence Laurie has in the party’s left wing will ensure that he is re-elected and gets enough resources to win

  20. How must Antony Green feel, to be gearing up for this for three years, only to be calling the reult at 6.05 AEST?

  21. In that event, it will be a let down, but he’ll still have lots of numbers to splash around in. I suspect the hardest part will be coming up with new things to say as the night goes on. And of course there will always be close seats, regardless of early the overall result is called. Plus, he can pivot from this to the federal redistribution and the SA, Tas, and Vic elections as there is always another one around the corner.

  22. I’m just glad Gough is senile and won’t really realise when the Coalition wins this seat. This is a disgrace. You would never see seats held forever by the Liberal Party fall to Labor in a bad election for the Liberals. Liberals are proud to stand by their party, even during the rough times. Some Labor voters who forget their roots need a Coalition member here I think to realise why they voted Labor in the past. Let me just iterate, I think Labor have brought this election loss on themselves and probably deserve what’s coming and that’s why the swing voters would have handed Abbott a comfortable enough victory but for Labor heartland people to change is just sad. I don’t jump off my teams when the going gets tough, nor do I bag the opposition…I will congratulate my friends who campaign for the Coalition when their team wins on Saturday, despite us having disagreements often, but I’ll never accept or raise anything but a disgusted frown about Gough’s old seat falling out of ALP hands.

  23. And before anyone says it, yes I know Howard lost Bennelong, but it had been significantly re-distributed and based on that was hardly a staunch Liberal seat by that time.

  24. Rudd for PM;
    Your comment about Gough-remember when he was first elected as member he lived in the electorate at Cronulla.Then there was a redistribution and the western part remained Werriwa but the eastern part became Hughes.Gough chose the western part- a wise choice given that Les Johnson lost the seat in 1966.Now, of course,Cronulla is in Cook.
    So I don’t think that even if Gough was compos mentis,that he would be as upset as you imply,although disappointed no doubt.

  25. Never saw any state elections in the late 90’s and 2000’s, Rudd for PM?

    Liberals are plenty ready to abandon their party at “bad” elections.

  26. I’m talking federally MDM. Western Sydney is Labor heartland and they’re about to be demolished there. Would you ever see a seat in the rich northern Beaches of Sydney go to the ALP or traditional country party seats fall to the ALP? Would be a very rare occurrence. State is different, the party’s people bleed tend to ring more true federally, just not apparently with the ALP in the west.

  27. I see your point croc but I wouldn’t say they were staunch National and the Coalition is every chance to get those back this weekend.

  28. Richmond was held by three generations of the Anthonys. Doesn’t get much more staunch than that. Anyway, redistributions can dramitically alter a seat. You’re right though, both are up for grabs on Saturday.

  29. If the first tier of seats go around Sydney and Central Coast i.e. Lindsay, Banks, Greenway, Reid, Robertson then the second tier becomes Dobell, Parramatta, Kingsford-Smith, Eden-Monaro, Page, Richmond, McMahon, Werriwa, Barton, Newcastle. I think all of the first tier will go and probably 40% of the second tier I mention. Add Lyne and New England. My tally is that the Coalition should gain about 11 seats in NSW.

    If the Coalition are going to get to 90, they will need big gains in NSW.

  30. Given the the fact the margin is smaller in Parramatta than some of those listed above it, surely Parra is a definite gain? The ALP absolutely no chance in Dobell either. Not even in question.

  31. DB – I disagree with your ranking of first and second tier seats likely to go in NSW. The polling doesn’t allow for nuances like the relative importance of asylum seeker policy in different seats. Also, it is becoming apparent over the last several elections that the more ‘west’ a seat is in Sydney, the more volatile the results. I count Robertson and Dobell as ‘west’ demographic type seats in the sense that there are a large proportion of white blue collar voters.

    So I think that the first tier of seats likely to go in NSW will be Lindsay, Banks (although not fully in the ‘west’ demographic, the margin is too tight), Robertson and Dobell. I think the likes of Kingsford Smith and Richmond will definitely not go (due to demographic differences). Newcastle will not go because it there is still an old school Labor traditional voting pattern handed down through the family in that seat.
    My second tier would then be Parramatta, Reid, Page, Werriwa, Barton, McMahon and Eden Monaro. I think no more than 2-3 (at most) on this list will go.

  32. I can’t make my mind up about Greenway – were it not for Jaymes Diaz it would be in the first tier. Hard to say how many people will be affected by his TV performances.

  33. Are you guys out of your mind. Its because NOW he speaks up about the intermodal. It was a non issue pre couple of months ago. Suck it up was the attitude. Issues that affect this region but he has been quiet about. We dont need people who wont cross the floor for the good of the people of Liverpool. So many issues in this area but no -one with “”” to speak up for us. I dont give too hoots about boat people. I and many others care more whats not happening and whats enforced on this area by the Labor govt.

  34. The Libs had high hopes of snatching Werriwa from Labor. Laurie has already signalled this will be his final term in Parliament so one would think with a 2.8% buffer, the Liberals may be able to pick it up in 2016 if the Abbott Government is going well. It is likely though that the new Labor candidate would be favourite.

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