Fowler – Australia 2022

ALP 14.0%

Incumbent MP
Chris Hayes, since 2010. Previously member for Werriwa 2005-2010.

Geography
South-western Sydney, in particular parts of Liverpool and Fairfield council areas. Fowler covers the Liverpool CBD and the suburbs of Cabramatta, Canley Vale, Lansvale, Bonnyrigg, Chipping Norton, Warwick Farm and Bossley Park.

History
Fowler was first created for the 1984 election as part of the expansion of the size of the House of Representatives. It is a very safe Labor seat and has always been Labor-held.

The seat was first won in 1984 by the ALP’s Ted Grace. Grace held the seat for fourteen years, retiring in 1998. He was succeeded by Julia Irwin, also from the ALP. Irwin held the seat until 2010.

In 2010, Irwin retired and he was replaced as Labor candidate by Chris Hayes. Hayes had held the neighbouring seat of Werriwa for five years, but had been forced to change seats to make room for Laurie Ferguson, whose seat had effectively been abolished. Hayes has been re-elected in Fowler three times.

Candidates
Sitting Labor MP Chris Hayes is not running for re-election.

Assessment
Fowler is traditionally a safe Labor seat, but the circumstances of Kristina Keneally’s preselection and the entry of Dai Le into the race mixes things up.

Le is a member of a local council political faction that is dominant on Fairfield council, winning a supermajority at last year’s election, but she is not the most prominent figure. She also has a history of Liberal party membership and would be positioned to the right relative to her seat, although her politics are not entirely clear. She would not usually be a strong enough candidate to win the seat, but frustration about the parachuting in of an outsider as the Labor candidate could make the difference.

2019 result

CandidatePartyVotes%Swing
Chris Hayes Labor 45,62754.5-6.3
Wayne Blewitt Liberal 25,13730.0+4.3
Francesca MocanuChristian Democratic Party4,6435.5-0.1
Seamus Lee Greens 4,6335.5-0.7
Joshua JabbourUnited Australia Party3,6244.3+4.3
Informal12,62413.1+2.7

2019 two-party-preferred result

CandidatePartyVotes%Swing
Chris Hayes Labor 53,54064.0-3.5
Wayne Blewitt Liberal 30,12436.0+3.5

Booth breakdown

Booths have been divided into three parts: central, south and west. The “south” area covers all those booths in the Liverpool council area, while those in Fairfield council area have been split into “central” and “west”.

The ALP won a majority of the two-party-preferred vote in all three areas, ranging from 51.2% in the west to 72.5% in the centre.

Voter groupALP 2PP %Total votes% of votes
Central72.525,19330.1
West51.213,05415.6
South58.59,80611.7
Pre-poll66.526,68631.9
Other votes57.48,92510.7

Election results in Fowler at the 2019 federal election
Toggle between two-party-preferred votes and primary votes for Labor and the Liberal Party.

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249 COMMENTS

  1. If KK ran in Robertson which is across the water from her mansion on a secluded island she would likely have been a senior minister in the new government. Alternatively, Deborah O’Neil could have ran in Robertson (which she previously represented) while KK ran in the Senate. I can see history repeating if Labor parachutes Anglo candidates in seats like Watson or Blaxland when then the current incumbents retire from politics.

  2. If Chris Bowen retires at the next election, Frank Carbone might have a crack at McMahon especially if Labor parachutes another Anglo outsider.

  3. Parachute was the wrong term, true. It should correctly be called a captain’s pick for Repacholi, against the local branch’s wishes and with a Labor deputy mayor threatening to run as an independent (didn’t happen in the end).

  4. Ethnicity probably isn’t the number one or sole factor. Being a local and being a non-career politician helped more. Dai Le ran a strong grassroots campaign and she knew the community inside out as she grew up there and was in local politics. Speaking Vietnamese was an added bonus. She could connect with the Vietnamese population. Dai Le said that the major parties were missing in action on issues like infrastructure and pandemic politics especially during the long lockdown last year.

    Dai Le is to Labor just as the Teal independents are to the Liberals. She won voters who have this mindset “I have always voted Labor. I don’t want to vote Liberal but I can vote independent”.

    Like mentioned before, KK is the Sophie Mirabella of this election – losing a safe seat whilst on the winning team. Katherine Deves is perhaps the most embarrassing Liberal preselection but at least she ran in an unwinnable seat against a strong independent.

  5. The success of the teals are mostly in relation to the Liberal party not listening to those electorates regarding governance and policy. For that reason, unless they can show those communities that they are advancing on those fronts, they will not be winning those seats back and those independents will be entrenched with increased margins.

    Dai Le appears to have won explicitly on protest grounds against the Labor candidate (which the Liberals hoped would be the case with Tony in 2019 but turned out to be a broader trend). It remains to be seen whether she would be able to defend against a more appropriate preselection like say, Tu Le in 2025. Whether the community feels she would be a better representative of their concerns at that time will depend on her votes on issues and what headlines she makes.

  6. Dai le had a base in Fairfield council which she co runs with Mr Cabone.I would describe her politics as independent liberal which is a poor match for Fowler.Next time she will face a local.

  7. I mean, people made the same comments about Andrew Wilkie “He only won because it’s a protest vote against a dud Labor candidate and a poor campaign, next time those issues won’t be there and everyone will come back….”

    Didn’t happen, he’s absolutely entrenched in Clark now, no matter what Labor have thrown at him.

  8. Votante, I wouldn’t call Warringah unwinnable for the Liberals by any means. It was Liberal until 2019 and economically still bends very much towards the Liberal Party’s point of view. A moderate Liberal may not have won the seat but would have at least made it a contest.

  9. If doing what KK did is winning the “Golden Sophie”, maybe we need a name for an award for worst strategic preselection in the losing team too, so that Deves doesn’t miss out. She’d at least be happy that it’s an award your gender has nothing to do with.

  10. I know that Warringah aligns with Liberal economically but at this election, a teal wave and red wave were expected. Add to that, the Morrison factor. Maybe ‘hard to win’ might’ve been a better description.

    Is Dai Le the first independent in decades to win an working-class, outer suburban seat?

    Usually, independents do better in inner-city or regional/rural or seaside seats.

  11. parramatta and greenway next… bye bye michelle rowland…Labor elite just didn’t listen out of touch….no more free rides…

  12. Now KK is gone, Tu Le seems to be the obvious choice for the 2025 candidate. The thing is she may decide instead to run in Cabramatta instead where she doesn’t have to face the sophomore surge for Dai Le. Voters may decide that Dai Le would accomplish more for them than any Labor candidate would and keep supporting her.

  13. Marko, we’ll find out much later when the AEC calculates the 2PP in “non-classic” seats (not Lib v Lab 2CP).

  14. Dei Le’s federal political career might be just about to end under section 44……. oops. Accordingly to the Australian, DL’s nomination form said that she has only been a citizen of Australia despite leaving Vietnam aged 7.

    Tu Le may be in parliament more quickly than anticipated!

    And if there is to be any referendum an amendment to s44 on both citizenship and “office of profit” etc. should be high on the agenda….

  15. Pollster, as long as Dai Le properly renounced her Vietnamese citizenship (either automatically losing it through acquiring Australian citizenship or voluntarily) then she should be fine. Unless there is also a penalty for providing false/misleading information on the nomination form.

  16. Also if Fatima Payman is election for WA Senate. Section 44 may not apply since the Taliban takeover she has not been able to renounce Afghan citizenship. As long as someone takes all reasonable steps should be fine.

  17. @Pollster even if Dai Le does get booted from parliament. It doesn’t mean Labor would regain this especially if KK is running again. Frank Carbone would likely run on Dai Le’s behalf.

  18. Dai Le would’ve been born in South Vietnam, a state which no longer exists, so she’s probably fine.

  19. Tu Le should run for state parliament in March 2023 in Cabramatta or a neighbouring seat. Labor is very lucky to still have her after this preselection debacle.

    This election was a wake up call to the major parties that there’s no such thing as a safe seat and you can’t take things for granted. It might be a blessing in disguise for Labor. They’re lucky that they only lost one safe seat (though Lyons is really close). The Libs lost at least 10 safe seats.

  20. I guess Labor’s fear is that Dai Le is the start for a movement that sees independents take safe Labor seats like how Zali Steagall is the start for the teal movement. They might do whatever they can to try and disqualify Dai Le through Section 44 and High Court challenge. I expect Dai Le to survive all of that since South Vietnam doesn’t exist anymore and she came as a refugee which means she could be considered stateless though I’m not sure how exactly the legal aspect for things like that work. Nevertheless, it would enrage the local community even more if Labor were to do that meaning they most likely still won’t reclaim the seat even if their High Court challenge is successful. Dai Le, or Frank Carbone if Dai Le somehow gets barred from running, would easily defeat KK with a larger margin in a by-election.

  21. This s44 stuff is really stupid. Particularly as it’s just being used for point-scoring, which mostly results in people getting back in at a by-election and wasting everyone’s time and money. But anyways…

    It seems that under Vietnamese law you automatically lose citizenship if you are naturalised elsewhere. So that would cover Dai Le. Also, I’m been told that at the conclusion of the Vietnam war, South Vietnamese citizenship was not automatically recognised by the northern government in the case of people who had already left as refugees. In her case that may then come down to dates.

    But it’s pretty silly really. The constitution really needs to be changed.

  22. Broadly agree. Pursuing this s44 nonsense would be utterly idiotic. The case is dubious at best and the voters certainly won’t reward that sort of petulance at a by election. The best thing Labor can do, in an election all about voters refusing to be taken for granted, is to show a little grace here and accept the result.

  23. KK has already run back to Scotland Island from her 1 bedroom Liverpool apartment hours after she lost. Hopefully Labor will learn their lesson from this and not parachute her or any other Anglo outsider into a seat like this ever again. The same applies for the Libs too.

  24. When Current Labor incumbents retire in Moreton, McMahon, Werriwa, Blaxland, Bruce, Hotham, Watson, Kingsford Smith, Oxley, Cooper, Scullin, Lalor, Parramatta Gorton they should be replaced by candidates from ethnic minority backgrounds. All these seat are very ethnically diverse. The Libs should look to diverse candidates to win back Tangney and Bennelong.

  25. @Nimalan I’d also say the same for both major parties in Chisholm and Menzies especially due to the circumstances that led to the strong swing towards Labor.

  26. @ Dan M, i deliberately did not add Chisholm or Reid for the Libs as they did run candidates from ethnic minority backgrounds this election to their credit and those two can run again to take the seat back. Also i did not mention Swan for the Libs as they did at least run a woman in a seat that has existed since federation and that is a first step. Swan is very ethnically diverse for a WA seat. Menzies (my seat) is very ethnically diverse in the suburban part although the semi-rural eastern part is very Anglo. In Menzies, the former member would not retire gracefully and had to be dragged kicking and screaming by his own party and Wolahan had managed to oust a candidate who seemed invincible . As the Labor candidate exceeded expectations with zero effort from her party she may want to have another crack at it. However, longer term i would love to see someone from a diverse background represent the seat that i grew up. I should also have added Maribiyong and Gorton to my original list.

  27. Any party that wants to be in government should be drawing their MPs from the local community. Ethnicity of the candidate shouldn’t matter if they are a true local and have widespread support from the community

  28. There’s an article in SMH about why KK’s parachute failed but Andrew Charlton succeeded in Parramatta. Andrew Charlton won because there wasn’t a strong independent running, the Liberal candidate got preselected last minute and since it was a marginal seat, Labor didn’t take it for granted and threw money at it. He was also saved by the Chinese-Australian vote in the east. I think he got parachuted in because his credentials and what’s on his CV.

    I don’t think preselecting just any ethnic minority candidate for the sake of diversity would be enough. A candidate being a local, having great qualifications and having strong local connections would be far more superior. Having a candidate who can speak another language is a bonus.

    Another reason why Dai Le won was because of her campaigning on lockdowns, but not in the anti-lockdown way that PHON and UAP did. She did say her community was let down by the major parties and didn’t get support during the harsh western Sydney lockdown of 2021. She mopped up the resentment and anger towards the major parties.

  29. Charlton was a better candidate that Keneally, parachute or no parachute. And while he was parachuted in, he at least could claim some roots in the Parramatta area. Charlton didn’t have the baggage of Keneally either. He wasn’t an unpopular ex-Premier who had links to Obeid and Tripodi.

    I’m not supporting parachuting candidates. I think all local members should be of their community, representing their community in Parliament. But when the parachuted candidate is a relative unknown and not unpopular, I think parties can get away with it. After all a local might just be as unknown.

    But with Keneally, she is well known in NSW, and not well liked either, outside of Sussex Street. From the beginning this gave the impression NSW Labor seeing Fowler, not as a community, but seeing it as a means to an end of keeping Keneally in Parliament. The voters of Fowler saw this, and saw this clearly.

  30. It’s rubbish Charlton has roots in the area. He might be bright but he was born in Kenthurst then lived on the north shore of Sydney. It is a furphy that he grew up in Dundas. It would have been all over his materials if it were true. He has no connection to parramatta other than fact dad worked in the factory in Rydalmere a long time ago.

  31. Ind or 3rd party candidates tend to do best in safe not marginal seats , this and the fact that dai le has control of the local council explain why kk fared worse than andrew Charlton

  32. This seat has been strange. 1 year ago if someone said that “In the 2022 election, Labor will lose one seat to a candidate to the right of them – Fowler” that would sound like the craziest thing ever. This is already top of my watchlist for ’25 unless it is abolished. Whether labor win it back then depends if Dai Le delivers for the people of Fowler and whether labor parachute another outsider like KK. If these criteria are met, then this could really be the Mirabella-McGowan moment of this election. As other posters have mentioned, a range of seats could be vulnerable like this such as Watson, McMahon, Blaxland, Chifley, Calwell, Werriwa, Parramatta, Greenway and Bruce to some form of Voices-style community movement.

  33. I just realised something – Labor may have held Fowler were it not for its own submission in the last redistribution.

    The original AEC proposal had Fairfield (the suburb) in Fowler. Areas west of Smithfield Road were to be made part of McMahon.

    Labor objected to this with some nonsensical argument about McMahon wouldn’t have a major centre. From what I recall, no one else objected to the boundary between Fowler and McMahon. Nonetheless the committee folded, and we got the current boundaries. I would imagine Labor was worried about McMahon becoming too marginal.

    Le performed very strongly in areas west of Smithfield Road. Labor performed strongly in Fairfield West.

    Did Labor’s own submission cost them this seat?

  34. Dai Le polled poorly in Liverpool and Warwick Farm (both working-class areas in another LGA) in 2PP terms and in Chipping Norton (high Liberal vote). She didn’t have the local hero shine as she is from Fairfield Council.

    However, she smashed the Labor vote in (>25% swing away) in Cabramatta, Canley Vale & Lansvale where there’s a much larger Vietnamese presence. She smashed the Liberal vote (>20% away) in the eastern parts. There’s no clear class to 2PP vote relationship.

    She ran in this election mainly because local supporters wanted her to and to stick it up to the Labor establishment. Ironically, if KK had run in Robertson on the Central Coast, she might’ve won it, because it’s closer to her home and also, the area isn’t as economically disadvantaged or lockdown-stricken. Also, because it’s a marginal seat, lots of money would be thrown at it. Gordon Reid is still a much better choice to be the local member.

  35. I thought KK would do better, but old style of Labor grandees relying on ‘community leaders’ doesn’t work with younger non-Anglo voters. British Labour has experienced similar problems in Muslim seats.

  36. @ Votante, Agree Dai Le did not do well in Liverpool LGA. As you correctly pointed out Chipping Norton is more affluent and Liberal voting. However, she did well across Fairfield LGA including in Affluent Abbotsbury very different in SES to Cabramatta, here a lot of Liberal votes switched to Le. A part of this could be tactical voting by Liberal supporters as they realised it was a two horse race between Dai Le and KK. However, like i mentioned in the “Coalition paths to power thread” Abbotsbury has large Vietnamese population who have experienced upward mobility and may have grew up around Cabramatta. In Melbourne, there is a suburb called Waterways which has a large Indo-Chinese community but is affluent.

  37. Hi Volante, Dai Le did very well in the Liverpool prepoll with a 45% 2PP share. Given her lower profile in that part of the electorate, this is a very respectable result and overall contributed to the win.

  38. @ Alex haven’t checked in a bit but it seems like that 8.27% swing is the biggest TPP swing to the Coalition in the country. Labor might not have fun clawing back to power in this seat in the future.

  39. @Laine That’s the smallest ALP vs Lib margin in the seat’s history
    It will be interesting to see the margin will be like in the next election.

  40. @ Nimalan The more affluent Vietnamese live in the Edensor Park/Bossley Park part. Abbotsbury consists of more Europeans such as Italians and Croatians. I live in this part of Fowler between the border of these 3 suburbs and can see the different demographics between these 3 suburbs

  41. The ALP will probably rebound here next election and perform a lot better than this election if they choose a local candidate and are seen to do good work by the electorate. I assume this electorate as a socially conservative seat cares more about economic reform than anything else. Dai Le’s TPP margin is also only 1.63 and she got a lot of the protest vote. The thing working against the ALP is that Dai Le will have 3 years to entrench herself and independents usually get a sophomore surge. What the ALP have on their side is that Dai Le was/is involved with the Libs and will likely hold fiscal viewpoints that don’t align with many in the electorate.

  42. @North East You are definitely right to imply that Fowler is indeed economically sensitive. The demographics may be shifting towards mortgage belt voting behaviour. There are suburbs within this seat that have a high level of mortgage stress. You can definitely see this part of south western Sydney (Werriwa) that the Labor 2pp is gradually becoming smaller and smaller vs the state ALP vote as more election cycles come.

  43. Dai Le preferenced the ALP last which helped the Libs in the TPP. That and the strong result for the right wing minor parties like the UAP in the seat also helped the Libs in the TPP.

  44. @ Alex, thanks for the clarification. Is there also an affluent Assyrian/Chaldean community in Abbotsbury as well?

  45. @ Nimalan There is a couple of affluent Assyrian/Chaldean in Abbotsbury. Most reside in the Edensor Park/Bossley Park though.

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