Macarthur – Election 2010

ALP 0.5%

Incumbent MP
Pat Farmer (Liberal), since 2001.

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.

Macarthur moved closer to Sydney in the recent redistribution. The Campbelltown suburbs of Blairmount and Woodbine were transfered into Macarthur from Werriwa, while most parts of Wollondilly LGA that were previously included in Macarthur were transferred into Hume, including Picton, The Oaks, Orangeville, Wilton and Theresa Park.

Macarthur has also gained a number of rural towns to the north of its existing territory, including Silverdale at the southern end of Penrith LGA, the western rural parts of Liverpool LGA (including Bringelly and Luddenham) and Warragamba in northern Wollondilly.

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 family away 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.


  • Kate McCulloch (One Nation)
  • Nick Bleasdale (Labor)
  • Domenic Cammareri (Building Australia)
  • Russell Matheson (Liberal) – Campbelltown councillor
  • Nolene Norsworthy (Christian Democratic Party)
  • Jessica di Blasio (Greens)
  • Clinton Mead (Democrats)
  • Grant Herbert (Family First)

Political situation
Macarthur is now Labor’s most marginal seat in the country. The seat will see a contest between a repeated Labor candidate and a new Liberal candidate with a significant profile in Campbelltown (although not much of a demonstrated ability to pull large votes based on that profile) and little or no profile in Liberal-voting Camden.

I have blogged repeatedly about Macarthur preselections. One Nation has preselectedKate McCulloch, who was prominent in the campaign against the contruction of an Islamic school in Camden.

Nick Bleasdale has to be considered the favourite, although you would have to consider Matheson to be a strong opponent.

Macarthur is the typical “mortgage belt” seat. In particular the newer suburbs of Camden LGA including Narellan, Mount Annan and Harrington Park swung very strongly from the Liberal Party to the ALP in 2007, and are the definition of the sort of suburbs affected by the Liberal Party’s 2004 interest rate scare campaign and the ALP’s 2007 response.


2007 result

Pat FarmerLIB35,99646.98-8.79
Nick BleasdaleALP33,68843.97+12.55
Ben RaueGRN3,3344.35-0.52
Godwin GohCDP1,3571.77-0.77
Douglas RauchFF1,3231.73-0.19
Samantha Elliott-HallsDEM6180.81-0.12
Andy ThompsonNCP3060.40+0.40

2007 two-candidate-preferred result

Pat FarmerLIB38,86550.72-10.43
Nick BleasdaleALP37,75749.28+10.43

Results do not take into consideration effects of the redistribution.

Booth breakdown
I divided the booths between the three Local Government Areas: Wollondilly, Campbelltown and Camden. The following table and maps show a clear divide between Labor-voting Campbelltown and Liberal-voting Camden.I have also divided booths in Camden into two areas: “new Camden” and “old Camden”. I have grouped together booths at the northern end of the seat in Wollondilly, Penrith and Liverpool LGAs.

Polling booths in Macarthur. Campbelltown booths in red, new Camden booths in blue, old Camden booths in green, southern Wollondilly booths in yellow and northern Macarthur booths in orange.
Polling booths in Macarthur. Campbelltown booths in red, new Camden booths in blue, old Camden booths in green, southern Wollondilly booths in yellow and northern Macarthur booths in orange.

Only a small number of booths on the fringe of Campbelltown voted Liberal, and in the overall area, which makes up a slim majority of voters, the ALP polled 59% of the two-party-preferred vote.

Camden can be divided into two areas: “old Camden”, which surrounds the town of Camden itself, votes strongly for the Liberal Party, with most booths polling over 60% for the Liberal Party. “New Camden”, which lies between “old Camden” and Campbelltown, includes suburbs such as Harrington Park, Mount Annan and Narellan. Houses in this area are much newer and can be defined as “mortgage belt” territory. While “old Camden” was considered a town separate to Sydney only decades ago, “new Camden” is definitely part of the Sydney metropolitan region. The Liberals held on to most booths in this area by a slim margin. These areas experienced massive swings in 2007.

The two Wollondilly booths voted for the Liberal Party by a slim margin. The booths at the northern end of the seat vote solidly for the Liberal Party, despite previously lying in the safe Labor seat of Fowler.

Voter groupGRN %ALP 2CP %Total votes% of ordinary votes
New Camden3.0646.8915,01723.01
Old Camden4.2235.619,77114.97
Northern Macarthur4.4641.525,9449.11
Other votes4.9946.7113,345
Polling booths in Macarthur.
Polling booths in Macarthur.
Polling booths in "new Camden" (west of map) and Campbelltown (east of map).
Polling booths in “new Camden” (west of map) and Campbelltown (east of map).
Polling booths in northern parts of Macarthur.
Polling booths in northern parts of Macarthur.


  1. Interesting to look at the swings in the individual booths here and note how most of the booths with the biggest swings to Labor in 2007 were also those with the biggest swings to the Libs in 1996. For example:

    Ambarvale – 1996 17%, 2007 14%
    Bradbury South – 1996 15%, 2007 15%
    Narellan Vale – 1996 17%, 2007 17%
    Rosemeadow – 1996 19%, 2007 15%
    St Helens Park – 1996 18%, 2007 16%

  2. Just to add to that, Narellan Vale actually had the biggest 2PP swing for any booth in NSW in 2007 with more than 2,500 votes cast. The only other booths in NSW with bigger swings, and more than 1,500 votes, were nearby Eagle Vale and Eschol Park in Werriwa, and Tumut, which had been redistributed from a safe Coalition seat to the hotly-contested Eden-Monaro.

    Furthermore, in 1996 the biggest swing in NSW in a booth with more than 2,500 votes cast was the 19% at Rosemeadow, with a 23% swing at Mount Annan being the biggest swing in the state for a 1,500+ vote booth.

  3. Update: I have now included the polling booths at the northern end of the seat in the profile. They were originally left out of my analysis by accident.

  4. nice work. thanks.+ i see you finally found out who mike freelander is.
    (thanks to my tweets no doubt, so don’t know why you’ve blocked me from following you now on twitter)cheers. mick.

  5. SO the Green vote was DOWN, on an upward swing! What a huge joke!!!!!!Try harder next time will you??????????????????????

  6. Actually Brenton the Green vote was down a little in a lot of seats in NSW at the 2007 election. I doubt it has much to do with the candidate, more likely because both major parties directed more resources here, thus squeezing out the Greens.

  7. The ALP machine got in very late on the Bleasdale campaign after it was comfortable with other seats that it had higher on its list.

    The result would likely have been different if they’d listened to the locals on the ground about the sounds coming from the community. They will walk it in this time around I think, unless they mess it up by parachuting an outsider in.

  8. Do you think they would parachute in another candidate. Are they that stupid especially with chris hayes digging in.
    I think russell will work hard

  9. Let’s hope Labor can get Macarthur this time around, might be a bit harder with the former mayor as the Libs candidate, as opposed to Pat ‘Running From Macarthur’ Farmer. Hopefully Bleadsdale will be around to finish the job.

  10. It’s amazing that it’s a Lib seat at all when you look at the State vote comparison. I guess it just shows how dominant Labor/pathetic the Libs have been in NSW in the past few elections.

  11. I think that’s the case in most of NSW – Labor vote higher at last state election than last federal election. The exception being the north coast, where, based on calculations I did a couple of months ago, if people voted federally as they did at the last state election Page would be a safe Nationals seat on a 10.2% margin (I’ve just corrected that for the final boundaries), and Richmond a marginal Nationals seat on 0.8%.

    Does anyone have a similar comparison for the whole state? Would be a good indicator of which seats still have extra votes Labor could easily pick up.

  12. The ALP today preselected Nick Bleasdale, who won preselection by a comfortable majority (40-3) over Paul Nunnari. The profile has been updated to reflect this.

  13. There’s a fair bit of coverage about Kate McCulloch, a campaigner against the Camden Islamic school, standing for One Nation.

    Ben, the first sentence under ‘Political situation’ needs updating to reflect the amended pendulum.

  14. Well-picked! I met her at the Bob Brown major fundraiser a couple of weeks ago. Definitely the right person to follow in Ben Raue’s footsteps. Good luck Jessica!

  15. Well, admittedly, I only found out because I know her through student politics, and she invited me to her group. But I figured it might as well go up here too.

  16. Ballot order for Macarthur. Yet another CDP on top, Bleasdale will be pleased to be ahead of Matherson

    1. Nolene Norsworthy (Christian Democrats)
    2. Nick Bleasdale (Australian Labor Party)
    3. Grant Herbert (Family First)
    4. Russell Matheson (Liberal Party)
    5. Jessica Di Blasio (The Greens)
    6. Clinton Mead (Australian Democrats)
    7. Kate McCulloch (One Nation)
    8. Domenico Cammaveri (Building Australia)

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