Tonight Hughesy is based in Western Sydney to get to grips with the political stoush
Abbott & Gillard photos © 2013 AAP One/Alan Porritt
We’ve got 194 days until the Federal election, but today the leaders of both major parties pitched their political tents in Western Sydney.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard had announced last week that we was planning to spend the week in the region, culminating in a night in a Rooty Hill hotel.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott today said that his appearance in the Sydney suburbs was not a reactive move, saying he wouldn’t want to copy a Prime Minister he considers incompetent.
At the same time he accused the PM of copying him, with her promise to provide a figure in the billions for the West Connex road.
It’s a fight for the residents’ self-interest, with the government arguing that families could lose up to $2500 from the opposition scrapping the school kids bonus and the tax cuts funded by the carbon tax.
The Opposition says that they’ll be keeping “a substantial portion” of the carbon tax compensation, but won’t be releasing details of their costings until just before the election – and without independent analysis.
So what is it about western Sydney that’s so important?
It’s all to do with the electoral pendulum. At the 2010 election which delivered the current hung parliament, Labor won a majority of seats in New South Wales, despite losing the overall two-party preferred vote.
As a result there are a number of ALP seats in the western Sydney suburbs that are on a knife-edge. Greenway is held by 0.9%, Lindsay by 1.1%, Banks by 1.5%, Reid by 2.7% and Paramatta by 4.4%.
But recent polls suggest formerly rock-solid Labor seats such as Gough Whitlam’s old electorate Werriwa, held by Laurie Ferguson on a buffer of 6.8%, and McMahon, held by Chris Bowen on 7.8%, are at serious risk.
Even seats such as Fowler (8.8%), Blaxland (12.2%) and Chifley (12.3%) could be under threat if recent polls play out on election day.
So for the Government, Western Sydney represents a traditional Labor heartland that can no longer be taken for granted. And for the Opposition, it represents an opportunity to grab some a swag of government seats in one fell swoop.
With a large percentage of Western Sydneysiders born overseas, but some of Australia’s whitest enclaves, politicians would be foolish to stereotype the area's residents.
But with higher than average mortgages, policies are likely to be focussed on the hip pocket, and on the traffic that crawls into the city.
Today’s announcements will be just the beginning.