Battle for Blaxland

Jun 20, 2016 Filip Stempien
Blaxland stretches from Bankstown to Villawood. Photo by Filip Stempien
Men heading to Auburn Mosque for Friday prayers. Auburn is a new suburb in the Blaxland electorate. Photo by Filip Stempien
Men take a break from doing their shopping at Bankstown's little Saigon. Photo by Filip Stempien
Sitting Member:
Clare, J (ALP)
Size of electorate:
61 sq. Km

Redistribution details:

Blaxland remains a safe Labor seat despite gaining the suburbs of Auburn, Lidcombe and Milperra and losing Guildford, Guildford West, Fairfield East, Yennora and Woodpark. Labor's margin is estimated to be up from 11.4% to 12.5%.

Sitting Member

The member for Blaxland since 2007, Mr Clare is Shadow Minister for Communications. He previously served as Parliamentary Secretary for Employment, Minister for Defence Materiel, Minister for Home Affairs, Minister for Justice and Cabinet Secretary. He has not held another seat or been a senator and there has been no gap in service.

Key Comments

This 61-sq-km inner-Metropolitan electorate is a Labor stronghold once held by former Prime Minister Paul J Keating. In Sydney's west, it is one of the most culturally and religiously diverse electorates in Australia. Issues include unemployment, housing, education, multiculturalism, language, immigration and the treatment of refugees and detainees in Villawood detention centre.

Electorate Profile

Blaxland is one of the most multicultural electorates in the country. Out of the 178,915 Blaxland residents, 50.4 per cent were born overseas and 63 per cent can speak a language other than English at home.  

At Bankstown Primary School, 98 per cent of the students come from a non-English speaking background with students coming from 54 language backgrounds.

Created in 1949, the Blaxland electorate was named after Gregory Blaxland, a farmer and early explorer of the Blue Mountains. Since then it has been always held by a member of the Labor party with former Prime Minister Paul Keating serving as the MP for Blaxland from 1969 to 1996.

Covering a total of 61 square kilometres, the electorate stretches from Bankstown in the east to Villawood in the west, from Milperra in the south to Auburn in the north.

Blaxland remains a safe Labor seat despite significant changes to the boundaries for the 2016 election which brought in the suburbs of Auburn and Lidcombe, which have high Islamic populations, and Milperra. Blaxland lost Guildford, Guildford West, Fairfield East, Yennora and Woodpark.  

Local industries include railway workshops, aircraft repairs, transport and storage but finding a job is an issue with the third highest unemployment rate in Australia at 9.6 per cent.

High unemployment contributes to housing affordability issues and mortgage stress in an electorate where the median weekly household income is $992.

A Blaxland renter pays about $310 a week compared with the average mortgage repayment at $455 per week, according to the ABS. Realestate.com notes that an apartment with two bedrooms in Bankstown costs on average $485,000. The median price for a house with four bedrooms is $925,000 with some houses going for over $1 million at auction.

Blaxland takes in two of the top five suburbs with the highest numbers of residents of Islamic faith: Bankstown and Auburn, which is home to the iconic Gallipoli Mosque. At the 2011 census, 22.7 per cent of Blaxland residents followed Islam.  However, the largest religious group in the electorate is Catholics (26.7 per cent of residents), with 9.9 per cent following Buddha, 6.9 per cent Anglican and 6.5 per cent Eastern Orthodox. The main languages other than English spoken in Blaxland are Arabic (19 per cent) and Vietnamese (14 per cent).

Blaxland has been held by ALP shadow communication minister Jason Clare since 2007. He retained the seat at the last election with a 0.80 swing against him. After redistribution, Labor's margin is estimated to be 12.4 per cent up from 11.4 per cent, according to Crikey's The Poll Bludger and 12.5 per cent according to ABC election specialist Antony Green.

Mr Clare has been a member of the ALP since 1991 and served as the secretary of the ALP Cabramatta Branch from 1992 to 2001. He replaced Michael Hatton as the candidate for Labor ahead of the 2007 election.

Mr Clare says Federal Government policies neglect the needs of Blaxland voters.

“The budget shows the Liberal Party either doesn’t understand the challenges that people face in Blaxland or they just don’t care. The budget is great if you are a millionaire but it’s bad if you live in Blaxland,” Mr Clare told UniPollWatch in a statement.

"If you earn over a million dollars a year you get a $16,715 tax cut from Malcolm Turnbull in this budget," he said.  "If you earn less than $80,000 you get nothing.  That means more than 85 per cent of Blaxland taxpayers get no tax cut at all."

In a safe Labor seat where The Australian Greens polled just over three per cent in 2013, Suzan Virago, a former member of the ALP who is passionate about workers' rights and refugee welfare is the candidate for the Greens.

Ms Virago, a maritime union leader and community-activist, believes the relationship between the ALP and Unions is threatened by the impact of Labor policies on workers.
“They entered the relationship with the best of intentions to create a better future together. Then periodically, the Labor party turns around and kicks the worker in the guts… and then apologises and says it’s for the greater good,” she told UniPollWatch in an interview.

The Liberals say their newly announced candidate for Blaxland Felicity Findlay is a finance industry professional who has previously worked for Philip Ruddock and has "passion" for small business. The seat was previously contested by Anthony Khouri who polled just over 32 per cent of the primary vote and 38.57 of the two-party preferred vote.

The Christian Democratic Party has announced Clint Nasr, a criminal lawyer and prosecutor, as the candidate for Blaxland. In 2013, Mr Nasr's wife accountant Juliat Nasr polled 2.25 for the CDP in Blaxland.

The treatment of refugees including detainees in Villawood Immigration Detention Centre is high on the agenda for Socialist Equality Party candidate Gabriela Zabala.

"We absolutely oppose the incarceration of refugees," the arts and social sciences academic told UniPollWatch in an interview.
A long-standing SEP member, Ms Zabala has previously stood for the Senate in NSW and Queensland. No SEP candidate stood for Blaxland in 2013.

2013 Election Results

Candidate Party Votes % Swing(%)
TALEB, Nafez Katter's Australian Party 1921 2.46 +2.46
KHOURI, Anthony Liberal 25579 32.72 -0.58
BURROWS, Zali Palmer United Party 2119 2.71 +2.71
CLARE, JasonElected Labor 43568 55.73 +4.75
NASR, Juliat Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group) 1757 2.25 +2.25
KY, John The Greens 2416 3.09 -3.17
ZALLOUA, Boutros Democratic Labour Party (DLP) 817 1.05 +1.05
...... Socialist Equality Party 0 0 -2.79
...... One Nation 0 0 -1.83
...... Other 0 0 -4.84


Filip Stempien




With additional reporting by Jennifer Luu, Elie Choueifaty and David Cosgrove. Editing by Catriona Bonfiglioli.

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