BY BEN RAUE
The forthcoming Local Council Elections on September 9 appear likely to produce some unexpected results amidst a backdrop of unfamiliar candidates and uneasy alliances. The forced amalgamations of electorates, that began after the NSW Government announced 19 new Sydney councils in May 2016, has created a significant stirring of resentment against the ruling NSW Liberal Party, which might manifest itself at the ballot box.
The Inner West Council, formed by the merger of the former Leichhardt, Ashfield and Marrickville Councils, also expects to redraw political boundaries as a mixture of familiar and unknown candidates contest newly created constituencies.
The Leichhardt ward runs across the middle of the new Inner West council’s territory. The ward covers the parts of Ashfield that are north of the T2 Inner West and South railway line, all of Haberfield, most of Leichhardt, and the southern half of Annandale.
While the eastern half of the new precinct was previously part of Leichhardt council, the western half was inherited from Ashfield council. In effect, the revamped Leichhardt ward takes in the ‘leftovers’ of the new electorates after the other wards are redrawn – absorbing areas such as northern Ashfield and southern Annandale, which, arguably, don’t have a great deal in common in terms of historical and economic ties.
In 2012, Labor polled only 26.6% in this district, worse than their results in any other ward. However, it was successful for the Liberal Party, which topped the poll with 29.5%, the Greens coming a close second with 28.3%. Most booths in this district were above-average for the Liberal Party, which generally fared better in Leichhardt and Balmain compared to the southern suburbs, Labor’s traditional stronghold, where they polled over 30% in nearly every booth on the south side of Parramatta Road.
The Greens did much better in the eastern half of Leichardt, polling well over 30% in every booth in Leichhardt and Annandale. In contrast, the Greens did not poll over 20% in any booth in north Ashfield or Haberfield.
Results in the 2016 federal election in the Leichardt area were very different to the local council results, with voters preferring Labor over the Greens. Labor polled 44.6% in 2016, with the Liberal Party on 28.6% and the Greens on 18.6%.
The new Inner West council has five wards, with each ward electing three candidates. Labor and the Greens are in prime position to win a seat in each of the five wards, with the last seat from each ward in play. Liberal and independent candidates will be hoping to win the last seat, but in some places will also be competing with second Labor and Greens candidates.
The three main parties, Labor, Liberal and the Greens, are all running a team for this ward. Former Ashfield mayor Lucille McKenna is leading the Labor team, former Ashfield mayor Vittoria Raciti is leading the Liberal team, and Marghanita da Cruz is leading the Greens team. John Lozano is leading an independent team, and Blaid Vidakovich is running as a Socialist Alliance candidate, but without a full team of candidates.
The 2012 election wasn’t a great one for Labor or the Greens in this ward, but their vote should hold up enough to each win a seat. It is impossible to predict how independent John Lozano will perform, but he will have a tough time overcoming the Liberal Party for the final seat.
The Liberal Party’s political fortunes have declined since the last 2012 council election, when they won many seats in places where they hadn’t traditionally elected councillors. This was not long after the party’s landslide victory in the 2011 state election, and in the lead-up to the Liberal Party’s successful 2013 federal election campaign. There are reasons to suspect their vote will drop, but as the ward with the highest Liberal vote they will still have a strong chance of winning a councillor here.
If there are no major surprises, we’ll see Labor, Liberal and Greens each elect a single councillor in Leichhardt, putting at least one Liberal in the balance of power on the council.