Local issues may be crucial in marginal Macquarie: @cjgregorytodd reports


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By Gregory Todd

August 20, 2013


The Division of Macquarie is located in Sydney’s outer north-west, and is one of the 75 electorates that voted in the very first federal election. It is currently the most marginal of the Coalition seats in New South Wales, held by Louise Markus (Liberal) with 51.26% of the vote.

At more than four thousand square kms, Macquarie is a sprawling electorate with a variety of land usage. It is both urban and rural, with the eastern end more traditionally conservative, and the south-western part leaning more to the left.

Arguably the most famous representative to hold this seat was Australia’s 16th Prime Minister Ben Chifley.  He was the member for two separate terms (1928-31, 1940-51). Although Labor held the seat for 35 continuous years (1940-75), the seat has swung between Labor and Liberal control seven times since the Whitlam dismissal, and since the eighties Labor has only held the seat for single terms, while the Liberal Party has managed multiple consecutive terms in office.

A massive redistribution of the boundaries in 2007 moved the main population centres of the Hawkesbury into the Greenway electorate and Macquarie out west as far as Bathurst. The boundaries shifted back before the last election, rendering swing figures for 2010 meaningless.

Whilst the 2010 results show a 1.5% swing to Liberal, when compared to the last time this electorate voted within the same boundaries (2004) there was actually a 7.6% swing to the ALP after preferences.

The three main parties have fielded women to contest the 2013 election:

  • Louise Markus (Liberal) a former social worker who lives outside the electorate in Riverstone;
  • Susan Templeman (Labor) a former radio journalist who lives in the Blue Mountains part of the electorate;
  • Danielle Wheeler (Green) a scientist and medical researcher who lives in the Hawkesbury part of the electorate.

There are five minor parties contesting the election in Macquarie: Australia First, Christian Democrats, Democratic Labour, Palmer United and the Sex Party.  Whilst none is expected to amass significant support on September 7, it is safe to say that people voting for Fred Nile’s or Clive Palmer’s parties are probably from the conservative camp. Similarly the Democratic Labour and Sex parties will probably draw votes from the left. The Australia First Party’s own website features a rambling and at-times incoherent message of homophobia and xenophobia that wouldn’t look out of place at a Tea Party convention or Klan rally. It would be hard to predict who the AFP’s candidate would be stealing votes from –the party appears so far to the right that they believe Tony Abbott is as left-wing and progressive as Sarah Hansen-Young.


I spoke briefly to two of the main candidates at a local council meeting. Susan Templeman is warm and funny, but also quick-witted and razor-sharp. At no time during our chat did I feel “handled” or that she was just spouting the party line. She spoke freely and candidly and with a good deal of humour.



If Templeman felt like someone that you’d like to sit down and have a coffee with, Danielle Wheeler was more like someone that you’d love to go bushwalking with. There was a slightly ‘scruffy’ charm that felt more like ‘ready for action’ and a can-do attitude than anything folksy or negative. But there was also that same steely twinkle in the eye that I’d seen in Templeman. Both women were as sharp as tacks.

I’d like to report that the third candidate was equally engaging and as eloquent as her opponents. I’d like to, but I can’t because Louise Markus wasn’t at the council meeting. She also hasn’t acknowledged requests for an interview. She did attend a recent NBN switch-throwing for a photo-op where she was dogged by protesters and photo-bombed by a tee-shirt for her opponent.

The electorate itself is difficult to read. A good proportion of the voters could be termed ‘aspirational tradies’, families where one or both of the parents run a small business – electricians, plumbers, carpenters. They’ve worked hard for years and are doing okay – not brilliantly, but they’ve weathered the worst of the GFC, and have still managed to pay for the kids private school fees, and put away enough for that cruise. They know how to save, and are financially responsible, so are the most likely to be worried by the Liberal Party’s line about ‘reckless Labor spending’. They are the most likely to vote for the incumbent Markus.

There are a fair percentage of voters in Macquarie that fall into the ‘caring professions’ – teachers, nurses, police, firefighters, and social workers. These people are more likely to work in less affluent electorates and have seen first-hand the negative results of policies where money is more important than people. They are probably more swayed by the Labor Party line that going into debt to prevent a recession was a good thing.

There are also a small but significant number of ‘tree-changers’ in the Division – people who have moved here from suburbia for the beauty of the Blue Mountains National Park. Not all of these would chain themselves to a bulldozer, but they might still rate the environment as more important than the economy or asylum seekers.

To further complicate matters, the local Liberal-controlled council has just pushed through a series of decisions that will have large negative impacts upon the local environment, the local traffic infrastructure, and local small businesses.

I spoke with Diane, a Liberal-voting business owner from Windsor, who faces a dilemma. “The council have gone rogue. They’re making bad decisions and they’re not listening. My rates have gone up on my home and my business – my business by thousands. I don’t know how I can afford to stay open. Especially if they’re talking about closing the top end of town for two years while the build this bloody bridge that nobody wants.”

She went on to say, “I don’t care about the boats and I don’t care that much about the deficit. I’m lucky. I’m doing okay, or I was. It’s local issues that are affecting me.”

She said she was considering an informal vote in September, because while she “couldn’t bring herself” to vote for the Labor or Green candidates, she didn’t want to vote for the Liberal candidate who seemed to condone the actions of the council. Such a decision could be crucial.

Louise Markus holds the seat by a narrow margin. If she loses by a few hundred votes to Susan Templeman, she might take some consolation by being able to point a finger at the local Liberal mayor, Kim Ford.

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  1. Nice wrap up Greg(ory) – I was in those mountains last week, gorgeous photo . . . can only presume that’s not a fire raging in the bottom RH corner?

  2. Good analysis. Am enjoying reading these NoFibs election projections. Will watch the results with interest. PS Go Labor.

  3. Great report Gregory … And you definitely have some great bush walks to chose from up your way. Interesting story on the possible informal vote… I envisage we may see large informal vote this election.

  4. Born here. Family has lived here 5 generations. As a community we feel very much a “terra nullilius”. Crap public transport, crap roads. Infrastructure dates from the 1800s – the population has ballooned, but all that is built is monuments to local Mayors. (Like the useless stupid library at Windsor, the useless stupid art gallery, the useless stupid Museum) All duds. Really expensive huge erections, but duds in terms of delivering access and service to local residents. NSW Govt sees the area as dumping ground. Of an evening it can regularly take hour to drive 4kms – yes, 4kms, from Richmond to North Richmond over the 1905 bridge. And the local council is approving developments of thousands of homes west of the river – and NO infrastructure.
    I could go on…….. getting too angry to type…….

    • I moved to the area 3 years ago, so I’m one of the ‘tree-changers’ referred to in this post. I’m sorry you see the library, gallery and museum as ‘useless’ and ‘duds’: every community needs cultural services as well as infrastructure, and I for one am grateful that there’s an excellent library service, world-class art exhibitions and support for local artists (of which there are many in the region), and a museum that reflects the community’s passionate commitment to its heritage.

      I know many Hawkesbury residents with as long a connection to the area as you (and longer, for my Darug friends) who also value these services and see a community as having a heart and soul that need nurturing, along with roads and bridges.

      • The library contains a tri-generation on-site power supply that cost an exorbitant amount. Never worked. Not mothballed. We tried to get sense to prevail in the planning stages – to no avail. Instead of a building with a great wall of west-facing glass, the building should have been oriented to face north with traffic accessing in and out from a widened Suffolk Street. This would have allowed for useable north-facing open space in the precinct. But no. Idiocy prevailed. Re the museum – my family has donated items to the the collection – where are they?? No-one knows. Why have have modern building plonked in the middle of one of the oldest localities in Australia?? Yes, museums and libraries are important – but we what we paid for and got lumbered with is inferior to what we wanted and could have achieved with some vision.
        And we as a community DID try to get better and more cost-effective community facilities. Oh yeah, how we tried.

      • typo – NOW mothballed.

  5. Jackie Verzi says

    Have to agree that Louise Markus is always conspicuous by her abscence, as a local Hawkesbury resident I am disgusted by our local Liberal council that have put up our rates by huge amounts to allow the acreage owneres a reduced rate. Absolutely disgusted and angry with this Liberal council and will not vote for Markus because of it.

  6. Excellent report. Very on the mark. Seems Bart Bassett has had the frighteners put on him as he is now responding to emails regarding Windsor Bridge – no new information,. but very anti-Labor comments in them. Considering it’s a very rare thing to see one of his replies, I’d say he’s been told to put up a good front to help Louise Markus. Will be interesting to see if the Hawkesbury follows it’s old habit of above the line voting for the Libs in this one, considering the damage done by the Liberal led council.

    • All I can say Dianne is when you go to cast your vote and Louise Markus appears on the ballot paper ,think Hawkesbury Rates Disgrace and put her last on the list. Don’t vote informal ,every vote counts.

  7. Ian Milliss says

    Markus? Who? Never seen or heard her, does absolutely nothing. Suzanne Templeman, genuine and good candidate. But no matter what I would never support Libs because of their bad joke NBN which we effectively already have in Linden, constant drop outs and slow speed, unusable for a very large part of every day and that is disastrous if you need it to earn a living as many here do.

  8. I was once a politically engaged resident of the electorate of Macquarie. Volunteering on the 2011 State election woke me up to the political shortcomings of the region – it’s nothing but a political football, a situation which will take amazing leadership to change.

    Sitting members of either party are sent to the backbench even as their maiden speeches are starting, leaving residents with very poor representation. After living there for three decades I ended up feeling like a cash cow for large corporations like Coles and Telstra, and little else.

    The lumping together of the Hawkesbury and the Blue Mountains does no credit to the identities of neither region.

    34 years since I moved there, they are still building the road across the Mountains, the original of which took 6 weeks in the middle of summer 1815. Political will falls over continually as this project rolls on. Residents feel like it will never be finished.

    Markus hides from her constituents and rarely travels west of Springwood, but don’t underestimate the legions of Hillsongers who come out in force to hand-out and campaign for her. She’s of the religious right.

    Great that Macquarie’s on NoFibs, I will watch with great interest to see if the Liberal hold on the region gets broken.

    • Liz Holtham says

      Local and Federal issues are important to us.. I have just watched an announcement by Julie Bishop on behalf of the Liberal Party committing them to certainty in the Live Cattle Industry.. and it was the catalyst for a decision on my vote.. definitely NOT Liberal. And the actions of our Liberal weighted council has not done any favours for the sitting Liberal member, Louise Markus – sorry Louise – no vote for you this time.

      • Interesting perspective Liz – I reckon one day the geographic boundaries of our electoral system may disappear … they’re kind of not relevant at the moment, really, but only helpful to decide the number of seats won or lost by whoever … most voters think larger than their locale at a federal election.

        I didn’t warm to Markus because she refused to meet me and my partner when she was required by parliament to canvas the Macquarie community on marriage equality, and lied to us about not being in our area on the weekend in question, then turning up right in our home town on that very weekend!

        It was such shallow behaviour. Her number one priority is her religion.

  9. The Sex Party won’t draw votes from the left if they insist on preferencing One Nation.

  10. Marguerite McKeown says

    I attended at “Small businesses” organised rally at 7am morning at which the 3 candidates mentioned about spoke as did a gentleman from the Clive Palmer party – I missed his name as it was very windy. 3 of those candidates spoke with passion, conviction and spirit and all agreed that both the local council and the State government have sold almost everyone barring developers down the river over the years. Louis Marcus was unable to answer the question of what she would do to help small business at the top end of Windsor during the proposed 2 year destruction of Thompson Square and rebuilding of a structurally sound two lane bridge with another two lane bridge. She mumbled that she would be happy to answer questions later although this was a direct question at a public forum asked to all the candidates. However as she has been absent at all local meetings and does not respond to emails or telephone calls to her office other than posting out yet more tax payer funded glossy brochures, I suggest we do not hold our breath waiting for her response. On the bright side, she is a really good example of equal opportunity as she seems to have no ideas other than the Tony Abbott espoused lines, is decidedly lacking in passion, not much chop at public speaking with or without notes and is woeful at “meet and greet” – all of which one would assume as the minimal requirements for a pollie in this day and age.

    Just hope that the electorate will vote with her record in the Hawkesbury in mind.

  11. It’s is not more than a little depressing that the area votes conservative in large droves despite their poor record of delivery for the area by its elected representatives at all levels of government. Invariably overwhelmingly conservative.I can only assume that those aspirational voters are content to see Hawkesbury homes going up and public services and infrastructure deteriorating over time.That and they don’t mind the traffic jams. Its the old private wealth/public squalor dichotomy.

    It is even more upsetting to see people who vote Liberal can’t bring themselves to vote Labor or Green. It is voting Liberal all the time that has seen the area turn into the milch cow it is for private developers and retailers – usually the larger ones. Many former Labor voters have no qualms about voting Liberal – look at the last State election – but not the other way round.

    For my part I think the Hawkesbury is divided on social lines more than economic ones. The residents of towns like Richmond, Windsor and their poorer cousins in Hobartville and South Windsor are a world away from the smaller outlying towns and scattered rural properties of East Kurrajong, Kurmond and Oakville. I’m sure something similar could be said of the Mountains but looking at the needs of the Hawkesbury would be a good place to start for all parties and candidates. I’m sure the Mountains folk would violently disagree but I think they are better served than the Hawkesbury.

  12. The Blue Mountains Unions Council Inc held a “Meet the Candidates” event on Saturday 24/8/13 which Susan Templeman and Danielle Wheeler spoke at.

    Audio of the the event can be found via this link; https://soundcloud.com/bmuc/sets/meet-the-candidates-2013. As of posting this comment there is still more audio to be added to the set, so keep checking for updates.

    Louise Markus was invited but declined the invitation. We had been pencilled into her diary on 21st May but were advised she had “other commitments”. The Blue Mountains Gazette reported on 21/8/13 that she had “prior commitments”.

  13. Lachlan Ridge says

    What an appalling article! First, there weren’t seventy five electorates in the first election, South Australia and Tasmania voted as one electorate, and that’s putting aside the fact that it’s not electorates that vote, it’s voters that vote in electorates. Secondly, Ben Chifley is not ‘arguably’ the most famous MHR for Macquarie, he is THE most famous former MHR. I’d challenge anyone to name another who is as widely known or has achieved a much.

    I could go on, but given the general political illiteracy of this article I wonder what’s the point. It’s lazy and slack writing which, as Orwell points out, is a presage to lazy and slack thinking, and there was plenty of that on evidence as well.

    I have worked on six different Macquarie campaigns for various causes. I know this seat well. Using Google Earth to scan the electorate would provide more insight than the fluffy tosh provided here.

    Markus’ invisibility is ordered by NSW Liberals western Sydney co-ordinator, former ABC state correspondent Mark Tobin. It took a post comment to provide an insight into the Windsor Bridge hotwire issue (a vote changer), What’s a ‘good proportion’ or a ‘fair percentage’? Ten percent? Twenty percent? Ninety percent? I don’t know but I’ll have a wild guess based on what I see in the carpark of Woolies percent? It’s not as if this info is available from the ABS! It’s this sloppy thinking that leaves people thinking Katoomba is a hep cool Newtown at altitude when it is anything but. And, shock horror, two candidates are as sharp as tacks. God spare me. This is our air that he is breathing and he thinks it’s worth sharing this Forrest Gump analysis with anyone? This writing is trashing the No Fibs website.

    The lead was the fact that a conservative voter was struggling to land her vote with Abbott’s party because of Markus’ association with the dross on Hawkesbury Council; and that gets buried underneath a bulwark of local colour, Can someone teach this fool how to write before they inflict themselves upon other people’s sensibilities. Not all of us are morons. We don;t come here for moronic colour pieces that inform nothing.

    Complete and utter waste of everyone’s time this article.