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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{17ac88c265afb328fa89088ab635a2a63864fdefdd7caa0964376053e8ea14b3} 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{17ac88c265afb328fa89088ab635a2a63864fdefdd7caa0964376053e8ea14b3} swing to Liberal, when compared to the last time this electorate voted within the same boundaries (2004) there was actually a 7.6{17ac88c265afb328fa89088ab635a2a63864fdefdd7caa0964376053e8ea14b3} 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.