Do you think Campbelltown has more in common with Narellan or Wollongong? The Liberal Party thinks the latter — and wants local voters moved out of the Macarthur electorate. Jeff McGill reports.
The Liberal Party is attempting to make the federal seat of Macarthur safer for Russell Matheson by pushing thousands of Labor-leaning Campbelltown voters into a Wollongong electorate instead.
It wants the boundaries changed and suburbs such as Ambarvale, Rosemeadow, Bradbury and Airds to be kicked out of Macarthur and merged into the seat of Cunningham, centred on Bulli and Fairy Meadow.
The Liberal Party argues, in its submission to the Australian Electoral Commission, that there is a ‘‘natural connection and like-minded community of interest’’ between Campbelltown and the northern suburbs of Wollongong.
Apparently more than the existing connection between Campbelltown and Narellan.
The Advertiser has been unable to contact Mr Matheson, the sitting Liberal MP for Macarthur, who is in parliament today.
But Campbelltown independent councillor Fred Borg is one of the local residents who would be affected and said the Liberal proposal was clearly a rort.
It would push left-leaning Campbelltown suburbs into the safe Labor seat of Cunningham, making it easier for the Liberals to hold Macarthur at the next federal election if there was a backlash against the Abbott government.
‘‘This is a gerrymander at it’s worse,’’ Cr Borg said.
‘‘People of Campbelltown need to stand up and say ‘no’.
‘‘We have just become a regional city and we need local representatives who know what they are talking about, and understand our needs — not an MP from Wollongong.’’
Campbelltown mayor Paul Lake also strongly disagrees with the proposal and suggested it was either the product of alchohol, or an inability to read maps.
‘‘Whoever put this proposal together in the Liberal Party must have been having a great night in Canberra, or must have had the wrong pair of glasses on,’’ Cr Lake said.
‘‘We’re talking about chalk and cheese here, there is nothing but deadly Appin Road, a national park and water catchment wilderness in between us and the Illawarra.
‘‘If the Liberal Party intends us [Campbelltown Council] to travel down to an office in Wollongong every time is needs to talk to our local MP, it needs to think again.’’
The redistribution of federal electoral boundaries began in December and submissions from the major political parties and other stakeholders are being accessed by a independent committee working with by the Australian Electoral Commission.
Submissions by Labor and The Greens have only suggested minor changes to the existing local federal boundaries.
But the Liberal submission is a major change and justified it’s Cunningham proposal by stressing what it called the ‘‘natural connection’’ between the two regions.
‘‘The Liberal Party proposes that by utilising the heavily trafficked four-lane Appin Road connection corridor between Campbelltown and Wollongong, the southern localities of Campbelltown can be included along with the northern beachside localities of Wollongong in the division of Cunningham,’’ the submission stated.
This has infuriated Cr Borg, who said the government refuses to properly fund or improve Appin Road, yet is happy to use it as an excuse to rort electoral boundaries.
In it’s submission, the Liberal Party insisted southern portions of Liberal-leaning Sutherland Shire should not be placed in the seat of Cunningham in place of the Campbelltown suburbs, because it would cause a ‘‘dislocation’’ for electors in Sutherland Shire.
‘‘The Liberal Party strongly believes that there is little connection for these electors [of Sutherland Shire] southwards.’’
Under existing boundaries, Campbelltown City is split between two seats, with those north of Leumeah Road and Badgally Road being in Werriwa, and those to the south in Macarthur.
It wouldn’t be the first time local voters have been dumped into a Wollongong seat.
In 1984, under the Hawke Government, the boundary of Macarthur was redrawn to take in much of Illawarra, slammed at the time by Liberal politicians for being a boundary rort with no community of interest between the two different areas.