Eyes are on marginal Sydney seats as federal election looms

Central Sydney is shaping up as a key battleground in Election 2016, and on the frontline the two main parties have key figures they’re relying on.

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First, there is Labor’s candidate for Barton – located in Sydney’s inner southern suburbs – Linda Burney, who is hoping to take a seat currently held by the Liberals.

If she wins, she will become the first Aboriginal woman to hold a seat in the House of Representatives.

Ms Burney has told SBS Indigenous affairs will be high on her agenda if she is elected.

“Clearly, the social-justice issues,” Ms Burney said.

“I mean, how can it be that our jails are full of Aboriginal kids and Aboriginal adults? Thirty-five per cent of (places in) jails in this country are full of Aboriginal people when we are only four per cent of the population.”

State of the state

Changes to electoral boundaries last year mean Barton is now expected to become a Labor seat, with a projected margin of 5.4 per cent.

The seat is already being considered a Liberal Party loss, with MP Nicholas Varvaris yet to commit to running for re-election.

Ms Burney said her goal was to deliver Barton back to the Labor Party.

“The issue of education, I think, is going to be a major one with the election,” she said.

“Health is an issue – we’ve got St George Hospital here.

“But, there are also big issues around available green space. There’s a lot of development, and the development is probably outpacing the infrastructure.”

Despite the redistribution of boundaries, the Liberal and National parties still dominate in NSW, with 27 seats to Labor’s 20.

Key marginal seats

Barton is one of four marginal seats in Sydney which are vulnerable.

The seat of Banks, won by the Coalition after 30 years of Labor rule, has a slender 2.1 per cent margin.

In the outer western suburbs, the seat of Lindsay is held by a mere three per cent margin.

And in the Reid electorate, located in the inner western suburbs, it is a margin of 4.2 per cent.

Assistant Multicultural Affairs Minister Craig Laundy holds Reid, a seat renowned for its diversity.

Mr Laundy is quickly rising up the Liberal ranks, but he admitted that will not assure him victory.

“It doesn’t change the mindset,” Mr Laundy told SBS.

“I mean, we were elected back in 2013, and we’ve been campaigning nonstop for two-and-a-half years.

“When you’re in a marginal seat, you don’t have the luxury of, you know, taking anything for granted. You’ve got to stand, in three years’ time, on your record, which I will be doing.”

Reid was a Labor stronghold until Craig Laundy won it as part of Tony Abbott’s landslide win as Prime Minister in 2013.

The redistribution has brought in more suburbs with Liberal Party supporters, but, still, nothing is guaranteed.

Mr Laundy said there are a number of local issues he will focus on throughout his campaign.

“The key message here will be the economic narrative,” he explained.

“This is a culturally diverse place of Sydney. Everyone’s worried about not only their job, but jobs for their children. That’s why the economic message, I believe, will be the thing that this campaign is fought around in this local area.

“We’ve got to go to the people, with two-and-a-half years under the belt, and point to local achievements and ask would they endorse me for another three years.”

And for the people across the key Sydney electorates, opinion is split on what will decide their final votes.

“I think people need a politician to care about the community,” a voter in the suburb of Eastwood said.

“Trustworthy, and do the best for this country, I think, do the best they possibly can,” said a mother in the Reid electorate.

“They should support business-people, who pay a lot of taxes every year,” added an elderly man from the seat of Barton.

A gripping set of contests are brewing.