WESTERN AUSTRALIAN ELECTION 2017
Margin: Nationals 3.2% versus Liberal
Candidates in ballot paper order
The electoral history of the Goldfields is a story of steadily declining importance since the gold rush, which unfolded in the decade after self-government was established in 1891, and also of declining support for Labor. The region accounted for eight of the state's 50 seats at the turn of the twentieth century, and continued to be divided between two electorates until the most recent distribution. Labor held Kalgoorlie from 1923 to 2001, but has not done so since, and retained the second electorate most recently known as Eyre until 2008, when the one-vote one-value redistribution caused it to absorb the distant coastal city of Esperance.
With Eyre now abolished, Kalgoorlie absorbs 6500 voters mostly from the Boulder end of town, while also losing 1000 voters in vast remote areas to North West Central. The electorate now covers 550,000 square kilometres of south-eastern Western Australia, accounting for over 20% of the state's surface area. Kalgoorlie-Boulder provides about three-quarters of the voters, with other population centres including Laverton, Leinster and Leonora. It is one of six electorates than a lower than normal enrolment due to the large district allowance, which treats electorates of more than 100,000 square kilometres as having phantom voters equal in number to 1.5% of its area in square kilometres in this case resulting in a total enrolment of 18,674, compared with a statewide average of around 25,000.
Labor's tipping point in Kalgoorlie arrived when Matt Birney gained the seat for the Liberals against the trend of the 2001 election, partly reflecting a 10.5% vote for One Nation and the party's direction of preferences against all sitting members. Birney secured the seat with a further 8.6% swing after the 2005 election, and subsequently rose to the leadership in succession to Colin Barnett at the age of 35. He was ousted from the position one year later, and quit politics at the 2008 election.
Meanwhile, Eyre (renamed Murchison-Eyre in 2005) was retained for Labor by John Bowler until he was forced out of the party in 2007, after being accused of leaking confidential material during Corruption and Crime Commission inquiries into Labor lobbyists Brian Burke and Julian Grill (the latter being Bowler's predecessor as member for Eyre). Bowler nonetheless retained considerable popularity locally, and successfully contested Kalgoorlie as an independent in 2008, emerging with a margin of 3.6% over the Nationals. In the days after the indecisive election result, Bowler undermined Labor's already weak position when he said he would act in accord with the Nationals in minority government negotiations.
Bowler's retirement at the 2013 election initiated a contest between the Nationals and Liberals, who were all but equal on 37%, with Labor reduced to a distant third with 19.2%. With Labor preferences flowing heavily to the Nationals, the result was a comfortable 6.3% winning margin for Wendy Duncan, who had previously served a term in the upper house Agricultural region. With Duncan now retiring, the seat will be contested for the Nationals by Tony Crook, who held the federal seat of O'Connor for a term after unseating Liberal veteran Wilson Tuckey in 2010; for the Liberals by Kyran O'Donnell, a local police officer; and for Labor by Darren Forster, a musician and indigenous affairs worker.
Based on the Senate vote, Kalgoorlie was One Nation's second strongest second in Western Australia at the 2016 federal election. The party announced in mid-February that its candidate would be David Archibald, a geologist and prolific contributor to the conservative journal Quadrant. However, Archibald told the media this was a mistake and that he was actually hoping to run somewhere else, and he was subsequently reassigned to Pilbara. The party eventually announced its candidate as Richard Bolton, owner of a property maintenance business.
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