Peel thunder

A week of high drama in Western Australian politics has culminated with confirmation that Norm Marlborough, who resigned as Small Business Minister yesterday following sensational revelations of his dealings with former Premier Brian Burke, will also quit his seat in parliament. This will precipitate a by-election in his safe southern suburbs seat of Peel, which the ABC reports could be held as early as December 16. Labor’s margin at last year’s election was 13.5 per cent; given the government’s many difficulties in recent months, that might be close enough to make it worth the Liberals’ while to field a candidate, despite the shellacking former leader Matt Birney copped for doing the same at the Victoria Park by-election in March. Otherwise, the Labor preselection threatens to be of greater interest than the poll itself. It may also have federal implications, given that the electorate is entirely within Kim Beazley’s seat of Brand.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

7 comments on “Peel thunder”

  1. Alas Graeme, I may not be counted among the club’s very small band of followers. I am in fact a lifelong South Fremantle man, my father having been the club’s fairest and best player of 1963.

  2. I think that the Libs must contest this seat for at least the following reasons:
    1) being an election-o-phile I want to see some sort of contest,
    2) this government has been limping from crisis to crisis and given the appalling circumstances of Malborough’s resignation a backlash is on the cards,
    3) although this area has historically been fairly safe Labor it ain’t necessarily so (eg Beazley was threatened in Brand just a couple polls ago by a strong showing from Penny Hearn)
    4) there has been a lot of growth in the electorate in new and growing suburbs surrounding Rockingham and heading toward Mandurah.
    Actually – the first reason above is my real one.
    If Peel was ever going to swing to the Libs this is the best chance. From what I have observed Malborough was a pretty effective local operator. You may be right William – the ALP pre-selection may well be an interesting spectacle. Just make sure whomever they come up with stays well away from Burkie!

  3. I agree the Libs should contest the seat. I’d be shocked if they won, but the inevitably large anti-Labor swing should give them something to gloat about.

    I must take issue point (3) though. The Liberals came close to winning Brand not “just a couple of polls ago” but back in 1996 – four elections ago. The closeness of that particular contest says more about the nature of landslides than it does about the electorate itself.

  4. I’d be very happy to see an Independent take on this race. Just on principle, I believe that independents should play a role in elections of this kind. Let’s not forget that considerable damage was done to Labor’s margin in Victoria Park and some of the things various candidates brought up, while scoffed at the time by the parties, actually got dealt with.

    And no, I’m not planning my own effort. 🙂 It would have to be a local, and it would have to be someone pretty solid to match someone who’s likely to be considered a future minister, and capitalise on regional issues and take best advantage of the corruption situation. What makes it harder for someone in that position is that Peel has not even close to the levels of neglect that Victoria Park did – they’re getting the railway, the bypass, and are the focus of a key government strategy to develop the region. However there may be things of which I’m entirely unaware on which someone could run down there.

    If someone has just such a thing in mind, and really thinks they could do the job, has some solid ideas and aren’t just in it for vanity raising, I would definitely be following that contest with a degree of interest.

    And VPL – don’t forget that Brand in 1996 was a very different electorate to what it is now – it included a lot of rural areas as well as Mandurah’s SW suburbs, which are now in Canning and Forrest, and which are very solidly Liberal. Taking those out alters the balance profoundly.

  5. Ok, both points well made Andrew and David but my original posting still stands (albeit no. 3 is slightly tattered but still definitely intact – just change ‘couple’ to ‘few’ and accomodate boundary changes). Besides, no. 1 is still my real reason for hoping the Libs (or at least anyone!) put up a fight in Peel! 😉
    I just popped back to see if there was anything happening now that the polling date has been fixed. 3 February should be interesting. I am not suprised the Govt went with a late date but I am not happy that the good people of Peel are effectively without representation for over 2 months!
    I know its early but does anyone want to make any predictions? I am prepared right now to predict that the seat won’t change hands but a swing of about 7% is looking good. However, I reserve the right to amend the amount of swing closer to the polling.
    I really hope we get some commentary from some people on the ground in the electorate. Anybody out there???

  6. My prediction is the ALP will easily hold the seat but with a 3-4% swing. In actually choosing a good candidate this time and considering demographic change in the area since the last election, these may actually counter any negatives from either reaction to the last member’s behaviour or losing the last member’s personal vote. What’s interesting is that the Kwinana area as a whole is far safer Labor than even the safest booth in VP (the Nyamup CC one) – but to counter that you have Secret Harbour, Golden Bay and Singleton (and in a close election Port Kennedy) which are all broadly speaking marginal. Those four booths will be my barometer, much as Homestead and Wilson were in VP.

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