Seat of the week: Eden-Monaro

This fortnight’s Seat of the Week is Eden-Monaro, renowned throughout the land as the “bellwether” seat that invariably goes the way of the party that wins the election. It is not immediately obvious why it should have this reputation, as its record in this regard is far exceeded by Macarthur, which has gone with the winning party at every election since its creation in 1949. One reason is that Eden-Monaro’s broad mix of elements make it arguably representative of the state at large, if not the entire country: it includes suburban Queanbeyan, rural centres Cooma and Bega, coastal towns Eden and Narooma, and agricultural areas sprinkled with small towns (as well as the ski resorts at Thredbo and Perisher, which have many visitors but few voters). Furthermore, the area covered by Eden-Monaro has been remarkably little changed over the years, whereas Macarthur’s varying fortunes have largely been determined by redistributions. Eden-Monaro’s boundaries have always been defined by the ocean in the east and the Victorian border in the south, and its relative population decline has roughly cancelled out the effects of the increasing size of parliament.

The most significant aberration was when it acquired a north-western spur that took in Goulburn between 1934 and 1977. The 1998 redistribution left it with boundaries that were almost identical to those it had before 1913; the current redistribution, which saw New South Wales lose a seat, has for the first time expanded it westwards to include Tumut and Tumbarumba, formerly in the safe conservative seat of Farrer. These areas produced a two-party Liberal vote well into the 60s at the last federal election, and their addition has seen the Liberal margin increase from 2.2 per cent to 3.3 per cent, despite the loss of the Liberal-leaning Batemans Bay area to Gilmore. Labor’s strongest area remains the Canberra satellite town of Queanbeyan, not counting its outer suburb of Jerrabomberra where the 60/40 split in Labor’s favour is reversed. The coastal area can be divided into a finely balanced northern half, including Narooma and Moruya, and a strongly Liberal south, including Eden and Bega. Cooma and other inland towns are also solidly conservative. The 2004 election produced little change in voting patterns throughout the electorate, with the Liberals recording an overall swing of 0.4 per cent.

Eden-Monaro was held by conservatives of various stripes for all but one term until 1943, the exception being Labor’s 40-vote win when Jim Scullin’s government came to power in 1929. Allan Fraser won the seat for Labor with the 1943 landslide and held it against the tide in 1949 and 1951. He was defeated in 1966 but was back in 1969, finally retiring in 1972. The loss of his personal vote almost saw the seat go against the trend of the 1972 election, with the Country Party overtaking their conservative rivals for the first time to come within 503 votes of victory. The Country Party again finished second in 1974, this time coming within 146 votes of defeating Labor member Bob Whan (whose son Steve unsuccessfully contested the seat in 1998 and 2001, and is now the state member for Monaro). However, 1975 saw the Liberals gain strongly at the expense of the Country Party as well as Labor, and their candidate Murray Sainsbury won the seat with a two-party margin of 5.6 per cent. Sainsbury held the seat until the defeat of the Fraser government in 1983; the same fate befell his Labor successor, Jim Snow, who was swept out by a 9.2 per cent swing when Labor lost office in 1996.

The seat has since been held for the Liberals by Gary Nairn (left), who cut his political teeth in the Northern Territory as president of the Country Liberal Party in the early 1990s. Nairn moved to Queanbeyan and joined the Liberal Party in 1995, moving swiftly to secure preselection at the following year’s election. Within a year of entering parliament he landed a significant role as chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, but he then had to wait until October 2004 before being made a parliamentary secretary. Nairn was further promoted to the outer ministry position of Special Minister of State in January 2006, in which capacity he has expanded his authority in relation to electoral matters. He has also had to deal during the current term with the loss of his wife Kerrie to cancer, at the age of 53.

Labor made national headlines in April when it announced its candidate would be Lieutenant-Colonel Mike Kelly (right), a military lawyer who had been credited with efforts to warn the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade about the AWB kickbacks scandal, and the Australian military about possible abuses at Abu Ghraib prison. Kelly was installed as candidate a week after the party’s national conference empowered the state executive to appoint candidates in 25 key seats over the heads of the local party branches. The preselection process had already been considerably delayed because the party did not wish for it to coincide with the March state election. The front-runners to that point had been Kel Watt, a former political staffer linked to the Right faction who had been the candidate in 2004, and Andrew Beaumont, a Treasury official who had won backing from former member Jim Snow and Fraser MP Bob McMullan. The high-profile independent mayor of Queanbeyan, Frank Pangallo, said in April that “senior party figures” had encouraged him to throw his hat into the ring, due to what Andrew Fraser of the Canberra Times described as a “growing feeling” that Beaumont and Watt “might not have what it takes to win”. Less fancied candidates were Graham Shannon and Toni McLennan, both public servants.

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.

197 comments on “Seat of the week: Eden-Monaro”

Comments Page 3 of 4
1 2 3 4
  1. Well Blacklight,

    My theory is that any political party is always going to have a “hack factor”, I guess its reasonable because there has to be a reward for those who do the mundane work – letterboxing, doorknocking, organising, branches etc etc. The quid pro is that if you are below average intelligence or talent you can be rewarded above your due if you are prepared to do the boring and the mundane.

    I’d suggest the hack factor is ideally about 15-30% of parliamentarians. After all you do need some who are happy being Indians and never Chiefs. The problem with modern Labor is that the hack factor has grown to about 50-70% which in turn promotes dangerously undemocractic structures and organisation.

    I would say without researching the background of the Liberal marginal holders the hack factor would be substantially lower about 30-40%. Witness for example Howard protecting the nuclear scientist fellow in Tangney. Unfortunately Labor has very few like Tinley in Stirling.

  2. And Gary,

    Just how good will government by “union hack” be? Whats the point of having one or two hopeless terms other than to assist superannuation plans for ALP frontbenchers on the wrong side of 40?

  3. This issue of how to pre-select “better” candidates is bedevilled by the nature of the modern political parties. As Adam points out there is no near-term likelihood of any party in Australia becoming a mass movement. This leaves them cherry ripe for take-over by factional heavies. I stress that this is not particular to Labor. The Victorian Liberal Party is no less factionalised.
    In principle the Victorian Labor pre-selection process is a good one, with 50% of the votes deriving from members in the local electorate and 50% from a centrally elected panel. What is deficient is the unrepresentativeness of both halves of this process.
    I agree with Adam that a primary system would be the ideal to work towards, but it’s clearly not going to happen, while the beneficiaries of the current system benefit from it.

  4. So tell me Edward, what problems will these masses of “union hacks” cause to a future Labor government? What evil will they bring? Are you sure you voted for Labor during Keating’s time? Weren’t there masses of “union hacks” back then?

  5. Would you consider Shorten and Combet “union hacks”? Are there any that have talent or is this just a good ol’ union bash?

  6. Well a Rudd Labor Government 2007 would be not unlike the Iemma Labor Government if you need an example of what government by hack would be like.

    Keating’s time – no I believe the hack factor was lower – certainly had some first rate ministers back then Button, Evans, Beazley, Blewett etc

    Interesting that Shorten and Combet are cited as talent. How should we measure the talent or ability of a union leader. Perhaps union membership is a fair objective figure. In the last ten years I believe the ACTU and the AWU would have lost membership of approximately 15-20%. Good union leaders would be:

    who have all maintained market share.

    Or what great achievements has a union leader delivered. Profit share is at a record therefore real wages are at a record low – not much of a record of achievement for these stars Gary.

  7. Edward StJohn Says:

    Good union leaders would be:

    Please not the SDA. If we used them as an example of good union leaders then the criteria must exclude actually doing anything if the SDA is involved.

  8. Edward – “Well a Rudd Labor Government 2007 would be not unlike the Iemma Labor Government if you need an example of what government by hack would be like.” Could you tell me where you bought that very “clear and accurate” crystal ball?
    I’m no economist but I’m not convinced this statement by you is accurate in the sense that because of A then B must follow. “Profit share is at a record therefore real wages are at a record low”. Not only that but you say this as if it is the unions’ fault. Try blaming the laws the unions are working under.

  9. Interesting that after attending some community meetings lately that a good percentage of members from theses groups are now looking to the Greens as their first option as they do not feel the major parties are serious on Climate change , environment , education , health and social equality in Kingston and as a whole.

  10. Most union members who are not politically minded or interested cannot stomach union bosses who go into politics. They see this as a betrayal and look at it as that they are ‘only in it for the money’. Union delegates and shop stewards seem to support these union bosses moving into ALP politics. I believe that there should be more rank and file union members running for parliament.

  11. A union with genuine employee support can beat any employer law eg O’Shea in 1969.

    Profit share has been on the up since before WorkChoices.

  12. Edward StJohn, I seem to recall a less than successful Liberal Party hack of the 70’s of the same name. Are you he or just a relation?

    Is It really necessary for you to post your incisive slant on your own party’s propaganda in such a condescending, sneering and frankly, insulting manner towards your co posters?

    Do you have an anger management problem, or is it just your way of compensating for the inferiority you feel over the loss of your hyphen.

    If it’s the latter, I can help, St-John. See?

    If its the former, you are, I’m afraid, in the political sense, destined to become a lot angrier.

  13. Gary, your distaste for Workchoices is understood, but your disagreement with anyone who criticises or questions Mr Rudd, Ms Gillard or any current ALP position (including the reasons for the party’s standing in recent opinion polls) is becoming a very common theme in your posts. Are there reasons for that? Even ALP members are, on occasion, critical of their own party.

  14. More sadness than anger Fulvio,

    Last time I checked debate and argument werent condescending, sneering and insulting. I guess sometimes people play the man when they know they cant refute the argument. Please cite examples if you want to take that tack and be taken seriously.

    Having said that I dont deny the odd niggle only to Adam, but then I think he would concede he is not adverse in that department either.

    I can assure I shall be of good cheer whatever the election outcome. I have no particular dog in this fight as the Americans like to say, Fortunately whoever wins is not going to impact my life greatly.

  15. The original Ted St John (MHR for Warringah 1966-69) was not a Liberal hack, he was a genuine and highly principled liberal who would certainly would not get endorsed for a safe Liberal seat today. He was an active opponent of apartheid at a time when most Liberals were still defending it, he used his maiden speech to criticise his own government (prompting Harold Holt to ask “What’s this chap’s name – apart from bastard?”), and he criticised Gorton to his face for his drunkeness and womaning (what today would be called sexual harassment), thus getting himself expelled from the Liberal Party. He left politics with a clear conscience, which I rather doubt Phil Ruddock will do.

  16. David, I make no apology for my views, nor should I and nor should anyone else here. I can say this to you I am not a member of any party but just express my view as I see it.
    Edward, “Profit share has been on the up since before WorkChoices” I agree with you but I’m questioning the veracity of your statement that that automatically assumes wages are down.
    I also note that you provide me with an example of a Labor government with union hacks as proof this will be Rudd’s fate. Being Victorian I’m not familiar with the Iemma government. Could you be a little more specific with your objections to having “union hacks” in government? What “damage” will they do?
    Are there any state governments that don’t have “union hacks” at the moment? Are they all bad governments?

  17. Bill, it’s not how many people are going to vote Green that’s so important, it’s how many of those people will preference a particular major party that counts in the long run.

  18. about Paul Keating’s lateline interview
    it is worth looking at it on the abc website
    These are Mr Keating’s opinions using his usual colourful turn of phrase
    some is influenced by his upset at losing Government and some is well
    thought out. What should be looked at is the merits of his arguements
    eg it is possible to disagree with Julia Gillard’s effectiveness in terms or the
    I.R position she puts forward without agreement with Mr Keating’s proposal
    completely certainly one should look past the “Newspaper Journalism”

  19. Gary,

    The failures of the NSW govt are too many to mention, I think we discussed it extensively in the threads pre NSW election.

    Essentially the NSW Govt is not prepared to challenge the self interests of a union rump in the public sector.

    There is a disconnect between the ALP interest in good government and the ACTU interest in status/power etc. The dilemma which PJK touched on is the needs of government need Labor to attack its own base.

    Think Gorbachev in 1990, he wanted to reform but to reform was to weaken the powerbase that kept him there. Same problem with Labor (but obviously not on the same scale)

  20. Gary, fair enough. It really is a no brainer: everyone, within the limits of the laws of defamation, should be free to express their views about anything or anyone (although some, like Robert Mugabe, may not think so). I was most certainly not asking you to make any apology for your views (some of which I share), but just wondering when you might surprise me, or even engage me, with a different and refreshing perspective, perhaps in the same way you might be surprised and engaged by Mr Shanahan of The Australian if he wrote something different.

  21. Adam I have a reasonably open mind on the idea of selecting candidates via primaries. I think it would be essential that any such system have reasonable rules on campaigning – eg an expense ceiling or some other methods to ensure it didn’t simply become a case of victory going to whoever had the most money.

    However, I wonder whether it would actually make much difference – how many people would bother to vote. In the US it works for a number of reasons that probably wouldn’t apply here. In cases like the attempt to roll Simon Crean I can imagine a lot of people becoming engaged and voting either for or against a high profile figure, but would many non-members really have come out for preselections such as those held last year in Scullin or Isaacs?

  22. Dear in two minds about keaters,

    Although thi isnt the forum, i will answer youre question.

    Many female friends who still reside in whats called the shire have been the taget of what would be called sexual harrassment at cronulla beach by people of mediteranean descent. Now i under stand youre an apologist for these individuals, but there is no excuse for behaviour of this kind. Truly if you belive the cronulla riots are because of how we ‘skips’ behave you are seiously mistaken.
    It may be time to divest yourself of moral relativism and get with the real world.

    Why do i have no time for the islamic lebanese, (as clearly distinct from their christian cousins), simple, because you dont treat women like that.

  23. I often think about better ways to handle pre-selections.

    What about a middle course between primaries and local area preselections that allowed ALP members from all over the state to vote in each preselection? It would a) make branch-stacking almost impossible and b) actually pay heed to the reality that members represent the party generally rather than a specific handful of branches.

    With a weighting towards votes from the local branches, I think it would work quite well.

  24. I agree that would be an improvment on local selection.
    To some extent, of course, that is what we have in Victoria. 50% of votes are cast by local members, the other 50% by a panel *representing* the statewide party membership.

  25. I doubt there’d be enough party members who really take a strong interest in party affairs outside their own electorate.

  26. Andrew, now I understand, thanks.

    That’s why female Lebanese deserved to be set upon by mobs of drunken hoons and have scarfs ripped off etc.

    And of course harassing women is very un-Australian.

    “We decide who harasses our women, and the circumstances in which they’re harrassed.”

  27. David – even if there were only a few hundred amongst the 13,000 Victorian ALP members, for instance, that would constitute a reasonably representative sample.

    Adam – whilst your point is correct in theoretical terms, I would suggest that most grass roots members do not feel that the central panel represents them.

  28. You cant put lipstick on a pig and make it presentable.
    Probably PR in elections is the only realistic option with a reasonable threshold say 2.5% is the only way to open up the whole corrupt system.

  29. 2.5% would mean that there would be list PR (or senate style list stv) which just gives preselection to the cetral state party (or federal party if the constitution is changed to allow national list) whick would not make the preselection procedure more democratic.
    If you want proper democratic cadidate selection then then have Tasmania/ACT style system with the electoral commission organising a preselection if more than a set number of candidates from any peticular party nominate.

  30. Sorry to all those bored with Bill’s SDA obsession, but, Bill, I agree with what I have already said about the SDA.

  31. It would be interesting to have a primary system. All parties participating, managed by the AEC, and all happeningon the same day. If as quite rightly said above, there were controls put on spending, it may be what the political process needs as it could reconnect large numbers of people with the process.

  32. # Chris Curtis Says:
    June 10th, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    Sorry to all those bored with Bill’s SDA obsession, but, Bill, I agree with what I have already said about the SDA.

    Chris obsession or not its how many of the members feel. Its good that you can agree with yourself ( would be a worry if you did not ).

  33. I keep noticing the back peddling by Rudd and co on IR. You can just feel a split coming in the ALP. The unions ( not the right wing boss run unions ) are seeing the ‘stab in the back’ after committing money and resources to the YR@W campaign. So i believe if the ALP wins this election we will see the beginning of a new or amalgamated workers/community party which will make politics very interesting.

  34. People don’t see themselves as working class unless Adam says they are? I find this a very strange attitude which seems to flow from the right.

  35. Charlie says:
    “Adam – whilst your point is correct in theoretical terms, I would suggest that most grass roots members do not feel that the central panel represents them.”

    But that misses my point Charlie – there are no “grass roots members” in any real sense, only a hard core of factional activists and an outer circle of pensioners and drones, whose opinions on what is a suitable candidate are, frankly, not up to much. To repeat myself, the days of the mass-based political party are over, and cannot be brought back by any act of will by the parties. This is true all over the world.

    The objective of any reform must therefore be to place the power of choosing candidates in the hands of Labor *voters*. In the US a person cannot join the Democrat and Republican parties as such at all – there is no “Miami branch of the Republican Party.” People register as a Democratic or Republican voter, and then join the primary campaign of whichever candidate best reflects their views. I know there are many problems with this method, but I think it is more in touch with the realities of modern politics than is the 19th century model we have at the moment, based in a working-class movement and culture which no longer exist.

  36. “So i believe if the ALP wins this election we will see the beginning of a new or amalgamated workers/community party which will make politics very interesting.”

    I assume I’m not the only person to read the word after workers/ incorrectly… and then re-read it to notice I was wrong by a letter.

  37. Honestly advocating an American system of primaries is not unlike advocating a Big Mac diet to a sufferer of chronic heart disease.

    Primaries are going to favour money and power interests. Who is going to be in a position to attract public interest in a seat like Deakin someone with an existing public profile or someone with lots of cash to get a profile.

    Our system of politics is rooted. Australians want thorough reform. Look at the republic referendum it went down not because we love the Queen but people actually wanted a real reform and change. The decline of parties reflects that most sensible people wouldnt touch either party with a barge pole.

    Who benefits from such a system? People like the rodent, you arent going to beat the rodent by being the rodent. It’s truly amazing that people who see themselves as stalwarts of the ALP are so scared of its own reformist heritage.

  38. Adam – I think it’s a little over the top to say there are “no” grass roots members. Their numbers may be thin, but either they are still around or my social circle is very atypical for a non-ALP member. All that really matters is that there’s a few hundred in each state (which would be the case except for Tasmania, I would think). Also – the key to getting a lot of them back, and turning solid supporters into members is to make membership meaningful again.

    I have said in the past that I’m sympathetic to the primaries idea, but I think it’s just too radical a change for either of the major parties to contemplate it. Therefore, I’m focusing my musings on what I imagine might be within the realms of possibility.

  39. When I want advice on how to reform the Labor Party from Liberal propagandists I will ask for it. I would have thought that a party which has lost 20-something state elections in a row might be in need of some minor tinkering itself. And do spare us your silly pseudo-left rhetoric. Our system of politics is not rooted – it is in need of some reforms, but on the whole it is among the best in the world. If you want to get into bed with bill weller and the trotskyites I hope you enjoy the company.

  40. Charlie, how do you propose to “make membership meaningful again”? People in 2007, including working-class people to the extent that the term still means anything, do not want to spend their evenings at dreary branch meetings or listening to speeches in the Mechanics Institute. That is part of a 19th century civic culture which has been dying since WW2 and is now stone dead. Smart politicians recognised this years ago – recall Menzies delivering his 1963 policy speech on TV, while Calwell orated at Festival Hall (I think) like something from the 1920s. Phenomena like the internet mobilisation for Howard Dean in 2004 are the future of politics. As I have argued before, I would abolish party branches altogether. People who join the Labor Party could join a policy committee or a campaign team, but they would not choose candidates. No doubt many nominal members and stack-fodder would be lost, but frankly they would be no loss apart from their membership fees. I note in passing that the largest party in France in membership terms is still the Communist Party, but what does this mean in practice? Rien.

  41. I hope the second to last comment was aimed at ESJ, rather than me.

    As for your post. I agree with your view about *why* party membership is moribund. Maybe with the idealism of youth (I’m only 20) I’m just more optimistic about turning it around. There’s no reason why the ‘dreary branch meeting’ *has* to be the only avenue of involvement in the party. The trick is simply to get like-minded people from the same area in the one place and start them talking about what they’d like to see happen – I know this is possible because I am a member of just such a group (albeit non-partisan). What needs to happen is for people to have some ideas and just do them regardless of whether they’re sanctioned by the state executive. If I’m a young ALP member who can’t stand Young Labor events, why shouldn’t I start my own youth network of Labor people?

Comments are closed.

Comments Page 3 of 4
1 2 3 4