Located in Perth’s eastern suburbs, Hasluck was created when Western Australia gained an extra seat at the 2001 election, from territory that had previously been in Perth, Tangney and Swan. As my maps for Crikey illustrate, it consists of three distinct population areas which lean to Labor in the north and south, and to the Liberals in the centre. The northern area includes Midland, home to a high proportion of elderly voters, rent payers and low-income earners, and the more Liberal-friendly Guildford, which is demographically unremarkable on all measures. The central area includes middle-income suburbs around Kalamunda in the Darling Scarp, home to a large number of English migrants, as well as mortgage-sensitive Forrestfield and Maida Vale nearer the city. The southern suburbs of Gosnells, Thornlie and Maddington are marked by lower levels of income and home ownership.
Hasluck had a notional Labor margin of 2.6 per cent going into the 2001 election, when it swung to the Liberals by an insufficient 0.6 per cent. The inaugural member was Sharryn Jackson (right), who had worked for 15 years as an official with the Left faction Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union. Jackson looked set to have her seat pulled from under her when Western Australian’s seat entitlement fell back below 14.5 in late 2002, but its nose was back in front when the determination was made the following March (it has since risen above 14.6). She was instead seen off by a 3.6 per cent swing to the Liberals at the 2004 election, part of an allergic reaction to Mark Latham throughout the suburbs of Perth. Labor managed to pick up swings in a few of the wealthier booths around Kalamunda, but this was swamped by a substantial shift to the Liberals in low-income and mortgage-paying areas.
The incoming Liberal member was Stuart Henry (left), former executive director of the Western Australian Master Plumbers Association. Henry has received rather less publicity in the past three years than the member he unseated, who did not take long to establish that her political career was still a going concern. Jackson was elected state president of the ALP in November 2005 ahead of the Right-backed Sarah Burke, daughter of Brian, whom she again defeated the following year. She was also appointed by the state government to head its Community Cabinet Liaison Unit, prompting The West Australian to complain she had been parachuted into a $120,000-a-year role running a State Government propaganda unit. When Kim Beazley lost the leadership in December 2006, it was reported that the LHMWU was urging Jackson to contest preselection for his seat of Brand, but she declared herself set on recovering Hasluck. Jackson was duly preselected in February ahead of Silvia Barzotto of the New Right faction.
Amid a general picture of gloom about its electoral prospects nationally, the Coalition has been able to console itself that it appeared to be holding up in the west. One indication of this was a 400-sample Westpoll survey published by The West Australian on June 15, which showed Henry leading Jackson 48 per cent to 42 per cent on the primary vote and 53-47 on two-candidate preferred. However, more recent statewide surveys have been somewhat less encouraging for the Liberals.