Dobell was created with the enlargement of parliament in 1984, taking in an area just beyond the outer north of Sydney. It covers the urban sprawl around Tuggerah Lake, from the coastal retirement haven of The Entrance to lower income Wyong on the interior side, the tourist area from Bateau Bay south to Wamberal, the demographically unremarkable Gosford suburbs of Lisarow and Wyoming, and state forests further inland. The redistribution has added the strong Labor area of Toukley between Tuggerah Lake and the ocean (from Shortland) and removed areas outside Gosford and Terrigal in the south (to Robertson), affecting about 6000 voters on either side and cutting the Liberal margin from 5.9 per cent to 4.8 per cent. Labor retained the corresponding state seats of Wyong and The Entrance at the March election by margins of 6.8 per cent and 4.9 per cent, while the Liberals won the new seat of Terrigal (divided between Dobell and Robertson to the south) by 8.5 per cent. All three electorates recorded substantial swings to the Liberals.
Dobell was held fairly safely for Labor during the Hawke-Keating years by Michael Lee, before a 6.7 per cent swing brought him to within 117 votes of defeat in 1996. Demographic trends continued to run against Lee over the next few years, and in 2001 he was defeated by Liberal candidate Ken Ticehurst by 560 votes (Lee went on to run unsuccessfully for lord mayor of Sydney in 2004). Ticehurst consolidated his hold at the 2004 election with a further 5.5 per cent swing, the second biggest in the state. The booth results map above points to consistently moderate Liberal margins throughout the electorate, the only exception being the Toukley-Noraville area which is newly added from Shortland. Read together with the swing results map below, it can be seen that the evenness of Liberal support is partly a result of the last election. While Labor held firm in the more affluent Liberal-voting coastal area around Terrigal, there were severe swings to the Liberals elsewhere, peaking at 12.7 per cent and 10.2 per cent at Watanobbi and Tuggerah outside Wyong. The other notable statistic from 2004 was a high informal vote of 7.4 per cent usually considered bad news for Labor which was presumably a result of the bloated field of 12 candidates.
Ken Ticehurst (left) had been an electrical engineer before entering parliament, with a business background in the unusual field of lightning tracking (of assistance to rural fire brigades and insurance assessors). In his six years in parliament Ticehurst has managed to avoid both scandal and promotion. His Labor opponent is Craig Thomson (right), former national secretary of the Right faction Health Services Union, who won preselection unopposed. Comments thread chat suggests Thomson is an associate of Senator Steve Hutchins, who is himself closely linked to Michael Lee. Thomson was raised in Bathurst, went to university in Sydney and currently lives in Tumbi Umbi, but lived in Melbourne prior to 2005. On arriving in the area he quickly established a local presence as president of the Coastal Voice community group. This was described by Ticehurst and others as a Labor front, with Ticehurst telling parliament Thomson was a union representative who blew in from Melbourne a few months ago. Other candidates at the election include independent Wyong councillor Doug Eaton, who was the narrowly unsuccessful Liberal candidate for Dobell in 1996 and The Entrance at the 1995 state election, and blogosphere identity Graeme Bird of the Liberty and Democracy Party.
The campaign for Dobell has made minor headlines in the past week after Ticehurst threatened to freeze funding for a pipeline between the Mardi and Mangrove Mountain dams, a much-desired solution to a local water crisis, if the state government proceeded with its proposed administrative arrangements. This scored a poor review from the local Central Coast Advocate (disseminated to the state at large by Malcolm Farr of the Daily Telegraph), which described Ticehurst’s action as (a) petty, (b) plain bloody stupid and (c) doomed to failure. Both the ABC and The Australian subsequently proved unable to track Ticehurst down for an interview. The episode undid the good work of the government’s June promise to fund the full $80 million cost of the project, trumping Labor’s commitment to go only half way.
NOTE: Please keep this thread on topic.