Seat du jour: Dobell

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.

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.

39 comments on “Seat du jour: Dobell”

  1. Dobell is one of our true-blue Australian provincial seats that have particular local values. The former member for Dobell, Michael Lee of the ALP, publicised an affair with Mimi (sister of Elle) McPherson, to disguise the fact that he was single.

    Despite the fact that Lee was an ALP right winger, the swirling scandals in neighbouring Lake Macquarie, with left-wing ALP State members Orkopoulos and Hunter , forced him to appear as a more traditional sort of local member.

    None of this could save him from the Tampa in 2001, with locals on the Central Coast having real fears for the future of White Australian prosperity. “Vote Labor, and Get a Taliban for a Neighbour” was heard at ever polling booth in Dobell in 2001, with devastating results.

    The ALPs Thompson is as photogenic as Lee, and Dobell is likely to follow the NSW Statewide swing, with slight variances for local issues.

  2. Not sure how Jeff Hunter and Orkopolous come into it. Given that Michael Lee was defeated well before any scandals broke about either of these 2 State Labor members.

    Also my perception is that Central Coast voters tend to see themselves as different and separate from Lake MacQuarie voters albeit there is probably a bit of creepage between those at the southern tip of Lake MacQuarie and those at the northern tip of the Central Coast.

  3. Having campaigned substantially in Dobell, Mr Ticehurst will comfortably retain this seat. The ALP have failed to gain much traction.

  4. Dear Generic

    I have good sources which would refute your contention. There is a certain phenomenon known as “candidate syndrome” which can often be translated into “campaigner syndrome” as well. Pollies are often quoted as saying that they can detect a “certain mood in the electorate”.

    Most Australians are still polite and if you are personally canvassing for their vote they are unlikely to flat out tell you to go away or that you are wasting your time.

    The possible exception to this maybe polling day where if you have worked a certain booth before you may have a more scientific sample to go by, but I think there is probably a lot of post-hoc analysis that occurs here as well.

    Party tracking polls are far better sources of information in this matter (no I’m not making a grandious claim to having seen any buy I know the Labor campaign have been optimistic and well organised for some time).

  5. “blogosphere identity Graeme Bird”

    The Bird Platform is available at:

    Let just say if you work at DoD, RBA, CSIRO or are a public servant, be very afraid, as its time for a war on tax-eaters


    Immediate sackings of any civilian defense department members who can be identified as having opposed the purchase of the Raptor Stealth Fighter. The steady replacement also of anyone who was working beneath them at the time and anyone closely associated with these miscreants.

    Likewise with the recent warship purchases. Any civilian in the defense department who pushed for the choice of the Spanish over the superior American warship must be sacked immediately. And anyone thought to be closely associated with such lunatics should be sacked over time.


    That as a consequence of the fact that taxation is blatant robbery, that those citizens, neither in the Police or armed forces, nor themselves directly elected, whose incomes are gained as a result of this stealing…….. that none of these citizens (old age pensioners alone excepted) should be allowed to vote.


    That the Reserve Bank stops this irrational targeting of interest rates, consumer-price-inflation and GDP growth… and instead concentrate on the metrics of “Gross Domestic Revenue” and “Productive Expenditure.” Its mighty silly if you cannot even get the metrics you are supposed to be targeting right.

  6. Sorry to crash the 2PP Club, but the new kids (30 years old already) on the block can be found here:-
    SCOTT RICKARD The Greens candidate for Dobell.

    For those interested in the future and fed up with the “2PP Club”, get up to date with the real determinators who will decide, with their preferences, who is elected, in most marginal seats around Australia.
    The Green candidates opperate on a shoe string budget with true grass roots partisipation and achieve a huge vote of 5-10% across the country, yet they rarely get a mention.
    What’s going on?, is this a conspiracy or is it a theory??

  7. a huge vote of 5-10%

    This is a usage of the adjective “huge” with which I am previously unfamiliar. The Greens get mentioned about as much as their “huge” vote implies.

  8. NAfe is right about Tampa in 01 being a factor, it had a bigger impact in seats like Dobell and Gilmore.

    Mate of mine works in Dobell and though he thinks Ticehurst is gone he says there is still the redneck factor.

    I was having a drink at a country pub with a mate and some relo’s and asked how there were going to vote.

    They said Johnny because he kept the boat people out.

    I pointed out that while Johnny had kept a few hundred boat people out he had let in hundreds of thousands of 457 visa workers prepared to work for $320 a week.

    But Johnny’s use of troops on Tampa was effective, which is why he sent troops into the NT, it keeps the dog whistle going, Johnny will use troops to deal with non-caucasians. I reckon Andrews would have used troops to deal with the Sudanese immigrants if he could have found a reason.

  9. re Autocrat @ 8
    well, given the “huge” vote of the ALP & Lib parties at most elections (~40%) if the Greens are getting 1/4 of that then maybe they should be mentioned that often – but the column inches devoted to the Greens compared to the ALP/Libs is far below that. But maybe “huge” is a little optimistic – lets just say “respectable” instead – coz 10% IS respectable for a non-major party.

    As to Graeme Bird – I find his demands to be at odds with the name of his party, and somewhat nonsensical at that. The LDP website promotes a paryt than at least looks relatively normal (even if I don’t agree with them), but Mr Bird’s demands seem, well, irrational. But then, One Nation had some very interesting candidates (and I dare say the Greens have over the years too).

  10. The local rag had “I’ll sink pipline” (or something to that effect) with Ticehurst’s photo and a shot of the billboard that crows about his success in getting it. Not a good look, regardless of the actual intent and context of what he said.

    I expect Dobell will be one of Labor’s 85 seats (or thereabouts) and one of the more marginal after the election. It won’t swing as hard as some others around it on the pendulum.

  11. Ken Ticehurst has shadowed doubt on his two major promises of his ‘working to get more done locally’, by threatening to kill the bipartisan support of the $80.3 million pipeline if he didn’t like the political composition of the board.

    He also reneged on a promise that his $20 million Tuggerah Lakes commitment wasn’t a re-election promise and that it’d start straight away. By saying it was in fact a re-election promise and it won’t be starting.

    Most of the suburbs in the electorate surround the lakes and the health of the lakes affect them 365 days of the year, especially the god awful smell that comes out of it. It’s never good politics to stuff up on an issue that so directly affects people’s daily lives.

    The Labor candidate Craig Thomson seems to be going well by just keeping his head down and getting on with meeting people. I’ve seen him in shopping centres and train stations and have hardly seen Ken at all. But Ken does fill my mail box and can droll out the micro-pork through incumbancy. Many people might be swayed by

  12. Has ALP candidate Thompson gotten any of the TWU’s “Education Fund” money (as exposed on the Sunday program on Ch 9) like Lindsay ALP candidate David Bradbury?

    Thompson’s union, the HSU is very close to the TWU through Senator Steve Hutchins.

    It’d be interesting to know……

  13. envy @ 7:

    For some reason when I started reading your post I expected to find a balanced list of minor candidates, and thought, “Ah, this’ll be refreshing.”

    Could you imagine my disappointment at finding a Greens supporter not only whining (as Greens are allowed/expected to do), but arrogant as well?

    I normally have sympathies towards the Greens, but I’m starting to rethink.

    Stewart J @ 10:

    The Greens might get 1/4 of the vote, but in order to get 1/4 of the press coverage, they ought to have 1/4 of the seats. Otherwise, it’s all wasted (hence, apathy in the press).

  14. The “2PP Club” is a beast created by the compulsory preferential voting system for Federal Elections. It will never die as long as the voting system stays the same.

    The Greens will score one of their lowest results in Australia in Dobell, as the electorate consists of real Australians, rather than the feral un-Australian watermelon types that infest the Greens.

  15. Hey William, I’d usually try and avoid egotistical things like this, but I reckon you should think about doing a profile on Macarthur. Up until now I considered it semi-marginal at best but I seriously think it will now be a key electorate worth looking at.

  16. Moves are afoot to try and get Graeme Bird and the LaRouchies masquerading as the Citizens Electoral Council together for a debate in Dobell. It would be the most entertaining match up of the election.

    Seriously(?), Ticehurst committed a cardinal sin for a Central Coast pollie and tried to politicize water. Another big issue will be WorkChoices given the large number of blue collar workers and young families. Labor is a really good chance of taking Dobell.

    And if Belinda Neil wasn’t Labor’s candidate for Robertson, they’d have a chance to own the Central Coast electorates.

  17. I live just across the line (in Shortland), but spend a far bit of time in Dobell, and the mood I sense is that Labor is going to get it this time.

    The newspaper front page was a real killer I think. But the mood started with work choices as far as I can tell.

  18. I object strongly to being called a feral un-australian. What does un australian mean? Its been said about people:
    1. Against the Iraq war. Most people were against this.
    2. Hate Bush. Again, most do.
    3. Hate Howard. Look at the election and this site and tell me how many like him.

    Un-Australian means disagreeing with the majority view of Australians.

    Sorry about being off topic. But being called names by someone who who doesn’t understand what they are saying is idiotic and someone has to stop it. If I gotta do it by myself the so be it.

  19. It is amazing how these blogs are taken over by biased blogger that have selective memories.

    Or should I believe that nobody read the following edition of the Express that was riddled with comments from local people commenting on the editor’s comments.

    Ken Ticehurst did say that he would not stand by and let the State Labor Government siphon off funds from the $80.3 million given to the Central Coast by the Federal Government for missing link pipeline. I would expect that this is what every local person would expect their local member to do.

    THere is history in this subject, though I suppose the previous writers do not remember the front page story earlier this year when Belinda Neal’s husband the NSW Minister for Education charged schools fees from the Federal GOvernment grants to ‘Manage’ projects such as the installation of a water tank.

    With regard to the $20 million Tuggerah Lake announcement, it is standard practice for governments to pay such large amounts in instalments to ensure the local council is actually doing the work. I notice there is no mention above of the letter the Labor Mayor received from the Prime Minister reinforcing that the money will be available when council can show it is ready to start the job.

    All of this has been published in local media, lets leave the campaigning to the candidates, or if previous writers are candidates use your real name.

  20. Lets not leave the campaigning to the candidates. We are all allowed to speak up. Just like the local comments in the Express Advocate.

    If the pipe line was not built and the money was siphoned off, then the blame would rest with the state and the water authority.
    Labor made the same $80m pipeline funding promise before the Liberals did, and that funding is still on the table. Ticehurst has scored an own goal by trying to turn this important local issue into a scare campaign.

    The Tuggerah Lakes funding was also promised by the state Labor government well before Ticehurst had the money. Liberals on the local council blocked the state scheme, so they could give Ken an issue he could fund and run with. All this has been reported in the local papers.

    His pic in last weeks Express Advocate, sitting on the end of a jetty, looking defeated, was not one of his best.

  21. Um actually no Vince the Labor party offered only $40 million with the remainder to be funded by local ratepayers. It was only after Ticehurst pulled the rest out of his pocket that they matched the amount.

    With regard to building the pipeline are you really saying that the one Liberal councillor Ron Stevens was able to block three Labor councillors to stop the State Labor Government from building the pipeline.

    Methinks you give him too much credit, lets face it the State Government was quite happy for the Central Coast to pay an ongoing regional tax by buying water from the State run Hunter Water Authority. Ticehurst’s leap into this issue has caused them a rethink.

  22. Andrew,

    Ken Ticehurst has no credibility on the ‘missing link’ pipeline. When he said that he’d ‘sink the link’ it was for poltical reasons not practical reaons.

    You have to remember that normal people outside your office in Tuggerah business Park hate not having water less than they hate the labor party.

    Andrew you’re very obviously from Mr Ticehurst’s office, you should get off the blog and start looking for a job for after the 24th.

    Ken Ticehurst is out-letterboxing Craig Thomson 5 to 1, probably got a few more posters up….but the problem for he is that nobody is listening.

  23. Actually I am from Chittaway Bay Mike not quite Tuggerah.

    I am not concerned about Ticehurst out campaigning the HSU National Secretary that my union fees have been commuting from Melbourne for the past few years into an office also leased with HSU money, he has spent enough of my money thanks very much.

    I have no problem with organisations supporting polictical parties but they should at least give me the courtesy of asking and maybe letting the members vote before being forced to sponsor his personal political campaign.

    Not certain if I should be advertising another website here, (if the moderator deletes it I will understand) If you are interested in what HSU members around NSW really think of the guy who is telling voters he has been looking after for 15 years and is now spending their money, check out

    If that is the way he treats his own union’s members what is in store for the Dobell voters? Maybe Garrett was telling the truth when he said ‘we will just change it all when we get in’

  24. Bullshit you’re not a healthcare worker you talentless hack.

    ” notice there is no mention above of the letter the Labor Mayor received from the Prime Minister reinforcing that the money will be available when council can show it is ready to start the job.”

    Why would anyone in the general public know about correspondence between John Howard and the mayor. That wasn’t in the papers. Only someone in Warren Welham or Ken Ticehurst’s office would know about that.

    Stop pretending you’re a healthcare worker when all you are is a rubbish campaigner with a dead-man-walking candidate.

    It’d be bad for a already struggling healthcare system if you did become a healthcare worker when you lose your job on the 24th.

  25. Of course you wouldn’t be concerned with organistations giving political parties money. Pfizer has given Ticehurst plenty of money…and an all expenses paid trip to Washington for a “learning tour”. (To find out more read Friday’s daily telegraph)

    It’s funny how all his usual speeches are barely readable and then when it comes to pharmaceuticals he all of a sudden becomes very articulate on whatever the pharmaceautical lobby is pushing at the tme.

  26. Read Friday’s Telegraph? now who is the political insider posing as a blogger? NOt everyone knows what will be in future newspapers.

    Well I did google Ticehurst and health issues looking for information on what you are saying, and I came across a speech he delivered to the AMA on behalf of the Health Minister. The reason given is that Ken Ticehurst is the chairperson of the Government Health & Ageing Committee, I would have thought that he would be expected to have an interest in Health & Ageing issues and that it would be in the interest of medical companies to ensure he was kept up to date on health issues.

    So Ticehurst is not useing my money for his own political gain, isn’t that a good thing? Or are you saying you would have been happier if our taxes paid for it?

    To your question Mike – the Pfizer board have to justify any such expense to their shareholders, the HSU don’t seem to think members are important enough.

    Finaly, I find it very concerning that you are campaigning on behalf of someone who claims to be ‘looking out for working families’ – yet you think nothing of taunting someone about losing their job. Albeit that you are obviously convinced that anyone objecting to your political belief must be an MPs employee.’ You need to come to terms with the fact there are people out in the big wide world that may not agree with everything you do.

    If Labor were serious about winning this area they would have chosen someone that had been here longer than 18 months like Neil Rose or Warren Welham, instead of wasting my money that should be used to support HSU members.

  27. I don’t care about political staffers that will be losing their job on the 24th. As no one does. It is a part of the game.

    How dare you pretend to be a healthcare worker when you work at ken ticehursts office at tuggerah business park.

    You should have a more thorough look at hansard for the grubby fingers of the “accountable” pfizer.

    You should have a word with your boss about that mate.

    I don’t think that people who object to my political beliefs are MP staffers.

    I think that people who speak about private correspondance between a mayor and the PM to defend ken ticehurst are ken ticehurst’s staffers. tool.

  28. To Craig T.
    Labor’s first announcement on pipeline funding was $40m, in the hope that the state would match it and not leave the burden on council. This prompted a visit from Howard, with a promise of $80m funding, this was soon matched by Labor, with no strings attached to the structure of the local water authority.

    The state has gained nothing by the Central Coast buying water from the Hunter.
    The water authority is the responsibility of the two councils.

    I was saying that some members of Wyong council stuffed the state government around on funding for the clean up of Tuggerah Lakes.
    The council might have only one Liberal councilor, but we know that at least 3 other members have run as failed Liberal candidates in the past.

    The only issues for Ticehurst to run with now, are state responsibility like local traffic management and police numbers. While the state has built a number of tunnels in Sydney at the same time, the federal responsibility of the F3 missing link road for Central Coast commuters is ignored.

  29. On the point of Ticehurst out-letterboxing Thomson 5:1: it is not only a gross waste of money, but it is also environmentally reprehensible.

    “Doing what’s right for Dobell.” I question this assertion just on the simple fact that right for Dobell would have been spending less on advertising, and more on Dobell.

    Goodnight Ticehurst.

  30. Rebekah, it has been 7:1 Ticehurst:Thomson around Toowoon/Blue Bay – and i’d have to agree that your perception of waste by Ticehurst is rising here.

    But “Doing what’s right for Dobell” hasn’t been in evidence in the majority of chit chat heard recently at the pub and surrounds at The Entrance and North Entrance – there it’s the state of the lake and lake mouth and the lack of funding to help flush it properly.

    An improved mouth (including and/or a proper sea wall) would go a long way to help remove the “smell” (mentioned above) and ever-increasing sediment build-up from irregular to non-existent sea flushing.

    As a result, the lack of concern for the lake by Ticehurst, which he’s only this year realised, Council spends more that $80K/yr year after year dredging and moving the mouths’ sand from one side to the other only to find it reappearing all over again.

    i would hazard a guess that the recent floods Chittaway Bay et al experienced (during the great “Pasha Bulker” storm) could have been ameliorated if Ticehurst had got earlier funding for the proper environmental management of Tuggerah Lakes. Instead, a miniscule $24K was granted to the Mardi Creek wetlands.

    After 6 years as a federal member, cleaning up Tuggerah Lakes (and Tumbi Creek) is still only a “plan” on the Ticehurst’ website.

    And the long-term water pipeline is yet to be built.

  31. why does Ken Ticehurst keep bombarding Wyoming with his 7 point plan for Dobell when his plan does nothing for Wyoming (Ourimbah is about as close as the plan comes) I don’t think he gives a rats for the Wyoming area, anyway the mail seems comes from somewhere in Sydney, obviously he’s let the party media machine takeover. I think Informal is looking good at the moment as neither option appears to want to work for the good of Dobell, I think Thomson will be just as useless as Lee & Ticehurst have been, show ponies after a fat pension.

  32. Ray, The last comment was a little harsh, Ken doesn’t need the pension (don’t know about Lee) and his best friends wouldn’t call him a “show” anything. I’d rather see a *local* member than a carpetbagging union hack.

    Bad news for Dobell (and Robertson for that matter). Decent local members in a tired, badly flawed government that are looking likely to be rolled by Labor machine candidates who’s only qualification is the ability to survive Labor’s factional games.

  33. Perhaps preferences from the minor parties will be a important factor on Saturday. It is interesting to see that the Christian Democratic Party (CDP) and the Liberal Party have swapped preferences. It seems like the Liberal Party has therefore won the Christian vote, and perhaps the ‘moral high ground’.

    Family First’s preferences are also flowing to the Libs. Perhaps its time that Labor tried to court some of this conservative, family vote.

  34. Well said Matt. Decent voters are often scared off by Labor’s deals with dubious parties such as the Greens, who advocate legal drug rooms, further abortion access and euthanasia. While Labor sides with such murderous policies the average decent voter will be pushed towards the Libs.

  35. I’d rather Labor didn’t court the conservative vote, or court the conservative agenda of organisations that don’t even vote. I like it when Rudd rightly refuses to have secret meetings with Bruce Hales of Exclusive Brethren fame, unlike John Howard, Peter Costello and Tony Abbot.

    And the average decent voter is clearly pretty indecent if they voted for howard time and time again knowing all the while what a liar and immoral rat he really was.

    But now the nerd has beaten the bully and the playground is safe again.

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