Seat du jour: Paterson

Paterson covers the New South Wales north coast from Port Stephens inland to East Maitland, and north to Foster-Toncurry on the coast and the dairy country around Gloucester. According to George Megalogenis‘s demographic tables, it is ranked fourth in the country for voters over 55 and seventeenth bottom for median household income. A seat bearing the name first existed between 1949 and 1984, but it was oriented further to the north and west, taking in Maitland, Muswellbrook and Scone. The new Paterson has been coastally oriented and highly marginal since it was recreated in 1993. Labor is strong in and around East Maitland, but the remainder of the electorate is solidly conservative, particularly the rural areas. The redistribution has resulted in a swap of one southern Labor voting area for another, with East Maitland gained from Hunter, and Heatherbrae and Williamtown lost to Newcastle. The commissioners originally proposed that Raymond Terrace go to Newcastle as well, but were persuaded by local councils that it belonged in the same electorate as Port Stephens. The changes have produced a modest 0.2 per cent shift in Labor’s favour.

Since its re-creation in 1993, Paterson has changed hands three times between Labor’s Bob Horne (winner in 1993 and 1998) and the Liberals’ Bob Baldwin (left) (1996, 2001 and 2004). Baldwin’s win in 2001 was assisted by a redistribution which added Forster and Tuncurry, resulting in a 2.5 per cent shift that made the seat notionally Liberal. In 2004 Baldwin faced an opponent other than Bob Horne for the first time, and enjoyed his first comfortable win following an evenly distributed 5.5 per cent swing. This swing was notably not replicated in neighbouring electorates, including the East Maitland area of Hunter, suggesting a personal vote for Bob Horne might have been boosting Labor at earlier elections. Baldwin went on to win promotion to parliamentary secretary for industry, tourism and resources at a reshuffle in January 2006. Labor has nominated Tea Gardens ambulance officer Jim Arneman (right), who was narrowly defeated in his bid to succeed a retiring Labor member in Port Stephens at the March state election.

At the start of the third week of the campaign, the Daily Telegraph ran a combined poll from the electorates of Paterson, Dobell, Robertson and Lindsay which pointed to an 8 per cent swing to Labor, easily enough to win them all four. The following week, Joe Hildebrand of the Daily Telegraph named Paterson along with Hughes and Macarthur among seats Labor was targeting “in a strategy to spook the Government and draw precious resources away from a handful of must-win seats” – namely Lindsay, Dobell, Macquarie and Eden-Monaro. The Newcastle Herald published a survey of 300 respondents 10 days out from polling day which showed Liberal member Bob Baldwin with a counter-intuitive primary vote lead over Labor candidate Jim Arneman of 46 per cent to 32 per cent. The respective figures from the 2004 election were 52.0 per cent and 36.1 per cent. It also pointed to a similarly unlikely non-major party vote of 21 per cent, compared with 11.9 per cent in 2004.

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.

49 comments on “Seat du jour: Paterson”

  1. First up, what can I say except that I’ve been to Foster for a wedding in 2005 and it’s a lovely town. It would be a line baller from the sentiment I felt.
    Oh and it seems that they like all things Bob- Bob Baldwin, Bob Roberts, Bob Horne…

  2. Bob Baldwin has been spending like a drunken sailor to keep the seat. Outspending on ads. Outspending on promises etc… Its a pity Jim didn’t have a bigger warchest as it would have been good for him to have some personal ads I think. I really hope he gets in as he will make an excellent member and will break the Bob drought – although his first name is also 3 letters.

    Its my impression that the Libs have clearly outspent Labor in television advertising on the Newcastle / Hunter air waves. I wonder is this the same elsewhere?

  3. Paterson has often been rated as “Marginal” but it is composed of two warring camps, the north and south, which balance one another out. Only at the equator are the voters evenly balanced and generally fewer than 1 in 5 booths have been marginal.

  4. I saw a personal ad for Jim last night, it was a much better production compared to Big Bob’s but to say it was outnumbered 100 to 1 is not an exaggeration. Bob’s ads have no mention of the Liberal Party or Mr Howard.

    I am left wondering where Bob’s money has come from. I can’t imagine the party spending so much money on a second tier seat – I think Bob has self funded this, possibly to the tune of $300 -500K

  5. You are absolutely correct Midnorthcoast. Baldwin has the reputation of being the biggest fundraiser for the party. Rumours about $million war chests have abounded. He was I recall caught out one year as being the MP who had spent the most on taxpayer funded postage.

  6. This one will be close. The betting has moved in from $2.85 for Jim Arnemann to $2.10 over the last two months. In the TV viewing area Bob Baldwin would have to have 80% of the personal advertisement time. I have only noticed a few ads for Jim Arnemann , Ken Ticehurst Dobell , Jim Lloyd Roberston and Sharon Grierson Newcastle. Paterson may be the Liberal Party line of defence.

  7. I know this is somewhat tangent to the thread , but I live in the seat of Moreton, QLD.

    At about 6pm last night the phone rang and my wife answered the phone and shrieked ‘it is a recorderd message from John Howard’, she passed it on to me and I listended to the dill for a few seconds and hung up. My wife was really pissed off and more determined to vote Labor.

    Anyone else received these recorded messages? Is it a sign of desperation in the electorate of Moreton?

  8. Horne had polled well as an independent (in 1990?) before being recruited for Labor which is evidence of his personal vote. The old Paterson was the land of one of the donkey vote’s victims Labor’s Noel Unicomb who should have won in 1972 and 1974 but for his name.

  9. Does anyone have any intelligence/thoughts on whether Labor is a realistic chance in Macarthur? I note Rudd was in Campbelltown yesterday.

  10. Not sure if someone posted this in another thread, but there’s an interesting 10 minute interview (streaming) with Graham Richardson from NightLine last night here:

    He’s predicting a Labor win with 20 seats, and Howard to lose Bennelong. Richo has apparently picked every election result in the past 30 years, so he’s worth listening to.

  11. @ 10

    After redistribution some of the strong Labor booths have gone into Werriwa so the seat is Liberal with margin of about 11%.

    It is a big ask to win for Labor but Nick Bleasdale is running a great campaign against high profile Pat Farmer.

  12. I wouldn’t write off Labor’s chances of taking Paterson.
    If it can win Dobell and Robertson, why not the other seat on the N.S.W Central Coast?
    Latest odds:
    LIB 1.60
    LAB 2.10

  13. Some polls had labor, prior to the election being called on a 60:40 2pp – and amazingly the Liberals have had such a disastrous campaign (Work Choices, IR, interest rates etc…), they have narrowed that down to 54:46 and in the marginals down to 52:48. It makes one think if they got their act together and story right they would get to a 51:49 2pp (those few extra points) and gain reelection.
    With regards to Patterson (and a whole spate of Sydney Metro seats), the Libs are gone. Mortagage holders on AWA’s will put pay to that. So the people of NSW will gladly put a QLD’er infront of one of their own.

  14. Lots of powerpole signs up this morning for Arneman and Your Rights at Work through East Maitland. BB still only has his trailer signs next to the Higway between Maitland and East MAitland and they are now partly obscured by grass.

    I hadn’t realised that Scone and Muswellbrook were in Patterson – expect an EI backlash against the coalition from these booths. There is real bitterness in the horse industry over this issue.

  15. Well, I’d like to give a different characterisation of Paterson since I live here.

    Despite being seen by some as a rural seat, it actually has a lot more in common with places like Robertson. That includes nice beaches.

    The Port Stephens area and Forster is what gives it its bias towards elderly/retired people. These areas are also heavily tourist focused and have a large service industry.

    Besides that there are only 3 places worth mentioning as all the small rural towns don’t add up to much. Raymond Terrace is solidly Labor and has been so consistently for a long time. Its a big retail town. East Maitland has been solidly Labor and it has seen steady growth.

    But the town that stands out is Medowie. My town. And this is a strange place. Its got a relatively young population. Its got a lot of expensive real estate (a lot of the people who experienced a boom in Sydney sold up and moved here). It’s also got a big contingent of what we call RAAFies. I believe it’s also the state capital for 4WDs.

    Bob Horne did have a personal vote, but I think William overestimates it. Kozary was also well known and liked. However, Labor chose to play dead in Paterson in 04. Why we still don’t know. Bob Baldwin ran a campaign based purely on riding the coat tails of Howard. “Trust him, trust me.” Medowie responded heavily to this. To give you an idea, the average block of land in Medowie was around 100K prior to the turn of the decade. In 04 that would have been 200+. Today it’s 300+. If anywhere is going to respond to mortgage stress its Medowie.

    The mood on the street is very quiet.. suspiciously quiet. People don’t want to talk about the election. It feels entirely different to last time.

    I also mention the large RAAF base population. Time will tell I guess if they wish to punish Brendan.

    As for the campaign, frankly, Labor ought to have done more, but having said that the burst of ads in the last few days does say they are targeting well. A LOT of anti workchoices ads, both funded by the ALP and the unions. And in the last 2 days the black and white ads have outnumbered Bob’s ads easily. You get the feeling that there’s a lot of people out there going “hey.. bob said.. but..”

    There’s also been a string of last minute Jim Arneman ads. They easily outclass Bobs ads. Bob does have a bit of a reputation as a guy who enjoys the perks of office and doesn’t do much but organise photo opportunities. Sadly, he does have some serious support from the wealthy, as evidenced by the property developer I bumped into manning his booth last time.

    Word is that Bob has relied heavily on his ads, but simply has been too lazy to doorknock whereas Jim has pretty much pretty much been everywhere and the feedback coming from those close to him is that he’s being very well received. And again the single biggest issue/comment is workchoices and interest rates.

    Having said all of the above, I rated Paterson as a 70/30 chance before the election and thanks to the imbalance in ads maybe its now a 60/40. About the most positive thing you can say is, Bob is worried.

  16. mad cow,

    The EI discontent has flown under the radar a bit. While I don’t think that the general populace is out there waiting for Howard with baseball bats, I think that there are a few horse people in NSW and Qld that are. A fair few people in and around Randwick included.

  17. Dave it’ll be interesting to watch the booth by booth count up in the valley.

    Does anyone have that link for that site that apparently will be giving booth by booth counts on the night?

  18. The Libs will most likely start handing out cup-cakes to these poor boat people rather than vilify them this time around. You know, show the “warm and fuzzy” side of the coalition.

  19. I drove 40 mins last night to hear a debate between Jim Arneman, Bob Baldwin and the Greens Candidate on IR. At the appointed time Baldwin was a ‘no show’. In fact he was a ‘no show’ at all. I left the Hall to drive home. Switched on my radio to the wrong station and there was Bob Baldwin, praising himself to the high heavens, on the local radio program (which I think comes out of Newcastle – the host is a very rightwing bloke called Graham Gilbert). It went on for 20mins with beautiful ‘Dorothy Dixers’ for Baldwin and the Government. When Baldwin finished speaking I pulled over to the side of the road – used the mobile and rang the radio station. I said I had just head Bob Baldwin and could the interviewer please tell me where Baldwin was. Gilbert said ‘he is out in his electorate of Paterson’. I said ‘well, I have just driven 40 mins to hear him speak in a pre-arranged debate and he didn’t show up.’ Gilbert ‘he didn’t turn up?’ I was promptly cut off. First time I have rung a radio show but I was extremely livid that he can get so much good coverage from ‘Super Radio Network’ I think it is called. Every announcer on this network absolutely bags Labor. Guess switch network is no longer plugged into my radios. BTW Jim Arneman was terrific and the Green candidate spoke very well too.

  20. Living in robertson, it has always been a concern about a liberal voting retiree population that is from the North Shore. These retirees essentially take thier vote with them and cause it to beimmnsly difficult in this seat. The only ablility to gain a sufficient swing is in the more “battler” areas in the peninsula. Other than that, the general consensus is not one where we assume it will be gained. Ive got hopes though

  21. G’day William,

    I was the chap that emailed you to Cairns Post info.

    Anyway…this online poll 7000+ points to a butt kicking, how do polls like this ‘fit in’ to the analysis

  22. I live in Port Stephens, and I get the general feeling that this area may swing hard to Labor. At the state level, Port Stephens was a Labor seat until Hawks Nest and Tea Gardens were added from the north side of Port Stephens. These areas plus the removal of Mayfield made the seat notionally Liberal and with preferences from the Fishing Party the seat fell as was expected. Considering that the seat had been notionally Liberal, the seat actually swung to Labor, much like Penrith in Sydney. I believe that WorkChoices has had a big negative impact here as the area is heavily reliant on retail and tourism. I’ve seen Jim Arneman several times at the local shopping centre, and I’ve had a chat with him. He strikes me as a fairly good bloke who would make a great member. I have not seen Baldwin at all despite the fact that he actually lives not two streets from where I am. Like I said, I believe the Port will swing. Whether its enough to swing Paterson remains to be seen. Only three more sleeps.

  23. I have been surprised by some of the betting odds in this seat, which actually show the Liberals are (quite firmly) favoured to win.

    I’ll definitely be putting some money on the ALP picking up this seat on election night.

  24. Thanks William – I had wondered why Gilbert was so emphatically biassed. I usually bypass the only 2 commercial stations here but last night I was trying for ABC and hit the wrong button in the dark. I have only seen Bob Baldwin in my village area twice in 11 years – each time with food in each hand and standing alone in front of the Bakery. Hopefully Jim Arneman will prevail – he would certainly make a good representative for Paterson.

  25. Finally got my signs up yay!

    One with Arneman and above that, a nice bright one with your rights at work on it 🙂

    Got a bit more feedback today. Yes workchoices is a major issue here and yes Bob and his helpers are scared.

  26. Su @30, I never listen to those guys anymore. They aren’t just biased beyond belief they also routinely have talk backs where callers are cut off for having (small l) liberal views and other callers who are allowed to rave on with barely legal racism.

  27. Big Bob has to win this seat. He’s spent a fortune to ensure he does.

    There has been wall-to-wall advertising in the local media. On some nights, literally every second ad on TV has been for Baldwin. There’s barely been an ad for Liberal candidates from other local electorates, and there have been very few Labor ads.

    Bob’s TV ads have been smart, positive advertising, with actors telling everybody how much Bob has helped them out in a range of areas, from aged care to the environment.

    He’s also been advertising heavily on radio. These ads have been (bizarrely) focused on state and local government issues. The most common ad on the radio talked about how he will get rid of Morris Iemma’s on-the-spot fines for certain crimes when elected (to ensure that car thieves and other criminals go before the courts). He has also been pushing for an extensive CCTV camera system throughout Newcastle and the Hunter.

  28. AJH, Bob’s ‘positive’ ads attempt to own the youth and environment issues. It’s so transparent its laughable. They even talk about clean coal. I heard a couple of teens the other day laughing at that one.

    Thankfully the votingrecord people are now running anti Baldwin ads.

    Trust me there’s a lot of people here who see him as not a particularly pleasant human being. The reason he’s had a personal vote is not because people find him likeable but because he’s in the government. Now that people see the Libs as losing, Baldwin is losing that vote too.

  29. Hi Mad Cow,
    have a quick look at the AEC site’s results for 2004. Kozary lost Raymond Terrace Central and the none of the other R T booths were above 55. The swing against Kozary was well above the state average. I met here a few times – she was pleasant but I really don’t think she had it. She was very much under the control of Abbib and Company.
    The results in Raymond Terrace were a shock to me – this, after all, is where Latham’s bus first stopped and where he publically told off a welfare mum who wanted more pension.
    The last time I was in Medowie it was all cow paddocks but if it is now mortgage city and R T returns to form, maybe Big Bob is in trouble despite the ads.

  30. True, Lathan didn’t help but it’s complex.

    I went to his meeting in RT and the mood was overwhelmingly positive at that point in time.

    However, when the Libs did their dirty little attack job on Lathan, those same people who saw Lathan in person were the first to swing. Its the ‘oo no, you dont seem to be the person I thought I met’ effect. Another reason I want to see the Libs torn to shreds is the way they attacked Lathan. He may well have been fragile, but he was genuinely honest. Now look what we got, a genuinely reformist guy whose afraid to show how reformist he is.

    RT is going back over 60 and so is Maitland 🙂

  31. mad cow and others,

    just got home from Brissy toinght and saw all of Jim’s posters down the highway in East Maitland – Good stuff. The fake liberal pamphlets in Lindsay may help as well.

  32. mad cow:

    Just a heads-up.

    A lot of the “Your Rights at Work” signs in East Maitland were broken in the storm last night. Most of them are bent in half. It looks like they didn’t have anything supporting the top half of the sign, so they just folded over.

    So now, you can’t even see what is written on them.

    Hopefully you can contact someone to help fix them (they just need something to fasten the top half of the signs to the pole).

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