Seat of the week: Robertson

Roy Morgan’s effort to pull the rug from under Newspoll on Tuesday, as noted in the update to the previous post, has deprived me of my usual Friday poll thread. It us thus left to Seat of the Week to fly the flag on its lonesome. The latest instalment looks at the NSW Central Coast seat of Robertson, held for Labor by what on present indications looks to be an undefendable margin of 1.0%.

One of the happier aspects of the 2010 election for Labor was an apparent tactical win in New South Wales, where a statewide swing of 4.8% yielded the Coalition a notional gain of only four seats – half of what would have been achieved on a uniform swing. Remarkably, the four marginals Labor retained against the trend – all of which were outside Sydney – were the only four in the state which swung in Labor’s favour: Eden-Monaro (2.0% swing), Page (1.8%), Dobell (1.1%) and, most fortuitiously, Robertson, where a winning margin of just 0.1% from 2007 became 1.0% in 2010. This was despite the unceremonious departure of Labor’s accident-prone sitting member, Belinda Neal.

Robertson covers the coast about 60 kilometres north of Sydney, with the Hawkesbury River marking its southern boundary with Berowra. All but a small share of its voters live at its coastal end, which includes Labor-leaning Woy Woy, Liberal-leaning Terrigal and marginal Gosford. The remainder of the electorate covers Popran National Park, McPherson State Forest and the Mangrove Creek dam. Although technically a federation seat, it was a different beast when it was created, covering the inland rural areas of Mudgee, Singleton and Scone.

As Robertson was drawn over time into the increasingly urbanised coast, the conservatives’ hold weakened to the point where Barry Cohen was able to gain it for Labor in 1969, and to withstand the party’s disasters of 1975 and 1977. The seat drifted back slightly in the Liberals’ favour thereafter, and was held by them throughout the Howard years by Jim Lloyd, who unseated Labor’s Frank Walker with a 9.2% swing in 1996.

Robertson returned to the Labor fold in 2007 when a 7.0% swing delivered a 184-vote winning margin to their candidate Belinda Neal, wife of Right faction powerbroker and then senior state minister John Della Bosca. Neal had earlier served in the Senate from 1994 until 1998, when she quit to make a first unsuccessful run in Robertson. Once elected Neal soon made a name for herself with a peculiar parliamentary attack on a pregnant Sophie Mirabella, and an episode in which she allegedly abused staff at Gosford restaurant-nightclub Iguana Joe’s. In 2009 her husband, who had been present during the Iguana Joe’s fracas, resigned as state Health Minister after it was revealed he was having an affair with a 26-year-old woman.

Suggestions that Neal’s preselection might be in danger emerged soon after the Iguana Joe’s incident. A challenger emerged in the shape of Deborah O’Neill, an education teacher at the University of Newcastle and narrowly unsuccessful state candidate for Gosford in 2003. O’Neill won the favour of local branches and, so Peter van Onselen of The Australian reported, “NSW Labor Right powerbrokers”. The national executive allowed the decision to be determined by a normal rank-and-file ballot, in which O’Neill defeated Neal 98 votes to 67. O’Neill went on to prevail at the election against Liberal candidate Darren Jameson, a local police sergeant.

The preselected Liberal candidate for the next election is Lucy Wicks, who has contentiously been imposed on the local branches by the fiat of the party’s state executive. Barclay Crawford of the Daily Telegraph reports this occurred at the insistence of Tony Abbott, who lacked confidence in the local party organisation owing to its poor performance at the 2010 election and the recent preselection of a problematic candidate in Dobell.

The solution was to impose candidates on both electorates; to choose women for reasons of broader electoral strategy; and to share the spoils between the warring Alex Hawke “centre Right” and David Clarke “hard Right” factions (local potentate Chris Hartcher being aligned with the latter). Robertson went to soft Right in the person of Lucy Wicks, who according to the Telegraph was a particularly galling choice for members due to her tenuous local credentials and membership of the very state executive which imposed her as candidate.

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.

2,210 comments on “Seat of the week: Robertson”

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  1. [The scapegoat who is attacked is invariably someone who is persistent in posting views, opinions and information that challenges the prevailing Laborite groupthink.]

    OMG, how did i miss it.

    Horsey can string together something beyond cut & paste. Who would have thunk that.

    Horsey, keep up the good work.

  2. [Dole recipients in depressed east coast cities such as Wollongong should have their payments cut to encourage them to move to WA’s booming but labour-starved mining industry, Treasurer Christian Porter says.

    Wading into the politically-charged debate that flared this week after Gina Rinehart’s massive $10 billion Roy Hill mine was given approval to bring in 1715 foreign workers, Mr Porter said Federal Govrnment policies had failed to improve the flow of workers to WA.

    “If you are unemployed in Wollongong, is there any repercussion whatsoever for not taking up a job or even trying to take up a job in WA,” he said at an RSM Bird Cameron business function yesterday.]

    There are no unemployed people in WA? They exist only in the eastern states?

  3. [Robertson, held for Labor by what on present indications looks to be an undefendable margin of 1.0%…… most fortuitiously, Robertson, where a winning margin of just 0.1% from 2007 became 1.0% in 2010.]

    The daily tele did a street poll of about 130 people in craigs seat of Dobell a couple of weeks ago at the height of the news ltd campaign. Small sample but found his primary vote largely unchanged since 2010 at around 43%.

    Small sample, but if craig can hang in there after the buckets of odure news is throwing at him i don’t see why they wont hang onto robertson also.

    Mad mark gave a swing to the libs, tone who is madder than mark should return the favour in 2013.

  4. Thomson 10 Abbott 0

    [MEMBERS of Parliament’s powerful privileges committee are unenthusiastic about pursuing Craig Thomson and will mount a go-slow inquiry and hand out only the minimum penalty if anything untoward is found.

    The Herald understands that Labor and Coalition MPs on the committee are uncomfortable with having to pass judgment on whether one of their own has misled Parliament, the accusation the Coalition has made against Mr Thomson.

    The revelation comes as the acting Speaker, Anna Burke, joined the growing chorus of concern about the lack of civility, which has escalated on the back of the Thomson affair.]

    Read more:

  5. [Fanboy will not be happy until #Ruddstoration]

    When Gillard listens to other views she is buckling to pressure and unfit to be leader, when Howie listened to others views it showed how inclusive and in touch with the people he was.

    Hartcher is flagging to gina he is one of hers and should be spared on the night of the ong knives when she gets control. there is a good article in smh today about ginas dad starting a newspaper to get his point of view across.

  6. Morning All

    Well done Bluegreen on your tweet to Oakes – great work. Interesting that it was just one of a few articles that are becoming increasingly critical of Abbott and his approach – are they getting of sick of him???

    The latest IA article was an eye opener, it was never in doubt Kathy Jackson was in it up to her eyeballs – will the mainstream media she has sucked up to and been a “hero” for defend, ignore or attack??? On the article though, sloppy in some ways – i don’t like that they named Lawler’s sons and didn’t block out account numbers – the story has the same punch even with a little protection included imo

    The mood is changing 🙂

  7. While the belly-fluff gardeners continue to write crap like this, from Lenore Taylor:

    [This week, little noticed in between all the screaming about impending doom to be wrought by the carbon tax and the sprinting around the chamber trying to avoid Craig Thomson’s vote, the Coalition continued to deploy tricky triangulation on the subject of asylum policy. ]

    and like this, from Laurie Oakes:

    [It’s Mr Abbott constantly predicting, like Hanrahan, that “We’ll all be rooned before the year is out”; Mr Abbott as economic ghoul, dismissing any good news while cynically exploiting every price rise, every job loss, every company that gets into trouble; Mr Abbott being accused of poisoning our public life and damaging the economy.

    Mr Abbott’s ruthlessness in attacking individuals – his pursuit of Craig Thomson being the latest example – is portrayed as another aspect of this.

    It’s Mr Abbott constantly predicting, like Hanrahan, that “We’ll all be rooned before the year is out”; Mr Abbott as economic ghoul, dismissing any good news while cynically exploiting every price rise, every job loss, every company that gets into trouble; Mr Abbott being accused of poisoning our public life and damaging the economy.

    For a bloke touted as a possible future Labor leader when he entered Parliament, the former ACTU boss had made remarkably little impact.

    But there he was on Thursday, striding to the despatch box and flicking the switch to vaudeville.

    But it won’t be enough to save the Government from election defeat.

    Mr Abbott’s roonism skills, helped by the Government’s uncanny ability to stuff up the politics of almost any situation, will see to that. ]

    times will be tougher than they should be for the government.

    Both these pieces are predicated on:

    1. All that matters is what goes on in Question Time.

    2. “The politics” – meaning the kabuki dance that everyone knows is fake… the performers, the stage hands and the audience – is more important than the substance.

    To Oakes and Taylor the kabuki performance in parliament amounts to a private viewing, a show put on for their personal benefit.

    Both government and opposition flatter them by spending an entire week shouting at each other in the House of Reps solely so they, the political columnists, can score the week’s performance and then write pieces like these two that obsess about technique, rather than substance.

    It’s so entrenched, they’ve even got the public believing that basic things like low inflation, low interest rates, a AAA rating, low unemployment, low debt, massive investment have only incidental relevance compared to the kabuki show.

    How many times have you heard statements like, “It’s a good policy, but they don’t sell it well, so I won’t vote for them”, as if the government is being punished not for bad policy, but for bad public relations… in the eyes of the political commentators?

    Conversely, how many times have you heard someone say, “I think Abbott is a dickhead, but he’s likeable, so I’ll vote for his party”?

    If the commentators can shift the emphasis onto safe ground, their safe ground, where massage triumphs over message, and where they happen to be “the experts” then policy will never get a look-in.

    For example, as soon as Abbott went contrarian on carbon pricing and the ETS, it became a political issue. Science and reality thereafter took a back seat.

    You didn’t have to be a climate expert. You only had to be a political expert.

    It’s a short step from there to equating “being an expert” with “having a right to hold an opinion”and everyone becomes an “expert”, fully qualified to commentate on whether global warming is real, or not.

    You end up with embarrassed ABC fluff interviewers on morning radio gently leading scientists and scholars away from discussing climate change because the ABC has to be “balanced”, and a thousand callers are already phoning in to complain.

    To a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

    To a political writer, every policy issue looks like an opportunity to pontificate on the technical, kabuki-like belly fluff of the political process.

    The “political process”, what’s that? It’s the private show the politicians put on for top-down wankers like Taylor and Oakes, for whom an eyebrow raised or a word out of place, a hesitation in Question Time, or a gaffe at a door-stop interview can launch a thousand ships, doom a million to unemployment or wipe out a government that has produced the world’smost ascendant economy, bar none.

    The government’s only problem is that they didn’t do it in the approved manner.

    Oakes and Taylor don’t care what the actual policy outcomes are. They only care that it’s done properly, to their rules, and within their framework of judgement.

    The people? They can find out for themselves, because Oakes and Taylor won’t ever bother to tell them anything they really need to know.

  8. morning bludgers

    I have the hard copy of the Herald Sun today. Top half of front page has picture of Queen and refers to DIAMOND JUBLIEE MAGAZINE.

    Bottom half in big black letters

    Energy giants

  9. [Burgey

    Posted Saturday, June 2, 2012 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    Spur, from the previous thread. Add Dennison to the seats Labor should look to pick up, albeit from an Indy.]

    Don’t know about that – i am in Denison and Wilkie is seen as reasonably popular. This seat has been a safe Labor seat for a long time and to be honest ignored. Now that has changed there is a bit of focus here which is not a bad thing.

  10. I doubt gus is about this morning, but I read his posts from last night.

    Who is the “bagperson”???? I am confused!!!

  11. BB

    The journos just dont get it. Politics is simple. If at the time of the next election

    Interest rates are low
    Unemployment down
    And the reforms put in place have transitiioned smoothly,
    Labor will win.

  12. More sifting through the belly fluff from St. Paul Kelly:

    [How, pray, could Labor stuff up such a golden policy opportunity? The real reason is apparent from the events of the past week. ]

    Kelly thinks the policy is stuffed up because he disapproves of the politics of the announcement.

    1. The policy is in place and has been for a year.

    2. 1,700 foreign workers will commence employment at Gina’s mine.

    3. 6,000 Australian workers will also work there.

    4. The mine will make a lot of money and will pay a lot of tax.

    Only a belly fluff gazer would argue that the policy has failed.

  13. BB

    I saw some tweets from chris Kenny yesterday. He was saying the same thing as Sir Paul. Good policy but It has split Labor. FFS i am so over these journos.

  14. [It would be interesting to see the correlation of lower interest rates and voting intention of the electorate.]

    A large part of the electorate has been convinced that low interest rates are actually a sign of a pooreconomy, which will magically become a great economy if the Coalition wins the election.

    They also don’t believe unemployment is low, or that we have a AAA rating, and (the biggy) that our debt is a small fraction of the debt held by most OECD countries.

    Fair dinkum, if an asteroid hit Sydney and wiped it out, Abbott would be crawling from the wreckage saying, “See? I TOLD you this guvm’nt would never achieve a surplus!”

  15. [5631 bluegreen
    Posted Friday, June 1, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    Tony Abbott is the high priest of pessimism
    by: Laurie Oakes From: The Daily Telegraph June 02, 2012 12:00AM
    Increase Text Size Decrease Text Size Print Email Share Add to Digg Add to Add to Facebook Add to Kwoff Add to Myspace Add to Newsvine What are these? 0BACK in 2001, on the Nine Network’s now defunct Sunday program, Tony Abbott invented a new word: roonism.

    The then industrial relations minister was complaining about the relentless negativity of the Labor opposition under Kim Beazley.

    “One of the real problems we have at the moment is roonism,” Abbott said.

    “As in ‘We’ll all be rooned, said Hanrahan’.”

    i fucking did it. Go Oakesy

    Congratulations bluegreen in sooling Oakes onto the duplicitous little bugger. Well done.

  16. DG

    Nassios? Why would his return get KJ/ML in the crapper? After all, he did a report that was mainly about Thomson

  17. Yes, hearty congratulations are due to Bluegreen for finding that article, linking it and getting Oakes to read it.

  18. smithe

    Bg was making references here in PB regarding that interview all those years ago. Apparently, he sent Oakes a tweet remining him. And then we get this article from Oakes.

  19. Victoria,

    Whenever you feel a little glum, as we all do from time to time, do what I do.

    Get on You Tube and look at the footage of Chris Kenny getting tasered.


    a. Makes me smile as the partisan hack did it voluntarily and it brought him pain; and
    b. Helps explain his brain addled pronouncements.

  20. Burgey

    I vaguely recall Kenny volunteering to be tasered ages ago. Have not seen it on youtube. Will look it up. He is one of the more odious commentators going around, and that is saying something. He probably ranks more highly than Steve Lewis

  21. [Get on You Tube and look at the footage of Chris Kenny getting tasered.]

    WAs it Bolt who volunteered to be waterboarded, as Chris Hitchens did?

  22. Scout dog are you
    I am in franklin

    And have family in denison

    I have found from talking to people, when you mention wilkie,

    Lose cannon, only does his own thing, like health pokies,
    Pictures in paper,
    And i wss told by his staff that i lived i franklin,

    So i said wilkie is an independantsnt

    Lots of emails about cost of air flights

    Other issues
    Ne ver received replies.

    To some up my feed back has been , issues that get attention

    But on tne other hand i think many tasmanians
    Dwell on health. Issues

    Not the big ticket items, but waiting time in casuslty, small things
    Ect. Any way thats been my experience

  23. Hartcher was actually pretty readable and close to the mark today. Yeah the whimsical yearing for Rudd was clear in between the lines, but mostly he was accurate in his assessment of both Abbott and Gillard.

    The palpable Abbott terror that Labor will come up with a stunt to out-stunt his own never-ending stunt was bang on the mark. The utter shallowness of the entire Abbott project was layed out in all it’s pathetic cynicism.

    Equally Hartcher for once was making a legitimate criticism of Gillard. It’s important not to dismiss it just because he always criticises her. For all of her strength she does every now and again make some unbelievably bone headed errors. Going for ‘it wasn’t me’ when a pissant like Howes comes to bitch was just weak. Obviously the AWU numbers are the difference between success and failure for her. They go and she’s gone, but surely she can put a woftam like Howes in his place.

    Howes is a gift that keeps on giving for the Right so it should be part of the PM’s strategic plan to put him in a box somehow. That failure along with the “a line’s been crossed” without explaining which f-ing line was crossed by whom and some other howlers can drive me up the wall.

    Hartcher’s error though is in ignoring the balancing positives. Abbott has none of course. Nothing in his history shows that he has the inner strength to overcome adversity. Without stunts he is nothing. The assessment that he’s no leader is accurate. Gillard on the other hand does have an impressive record of achievement in the face of adversity to bulwark her foibles. It takes a special kind of selective blindness to fail to acknowledge the policy success of her government.

    It is true that some of her problems have been self generated, but no where near all. She has demonstrated that she is real leader, albeit flawed. That of course is no surprise. We are human, all fallible. The great leaders of the past weren’t great because they were without flaws, but because they transcended their flaws. Abbott is defined by his flaws, there is nothing else. His weaknesses are who he is. Never has he put aside his partisanship, his homophobia, his misogyny, his opportunism to stand for something transcendent, something that unites instead of divides. He is a small man who seeks power to compensate.

    Gillard has on the other hand does overcome her weaknesses to bring people together, to build rather than tear down. The enormous policy agenda enacted this term in the face of a flailing, ranting opposition and feral media are a testament to leadership that puts pretty much every PM in the nation’s history to shame. Hartcher has correctly identified weaknesses in both party heads, but without the balancing analysis of their strengths he has told less than half the story.

  24. Abbott told to keep powder dry on workplace reform
    [WEST Australian Premier Colin Barnett says Tony Abbott must soon reveal ‘‘what he stands for’’, but big business has warned him against announcing any plans to reform the nation’s ‘‘intrusive’’ workplace laws in order to avoid an anti-Work Choices campaign by Labor and the unions.]
    The Weekend Australian.

  25. ratsak

    I thought Labor made an error in not emphasising the mining jobs available to Australians ahead of the 1700 imports, as practically all the msm emphasis (and headlines) have been on the 1700.

    Unless you were following politics pretty closely, you’d miss the emphasis. I didn’t hear Press Club, so I missed it.

  26. [But it won’t be enough to save the Government from election defeat.

    Mr Abbott’s roonism skills, helped by the Government’s uncanny ability to stuff up the politics of almost any situation, will see to that.]

    And, of course, good old Laurie will no doubt be there to strategically leak on behalf of Tone and the Fibs, in the election campaign, just like he did last time.

  27. Several tens of thousands of posts ago I noted that Mr Rudd was a warmonger and that he was actively considering Australia’s participation in a war with China. I recall it was in relation to a comment that was exposed via Wikileaks.

    ‘The Australian’ today lets the cat out of the bag. Someone has leaked what was obviously Top Secret stuff.

    I trust that the AFP and ASIO will be on the case because this is another example of the habit of the defence establishment leaking to undercut the government of the day. This in itself is disgraceful stuff – not that The Australian appears to show an concern for our national security. It is quite happy to play the yellow peril card when it suits – both ways – as a potential war enemy and as worried about the Government’s handling of the resources boom.

    The secret? That the 2009 Defence Paper was predicated, inter alia, on a secret chapter about preparing for war with China. The 12 submarines are to interdict Chinese supply lines. No wonder the neocons are in a froth and lather about the decision to delay the purchase of the subs. It is going to delay our war with China.

    This would also explain why the subs can’t be off-the-shelf submarines from europe: they need the extra range and extra staying power for a war with china. This is why we have to spend $40 billion for bespoke subs, and not $10 billion for an off-the-shelf set of 12.

    Where was the public policy discussion about this? Where was the considered debate between the Government and the Opposition?

    The nanosecond there is war between the US and China (with or without Australian military participation – which would, as usual, make no real difference) our economy will collapse. The All Ords will drop below 2000. Western Australia and Queensland will be instant basket cases, reliant once more on transfers from the sout-east. The economy will collapse because trade between China and the US will disappear and trade between Australia and China will disappear. It would be highly likely that trade with South Korea and Japan would also either collapse or be severely disrupted.

    We would automatically lose any war from day one.

    The US would never win a land war in China. China would never win a land war in the US. Sooner or later any such war would end in either a protracted draw or a mutual multiple megaton event – in which Australi would be also be on the receiving end, BTW. All it would take would be a single ICBM over half a dozen major Australian city targets and Australia, and the majority of Austalians would disappear in clouds of plasma.

    Perhaps the defence planners were thinking that Australia would take on China by themselves with the 12 subs, the two air warfare destroyers, the two helicopter landing ships and a couple of self-propelled artillary units?

    No wonder failed neocon prophets such as Mr Sheridan are so exercised about the subs and the JSFs. They reckon we might not be ready for the war with china and that it will be all over before we can get stuck in and do our usual, symbolic, deputy sheriff bit?

    This is lunacy.

  28. Congrats also to bluegreen on putting a hot poker up Oakes’ ample arse.

    Did you/could you also tweet Albo the links to the various interviews. As leader of the house he would be the best placed to weave it into the anti-Abbott efforts.


    improve safety for local residents. The remaining funding is to be included in the Nation Building Program 2, commencing in 2014-15.

    · Safer Suburbs Plan – $225,000 for four projects across Kingborough and Clarence municipalities. o $80,000 for lighting in the Clarence Aquatic Centre car park, Warrane Green Belt, Stanley Park and Astor Park; o $75,000 for lighting in the Kingborough Sports Centre car park; o $50,000 for CCTV in the Kingborough CBD; and o $20,000 for solar lighting in the Kingborough War Memorial Park. I have also delivered on every election commitment that was promised to the people of Franklin in 2007. This was a $45 million investment and includes:

    $15 million contribution to the construction of the Kingston Bypass. $12 million investment to fund the Huon Valley Water Scheme. $10.5 million to fund stage one of the South East Tasmanian Recycled Water Scheme. $5.5 million health investment to fund the Clarence GP Super Clinic. $166,000 for the Green TEA program. $155,949 for the redevelopment of the Dennes Point Community Centre. $65,000 for four sporting projects across Franklin including Rokeby Cricket. Club, Kingborough Lions Soccer Club, Cygnet Gymnasium

    Scoutdog i was hoping mr wilkie had a page like this,
    Cannot find one
    Julie collins does heaps no fan fare no pictures in the paper

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