Seat of the week: Dobell

The central coast New South Wales seat of Dobell has mostly been in Labor’s hands since its creation in 1984, but the travails of sitting member Craig Thomson have presumably raised the bar on their chances of retaining it again this time.

Held by troubled Labor-turned-independent MP Craig Thomson, Dobell covers the urban areas around Tuggerah Lake just beyond the northern coastal reaches of Sydney, including the coastal retirement haven of The Entrance, lower income Wyong on the interior side, the tourist area from Bateau Bay south through Wamberal to Terrigal, the demographically unremarkable northern Gosford suburbs of Lisarow and Wyoming, and state forest further inland. Terrigal and its immediate surrounds are strong for the Liberals, forming the basis of a fairly safe seat at state level, while the Gosford area and the electorate’s central and northern regions have traditionally been finely balanced.

Dobell was created with the enlargement of parliament in 1984 and held from then until 2001 by Michael Lee, who served in cabinet through the final term of the Keating government. Lee survived a 6.7% swing amid Labor’s 1996 election defeat to hold on by 117 votes, but a 1.8% redistribution shift in favour of the Liberals would prove decisive at the 2001 election, when Liberal candidate Ken Ticehurst picked up a 1.9% swing to prevail by 560 votes. Ticehurst substantially consolidated his hold with a 5.5% swing at the 2004 election, but even this proved insufficient to stave off an 8.7% swing to Labor in 2007.

The seat has since been held by Thomson, who had previously been national secretary of the Health Services Union. The first intimation of the trouble that awaited Thomson came with allegations his union credit card had been used to misappropriate around $100,000 for purposes including payment to a Sydney brothel, which he claimed had been fabricated amid a backdrop of internal warfare within the union’s Victorian branch. After surviving a preselection challenge by local union official David Mehan, Thomson became one of only four New South Wales Labor MPs to pick up a swing at the 2010 election, his margin increasing from 3.9% to 5.1%. However, his political career began to unravel the following June after he withdrew a defamation against The Age over its reporting of the credit card allegations. A lengthy Fair Work Australia investigation into the union ended with civil proceedings being launched against Thomson in October 2012, with fraud and theft charges following in early 2013.

Thomson’s membership of the ALP was suspended in April 2012, and in May he announced he had resigned from the party to stand as an independent. After delaying preselection proceedings until this time, Labor finally endorsed Trevor Drake, a former deputy mayor of Gosford who had been a Liberal Party member between 2004 and 2008. Drake emerged as the only candidate when nominations closed, with earlier named contenders having included Wyong Hospital executive Emma McBride (whose father Grant McBride is a former state member for The Entrance), former state Wyong MP David Harris, Wyong Shire councillor Lisa Matthews and the aforementioned candidate from 2010, David Mehan.

An initial Liberal Party preselection in December 2011 was won by Gary Whitaker, former Hornsby Shire councillor and managing director of a local educational services company. Whitaker prevailed over WorkCover public servant Karen McNamara, in what was reported as a defeat for the Right faction forces associated with state upper house MP David Clarke and the locally powerful member for Terrigal, Chris Hartcher. However, Whitaker soon faced trouble over allegations he had lived for several years without council permission in an “ensuite shed” on his Wyong Creek property while awaiting approval to build a house there. The following April, the party’s state executive voted to dump Whitaker as candidate and install McNamara in his place.

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.

2,142 comments on “Seat of the week: Dobell”

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  1. Freezing a the moment, but in hotel and going down for drinks soon to thaw out. Was out walking on the big glacier 33 km long 3 km wide, saw the geysers blow the big waterfalls and through the rivers in the 4 wheel jeep,how about that for excitement. Glad not out their today
    Sunday g to The Blue Lagoon for spas etc going to come out 20 yeas younger????

  2. Unforgivable oversight be Our Fearless Leader by not including Bob Ellis’ polling showing an easy Labor win in Dobell 👿

  3. It’s a fair point you make Simon Baker and indeed Maley acknowledges Abbott’s
    intellect in the piece.

    But this is all about public perceptions and it is here that Rudd is running circles
    around Abbott. In that pithy couple of sentences Rudd has captured the public
    image of both himself and Abbott perfectly and turned it to his own advantage.

    Abbott may be a Rhodes scholar and a thinker but he has none of Rudd’s deep
    political intelligence. Not in the same league. His game plan is slogans for bogans
    and carping negativity.

    I would go so far as to say Rudd is the Bill Clinton of Australian politics for his
    uncanny ability to cut through and to read the politics better than anyone on
    the other side.

  4. Alias

    Rudd has more gut political instinct than most in Labor.

    Gillard’s team had none at all – which is reflected here also by some of the sillier bits of advice given to Rudd over pink batts.

    And of course why Abbot and team ran rings around Gillard

  5. I thought the Maley article showed she is a little out of touch with the young.

    She harked back to Revenge of the Nerds movie, but failed to notice the cult status if Big Bang Theory” which is all about brilliant nerds with poor social skills.

  6. Indeed when you come to think of it MOST popular culture these days gives Nerds a big role.

    Think Lisa Simpson,

  7. Announcing the scheme in Sydney, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said the green army would be ”one of the signature programs of an incoming Coalition government” and would tackle issues such as degraded land and polluted waterways. Under the program, an ”army” of young workers would each be paid up to $16.03 an hour for six months’ work on projects such as cleaning riverbanks and creek beds, revegetating sand dunes and working on conservation projects

    Mr Abbott said climate change was important but Australia had ”very big environmental challenges much nearer to home”.

    According to Abbott climate change isn’t close to Australia??

  8. Abbott will spend more money fitting out the kids in safety vests, OHS training etc or it will make pink batts look like a cup of coffee.

    Even WITH training weed clearing can be dangerous. I KNOW as I do it. And with a bunch of kids say 17 or so Ha!! Ha!!!

  9. Good morning, Bludgers.

    Finally, a journo calls out Abbott – The Guardian’s Kimberley Ramplin
    Tony Abbott, you have plenty of reasons to debate Kevin Rudd. Here are some

    [Tony Abbott has been on a monumental sulk since September 2010. He has become Mr Rabbit, forever looking for a bolthole.

    His press conferences end abruptly, without fielding questions from the assembled media. He refuses to appear on Q&A. And then there’s the barely concealed taunt from Leigh Sales, fresh from grilling Rudd, that the opposition leader had been invited to join the program “to discuss his policies and plans”. “Hopefully he’ll be available”, Sales said. Oh, Tony. How we laughed, knowing you wouldn’t be joining because you always say no.

    But the change in ALP leadership has now shifted the conversation, and Abbott needs to be part of it, not snarking from the sidelines. It’s time for “Dr No” to say “yes”.]

  10. Alias – I would agree with that, Rudd at his best is the equivalent of Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, a one in a generation centre-left leader who knows how to win the middle ground and outwit his opponents.

  11. Alias – I would agree with that, Rudd at his best is the equivalent of Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, a one in a generation centre-left leader who knows how to win the middle ground and outwit his opponents.

  12. Alias – I would agree with that, Rudd at his best is the equivalent of Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, a one in a generation centre-left leader who knows how to win the middle ground and outwit his opponents.

  13. Also from The G Julie Collins hits back after Liberals mock her speech in campaign video

    [The federal minister for housing and homelessness, Julie Collins, has accused the Liberal party of “resorting to negative personal attacks” after they released a campaign video lampooning her.

    The video, uploaded to YouTube, shows a short moment from a press conference in 2010 when Collins was left stumbling for words and adds the tagline: “Labor’s newest minister talks tax.” …

    She said that the video was designed to make her performance at the press conference look markedly worse.

    …”It was a long interview of three to four minutes. They’ve taken a short space, they’ve spliced it, and it really is just showing the Liberal party has no policies, nothing positive to talk about. All they want to do is attack people and put up negative ads,” she said.

    At a press conference earlier on Friday, Collins responded to questions about comments Joe Hockey had made on breakfast television, where he stated that the newly appointed cabinet minister was not up to the job.

    “That’s just ridiculous,” she said. “The Liberal party are just resorting to negative personal attacks because they have nothing positive to say about Tasmania, or about Australia, and they’re just resorting to these types of attacks.”]

    Indonesia’s President has delivered a sharp diplomatic rebuke to Tony Abbott’s signature ”turn back the boats” policy, signing a communique warning against ”unilateral” actions that could lead to ”operational and other difficulties” between nations.

    The communique, signed by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd after a meeting yesterday, reinforces both countries’ emphasis on regional solutions to the people smuggling problem.

    ”They stressed the importance of avoiding unilateral actions which might jeopardise such a comprehensive regional approach and

    Read more:


    can a poster remind us what j bishop had to say about her talks, with indonisia

    Yourquestion to me re Iceland and Climate Change the glacier I as walking on ,the biggest in Iceland is holding it’s own at the moment according to our guide but there are other small things happening,she firmly believes in Climate Change and can’t understand anyone who doesn’t

  16. Morning all. Things get bad for Rupe:

    [Phone hacking victims say a recording of Rupert Murdoch belittling a British police inquiry into his journalists shows the News Corp boss misled a parliamentary inquiry.

    The secret recording, made as Mr Murdoch privately addressed staff at his Sun tabloid in March, has been broadcast on British television.

    It reveals Mr Murdoch making comments in sharp contrast to the profuse public apologies he made in the wake of the hacking scandal.

    He suggests the police are incompetent and the inquiry has been blown out of all proportion.

    “Why are the police behaving in this way? It’s the biggest inquiry ever, over next to nothing,” he said.]

    Just astonishing that he doesn’t seem to get what it’s all about!

  17. OPT:

    I’m assuming the Ramplin who wrote that article is the same person I follow on twitter. This is a telling part:

    [Rudd has, in general, credited his successor / predecessor with the policies she slogged her guts out to put in place, but he wasn’t around the budget table. He didn’t negotiate and navigate the legislation through parliament. The prime minister wants to debate policy, but his party’s policies, budget spending priorities and cuts are largely not of his making. What’s he going to talk about? The GFC? Yawn. Next. China. Resources boom over. OK … so what are you going to do, Kevin? “Well, Penny and I had a good chinwag with some business folk”?

    Remember, “consultative Kevin” has promised not to announce policy without going through the Cabinet process. Abbott could have Rudd on a rotisserie with a good performance next week, highlighting the talkfests and hyperactivity of his first prime ministership on one end, the unpopular decisions and missteps of Julia Gillard at the other, leaving Rudd to talk up the one constant of both his and Gillard’s prime ministerships: Wayne Swan.]

    It’s a good point.

  18. And in the West this morning…….not one reference to pink batts – that I could find.

    I admit I was wrong.

    I thought it would take until Monday to disappear as an issue.

    Good references to Alannah though.

    In fact, it was only old Coke Bottles who had the cautionary tale of “the past catching up” for Rudd to worry about.

    The ferals in the letters-to-the-editor are still being feral by the worry is now to “warn” everyone about Rudd.

    Suddenly the leopard is getting a run for its money as an reference point. These people do not do irony.

  19. Simon Baker

    Agree entirely with bringing in Blair. Interesting isn’t it, the features they share in common – professed deep religious faith, left of centre politics, flawed personalities(Monica, and in Blair’s case, if we believe the scuttlebutt Wendi).

  20. oz poll sent my member an email last night, to tell her how much we appreciate her, if only I could show her newsletter of her lobbied achievements for Tasmania, and our electorate I would say most would be on the web,
    I hand out how to vote for Julie the electorate goes as far as dover and up and over the eastern shore Kingston ect,
    last election she bought all of us sandwiches and coffee I….. enquired to her secretary as to where they whereof to next

    to every booth she said .’ the car is packed with sandwiches and we get coffee locally’.

    WOULD JOE HOCKEY do that for his people at booths, that particular booth was out of the city I did not see one liberal official visit their person

    later in the day I went to another both, where I did see a few liberals, but not one offering sustenance of any kind,


    ITS inbred in labor people to be kind,

    the other lot lets u eat cake on that day I don’t think they even bought cake.

  21. More bad news for Rupert Murdoch

    a href=””>Scotland Yard seeks Rupert Murdoch secret tape In tape, Murdoch is heard admitting to Sun journalists that payments to public officials were part of ‘culture of Fleet Street

    [Scotland Yard detectives were on Friday attempting to track down a secret recording of Rupert Murdoch admitting to Sun journalists that payments to public officials were part of “the culture of Fleet Street”.

    A police officer connected to the Operation Elveden investigation into illicit payments from journalists has made a formal request to Exaro News, the investigations website that broke the story, to hand over the undercover tape…

    The development is the clearest indication yet that police in London are ready to examine Murdoch’s private disclosures since the tapes emerged on Wednesday night. Murdoch is recorded saying the culture of paying police officers for stories “existed at every newspaper in Fleet Street. Long since forgotten. But absolutely.”]

  22. Tones Masters degree:

    [Please note the Oxford MA is about reaching a new status within the University and not an upgrade of your BA or an additional qualification. It therefore has no subject or class. We do not issue Degree Confirmation letters or ECTS statements as proof of your MA]

    ‘No study required’.

    Talc managed an ordinary BCL while on his Rhodes scholarship (did take him 2 years) while Tones got an MA for whacking people.

  23. DTT

    Very interesting your insights into the nerd factor in politics and the wider culture. I’m out of touch with those shows you mention. Will ask my kids about it.

  24. Good Point ?
    It’s a Great flamin’ point !
    It should completely stf up all the ‘Dream On, I’m For Ruddy, you don’t know nothing’ instant gratification idiots in their mutual mutant misrepresentation-festation.
    …. Completely.

  25. [A transport planning expert has warned the Barnett Government against private sector involvement in its rail plans in a further blow to its public transport strategy.

    After Tony Abbott’s confirmation that a Federal coalition government would not help pay for the MAX light rail and airport rail link projects, Premier Colin Barnett and Treasurer Troy Buswell both signalled an expectation of private investment.

    Melbourne University lecturer in transport planning John Stone said yesterday public-private partnerships needed caution.

    Dr Stone told ABC Radio the shift to private sector transport operators in Melbourne had led to higher fares.

    He said private operators needed “cast-iron guarantees” on returns for investment.

    “It means that any problem that comes up in the projects ends up coming back on the public purse,” he said.

    “So, it’s much more important that we try to find a way of the public keeping control of these projects.”

    Dr Stone described Mr Abbott’s comments that he favoured roads over rail as “looking back to the 50s”.]

    At last, some discussion about policy!

    And I was sure that Abbott had said a coalition govt would fund a rail line in Sydney. Has he backflipped on this pledge?

  26. looks like a gamble, but it’s not. Rudd loses nothing if Abbott is a no show because he’s not the opposition leader. He’s PM. He won’t talk to an empty lectern (MEMO TO ACTING PM ALBO: DO NOT LET RUDD TALK TO AN EMPTY LECTERN); he’ll give a speech and take the merciless piss, the journos will laugh,
    who was saying last evening this would quietly be forgotten

  27. [It’s a good point.]

    It’s a ridiculous point actually.

    [Abbott could have Rudd on a rotisserie with a good performance next week …. ]

    As if Abbott could have a good performance. He is a lumbering puncher telegraphing his every move. Rudd is fleet footed and can dance around him throwing punches at will.

    Rudd’s bigger challenge is himself.

  28. [‘No study required’.]

    That fits with the stuff said about Abbott by those who knew him back then: that he had everything gifted to him and never really had to work for anything.

    All aligns neatly when you look at him today.

  29. Still a Grand Final between Rudd and Abbott to come.

    Date: TBC

    Some comedian on the other thread believed Abbott “runs circles around Rudd”.

    The boot is on the other foot of course – hence Abbott rolling himself up into the smallest foetal ball he can to avoid any kind of debate – a debate in the areas that are supposedly winners for him.

    May have been a boxer, but clearly with a glass jaw

  30. poroti – It’s usually a freeby for Oxbridge bachelor degree holders who hang around as tutors.

    The rules were bent a bit so Tones got something to take home.

    (Talc managed a BCL in 2 years – I know a woman who did it in 1 year with honours!)

  31. [He is a lumbering puncher telegraphing his every move. ]

    And who uses simple slogans which are lapped up by our fawning media.

    At the end of the day, Labor has to defend years of instability and perceived chaos. Ramplin is right: the LOTO should be all over the debate request.

  32. The problem for the Libs is that by harking back to what Rudd did runs the risk for them of being confirmed, in the minds of the public, of offering nothing for the future.

    People may chose to look back that bit further and remember why it was they elected Rudd in the first place – that is to get rid of the spent Liberal government and Howard.

    What is it that the public do not already know about Rudd that they have learnt extra in the last week, month, or year? Nothing.

    He is still a long way ahead of Abbott – regardless.

    Whether he can actually win depends on whether a known devil or unknown devil is punted upon by the electorate.

    Said electorate are having a think about it at the moment.

    Get back to you on election day.

  33. Alias The skill which also marks all three leaders is that they realised that voters in their respective nations accepted the basic elements of free market economics practised by Howard, Thatcher and Reagan, but they also wanted more compassion than they offered and more emphasis on effectively run services. Indeed, that is the ground on which elections in future will be won, and indeed both David Cameron and even George W Bush were only elected promising ‘compassionate conservatism.’ Abbott most certainly is not a ‘compassionate conservative’ which is why the polls have turned against him now Rudd has returned. Voters want the hard headed nature of conservatives combined with the compassion of the left!

  34. [ Just astonishing that he doesn’t seem to get what it’s all about! ]

    Thats the best bit.

    Enjoy it all while we can.

    The tide is going out on him again and he fails to see it.

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