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. Abbott Hockey and Lib supporters keep saying the economy is in ruins..whats wrong with our economy?

    3 x Triple A rating
    Low unemployment
    Low inflation
    Low debt to GDP ratio
    Low interest rates
    Increasing productivity
    Continual growth

    Please point out the down side

  2. he looks very well to me
    what on earth gives u that idea

    why please?

  3. ABC Breakfast giving good coverage to Rudd Indonesia visit.

    Points out problem for Opposition with it being an SBY proposal.

  4. Simon Baker – nothing makes me more tired than reading that Abbott must have a brain because he got an MA from Oxford. I thought David Marr made it pretty clear that Abbott got his Rhodes scholarship through contacts. Certainly, nobody has EVER suggested that he got it as a result of academic achievement in Australia. Where is his University Medal; were is it said he even got a first at Sydney Uni? If he’d got either, it would have been trumpeted from the hills. Where is it suggested that he got a good MA at Oxford (believe me, once you get to Oxford, everybody gets a degree, it’s the honours ranking that counts).
    The idea that Tony Abbott could actually sit down and learn Mandarin (like Rudd) is beyond laughable. There is a very good reason why Abbott sounds like a fool on TV (even when doing his wooden soundbites).

  5. Tennis: Djokovic -v- Murray?

    Djokovic more likely but the reaction to Murray winning and then flashing a Bratach na h-Alba rather than a Union Jack …

  6. In other words, if someone looks like a dope, and talks like a dope and acts like a dope, you can be pretty sure that …

  7. [Confessions
    Posted Saturday, July 6, 2013 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    It doesn’t warrant repeating

    It’s a good point.]

    So now we have confession’s to replace pain.

    You labor types are crazy.

  8. As three word slogans go that one is pretty dam good.

    Posted Saturday, July 6, 2013 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    slogans for bogans

  9. Sean tisme like the other coalition supporters cant wait to vote for labor, so they can get the nbn and the other great legislation which labor brought in

  10. Sean Tisme

    Posted Saturday, July 6, 2013 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Who is paying Craig Thomsons legal bills?

    who is paying Ashby’s??

  11. [confessions
    Posted Saturday, July 6, 2013 at 9:31 am | Permalink


    In a perfect world we’d all be unthinking drones incapable of independent thought.]

    You missed the point confession, Pain went on and on and on and on and on…………….. about Gillard.

    Confession is going on and on and ……………..

  12. [ Sean Tisme
    Posted Saturday, July 6, 2013 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Who is paying Craig Thomsons legal bills?]

    What is going to happen when the whole thing is thrown out of court, which is looking very likely.

    Hopefully we will see a judge award costs to the guilty party which looks as if it may not be Thomson.

  13. Kevin07 – I did not say that Abbott was Wittgenstein, just that he was not a jock stereotype, nor for that matter is Rudd a nerd stereotype either

  14. in a world where we are trying very hard, well most of us any way to keep the libs out, I would of thought
    thinking alike for this short term would be prudent

    discussing policy and other positive themes.

  15. Morning all. The coverage of Rudd’s trip to Indonesia looks pretty good. Coming up with a regional solution, and exposing the fact that the coalition does not have one, is both good politics and more humane than dumping women and children on Manus Island. Surprisingly reasonable behaviour for a known sociopath but I digress. Anyway, if Rudd can disarm this issue, and Tony Burke manages it competently on a day to day basis, it really takes away a major coalition line of attack.

  16. sean there was an article here this past week about

    abbotts office expenses being very much higher than the

    pm of the day JG .guess what mate u and I paid for abbotts expenses with our taxes, why don’t u moan to him about that how can an opp leader spend more on expenses than a pm.

    this one is 2011

    I other posters may like to find this years.

    sadly the picture its self has tobe clicked on and read
    am hoping crickey may up date soon,

    so stop talking about expenses sean

  17. mb well rummell disappeared and the cane toad with him

    so I would say that is so,

    funny how labor people hang around when things don’t look good but the others run away when shoe on other foot

    like their leader ,,, I suppose

  18. [Who is paying Craig Thomsons legal bills?]

    There shouldn’t be any, the disgusting politicisation of the NSW and Vic police forces and legal system by liberals for liberals is the most disgusting thing we have ever seen in the Australian judicial system. Justice needs not only to be done but seen to be done. The political witchhunt means that justice cannot be seen to be done in this case whether he is as guilty as sin, or as innocent as an angel.

  19. Kevin 17

    Agree on Abbott and his lack of scholarship. It is an unfortunate fact that not all Rhodes scholars are as clever as people assume. The stated aims of the program are to pick future leaders, not future intellectuals. Abbott did not get honours on his Australian degree, and as most are unaware, if you finish a full Bachelors program at Oxford, you automatically get given a Masters a year later, simply by applying for it. Abbott has never done any post graduate study, nor did he excel at under graduate study.

    In short, Rhodes scholarships impress people, but show ambition, not genius. Much better markers of academic ability are a university medal, first class honours, or one of the purely academic scholarships like a Fullbright.

  20. From previous thread:


    [And I can bet with a new GFC around the place the world is going to become a little more complicated… and Aust in need of a leader competent on the international scene.]

    TP obviously ignorant of JGPM’s brilliant achievements on her last China visit, outshone that pretend FA expert Rudd! Geez, already resorting to lies to prop up that treasonous little turd?

  21. On climate change Abbott has stood by his word.

    he stated that “Climate change is crap”

    And then to prove he stands by that statement developed a crap Carbon Reduction Policy – Direct Action.

  22. Abbott stated “there will be no new taxes under a Govt I lead”

    And true to his word he will implement a levy, not a tax increase, to pay for his Parental Leave Plan.

    When Liberals implement a levy it is not a tax by another name, that only happens when Labor introduce a levy.

    The contradiction in Abbott’s introduction of the levy is that he campaigned hard and vigorously against the levy introduced by Labor to assist Queenslanders after the floods.

    So Queenslanders remember, a levy is good to pay for Parental Leave, but not good to help you rebuild.

  23. The Guardian once again brings us some real news – this time about sport. Ian Chappell talks about match fixing in cricket, and says he thinks it is widespread, including strong suspicion over the third test between Australia and Pakistan in Sydney, 2010.

    THe other sporting story that intrigues me at present is drugs in football, notably the NRL and AFL. I don’t know enough about NRL to comment but it seems to me that from what has been already said about AFL and Essendon, codes of practice have been breached. Penalties should be imposed, if the competition is to remain credible. The Bombers are a popular club, so I suspect the league are reluctant to take action till the home and away season is almost complete for financial reasons. We are not a leader in the fight against drugs and sport, no matter how much we might claim otherwise.

    By comparison, people should look at the punishment of the Glasgow Rangers in Scottish football (relegated to the lowest grade, it will take them years to get back to first division!) for fraud, if they want to see an example of a governing body being serious. Adelaide got off very lightly on the Kurt Tippett scandal by comparison.

  24. Abbott’s asylum seeker policy revolves around few words. “Stop the Boats” “turn the boast around” and “tow the boats back”.

    Problem he has now is that Indonesia seem to be adopting the same policy..”turn the boats around” as they are “turned around” by Abbott.

    The boats will be travelling back and forwards between the Indonesian Navy and Australian Navy as each “turns the boats back”.

  25. [What is going to happen when the whole thing is thrown out of court, which is looking very likely.]

    You guys have been making these stupid conspiracy theorist predictions for ages now and have been wrong on every count.

    The evidence is there all you need to do is pull your head out of your proverbial.

  26. [ ABC Breakfast giving good coverage to Rudd Indonesia visit.

    Points out problem for Opposition with it being an SBY proposal. ]


    Bishop Junior and Morriscum will just repeat the lie that what the Indonesians have to say in public is completely different to what they tell them in private (nudge, nudge, wink, wink)

    On the other hand, as far as I’m concerned Rudd came back with nothing but a promise of yet another talk-fest. Which (as far as I can see) is all Rudd ever manages on any issue.

  27. Fred

    Slogans for bogans may be kind of snappy but very dangerius for
    anyone on the Labor side to even hint at using a line like this.
    Would be up there with Romney 3047 per cent remark.

    Simon B
    ver astute observations on Blair and Clinton.

  28. Fred

    Slogans for bogans may be kind of snappy but very dangerius for
    anyone on the Labor side to even hint at using a line like this.
    Would be up there with Romney 3047 per cent remark.

    Simon B
    ver astute observations on Blair and Clinton.

  29. Fred

    Slogans for bogans may be kind of snappy but very dangerius for
    anyone on the Labor side to even hint at using a line like this.
    Would be up there with Romney 3047 per cent remark.

    Simon B
    ver astute observations on Blair and Clinton.

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