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. Found a longer duration between Federal elections than 2004 to 2007: Sept 28 1946 to Dec 10, 1949 – 3 years 73 days. Tony Abbott would probably say it was Ben Chifley trying to hang on a bit longer.

  2. The Queensland LNP are the gift which keeps on giving…

    [SHE was the LNP’s version of Steven Bradbury, but now Verity Barton could be headed for a major face-plant of her own.
    The Broadwater backbencher, who mirrored the Winter Olympic champion by slipping past two other fallen LNP candidates at the finish line to win a seat at the last election, is the subject of a detailed dirt file being compiled by senior figures from within her own party.
    The Sunday Mail understands some senior LNP figures on the Gold Coast are so worried about the performance of the first-term MP, who until recently still lived with her parents, they are actively trying to stop Ms Barton from contesting the next election.
    Other potential candidates are already being sourced to topple Ms Barton at the preselection ballot, possibly as soon as early next year.]

    Did you claim travel expenses on your book tour?

    I did not.]

    So you repaid money for the fun of it? How many lies will the guy be allowed to tell?

  4. YEP! Tony’s expenses have made it to The Guardian’s Frony Page, with this link Tony Abbott denies wrongly claiming expenses from 2009 book tour

    [When asked at a press conference on Monday morning if he had wrongly claimed travel expenses while promoting Battlelines, Abbott replied: “No, I did not.”

    He did not elaborate on the answer before taking the next question and ended the press conference after answering questions from two other journalists on the press club debate and the potential timing of the election.

    In 2010, when questions were raised by ABC television program The Drum, a spokesman went on the public record saying: “All travel undertaken by Mr Abbott has been within the entitlement. This is a blatant attempt by Labor to smear and mislead.”]

    No real differences between it and Margot’s blog-post; but hey, it’s out there, Internationally

  5. [So you repaid money for the fun of it? How many lies will the guy be allowed to tell?]
    So far, as many as he wants to.

  6. Good question

    [Andrew Leigh ‏@ALeighMP 2m
    Oppn will pay senior public servants more if they cut red tape. So will CASA head be paid to reduce safety regulations? #AusPol]

  7. [ QUESTION:
    Did you claim travel expenses on your book tour?

    I did not.]

    If he was ever cornered on this he’d use semantics to try and weasel out. He’d say that he had made the claim but as he’d paid the money back he hasn’t made the claim i.e. one cancels out the other. He’s a slipperly character and would see nothing dodgy about his language.

  8. The Guardian has given a good account of Abbott’s BattleRorts. The Age only gave the basics and then quickly demoted it, hoping no-one will notice. The ABC website doesn’t even mention it – true to form. What a joke! Journalism? What’s that?

  9. Just had a big shock. Went for a drive and tuned in to local redneck radio to see how Boats + Kevin were being played. Surprise surprise “boats” WAS the topic.Professional smart arsk + News Ltd journo Joe Hildebrand was on as a guest. So far all normal.
    The real shock was to hear him saying neither he nor “any of the really smart people I’ve been lucky enough to meet could think of a solution.” . Further that a regional solution was needed . Topped off by him saying that “Going Stop the Boats or Turn Back the Boats only begs the question How ? How ? How ? .”
    Very sensible and so very unusual.

  10. have a look at twitter, just about every second tweet

    has something about abbott and claims for expenses,

    and different ones at that.

  11. What is wrong the the ABC on-line news? There is no mention of Abbort’s attempt to defraud the Commonwealth through his illegitimate travel claims. Why is this not newsworthy?

  12. So what does this recent avalanche of polling data mean?

    Well, all of these results represent around a 5% to 6% jump in the ALP’s primary vote and a corresponding drop of about 4% in the Coalition primary vote, so at the very least it says there is now an electoral contest that can still be won by either side. Does an improved ALP position in the polls engender a bandwagon effect, or an underdog effect? Ironically for Abbott, it may end up being both effects for Rudd and the ALP.

    Does it also follow that a boost in the polls for Labor is followed by an inevitable fall? In the longer term, yes, but so many factors are different now that I would not as yet make that prediction for the short term – what if voters decide that Rudd looks more Prime Ministerial than Abbott, and Rudd’s personal popularity rating (and by extension the Government’s with him, as the statistical linkage between PPM ratings and TPP, strained out of kilter in the last 2 years, is nevertheless now a well proven, albeit long term polling artifact) continues to improve over the next few weeks?

    Both men are known quantities in the minds of most voters, but Rudd is more popular by a country mile, regardless of his manifest shortcomings. He is also acknowledged by most pundits as a better election campaigner than Abbott, so would the full campaign, when it actually begins, result in further polling gains for Labor?

    The ALP ministry of new faces mixed with some old stagers has been announced last week with more women promoted, and a veritable swag of senior Labor retirements have clogged the airwaves with their valedictory speeches – anything of electoral value either way there? Most ill-informed and ignorant voters won’t know, or care about any of this, so it’s probably a zero sum, or a slight ALP advantage, perhaps adding some small veracity to any claims of a real changing of the guard.

    The election date remains a mystery, and PM Rudd is as stoic and silent as The Sphinx when questioned on the subject so far – do they go early to take advantage of any poll bump, or do they go late, longer than the currently scheduled September 14th, to allow the voters to get a good look at Rudd in contrast to Abbott? I still lean to August 24th, but September 21st has been mooted in some media reports, as has as late as mid to end of October, either 19th or 26th.

    Whom The Gods wish to destroy, they first send on a pollie pedal ….

  13. zoomster

    Hip replacement booked for August 28th…happy dance will have to wait for a few months, though!!
    Great news. Dancing on the table top at this New Year Eve party then ? 🙂

  14. I have written to MediaWatch commenting on the absence of news on-line regarding Abbott’s rorting of travel expences. I’ve asked Paul Barry to investigate why this story has been buried. If nothing else we can at least prick their conscience or embarrass the organisation.

  15. …

  16. Aussie Achmad

    this is what we call “a disturbance in the Force”.

    Is the Reptilian Rupert about to do a billy shorten and back KRPM?

    articles like this do not appear in #Newscorpse organs without a motive.

    DO you believe that thousands of illegal boat people are swamping our shores in unprecedented numbers and threatening Australian jobs and the economy?
    You wouldn’t be the only person to do so – and you’ll be hearing more about it as politicians jockey for your vote ahead of the federal election.

    Asylum seekers arriving on boats in Australian waters is likely to be one of the top issues debated throughout the election campaign. explains 10 boat-people myths.

    Myth 1: We are being swamped

    REALITY: The number of people arriving in Australia to claim asylum jumped by more than a third last year to 15,800 people, driven by an increase in arrivals from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Australia resettles the third largest number of refugees of any country per capita, but actual Australia’s asylum seeker numbers, while politically sensitive, remain numerically small. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says Australia receives about three per cent of the total asylum claims made in industrialised countries around the world and, “by comparison, asylum levels in Australia continue to remain below those recorded by many other industrialised and non-industrialised countries”.]

    Read more:

  17. OzPol Tragic

    I liked this from one of the comments

    [….made one of those comments we’ve all heard sooner rather than later when talking with certain overtly patriotic Australians: “Australia is a classless society”. To give his travel companion due credit, quick as a flash he replied: “Rubbish – you’re all working class!”
    Made my flight.]

  18. Tom
    [I have written to MediaWatch commenting on the absence of news on-line regarding Abbott’s rorting of travel expences.]
    I wonder if questions will be asked on Q&A?

  19. Not only were Labor’s attacks on Rudd apparently useless, but there’s also no reason why the LNP attacks won’t be counter-productive as well:

    [The Piping Shrike @Piping_Shrike
    Gee, 3 years of Labor’s attacks on Rudd’s character were effective. MT @_AdamTodd: #Essential poll Rudd v Abbott. ]

  20. sprocket_

    Aussie Achmad

    this is what we call “a disturbance in the Force”.]
    See my @2018 and what News Ltd journo Joe Hildebrand said an hour or so a go on 6PR. It adds to your theory that there may be “a disturbance in the Force”

  21. That’s fantastic that News online has put up that ’10 Myths about asylum seekers’. The more the truth get out there, the more the support for humane policy. If only Labor hadn’t abandoned its post allowing the Libs and rednecks to take the high ground.

    Worth quoting one of the myths here for the sake of those bush lawyer rednecks (and their duopoly apologists) who purport to ‘know’ that it is illegal for asylum seekers to arrive here:

    [“Myth 4: They’re illegal, queue jumping undesirables

    REALITY: Asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat are neither engaging in illegal activity, nor are they immigrants. The UN Refugee Convention (to which Australia is a signatory) recognises that refugees have a right to enter a country for the purposes of seeking asylum, regardless of how they arrive or whether they hold valid travel or identity documents. Australian law also permits unauthorised entry into Australia for the purposes of seeking asylum. Asylum seekers do not break any Australian laws simply by arriving on boats or without authorisation. Australia has a proud history of boat people and other asylum seekers becoming good citizens.”]

    Read more:

  22. I’ll believe there’s be a

    [“disturbance in the Force”]

    when the disturbance is on page one and occupies 30%+ of the page. Until then it’s nothing but pretending to be balanced.

  23. Coincidental?

    [Latika Bourke ‏@latikambourke now
    ! RT @abc730: Joining us on #abc730 tonight is Opposition Leader @TonyAbbottMHR… #auspol

    abc730 abc730 ‏@abc730 3h
    . @LeighSales is away tonight but will return tomorrow and, in her absence, @CUhlmann is hosting #abc730…]

  24. Sales/730 just tweeted that Abbott on tonight. However, Sales tweeted this arvo that the Toolman was doing the show tonight. Not surprising that Tony has booked in for one of Chris’s tongue massages, then.

  25. Poroti #2030 👿 :-D!

    The comments are often better than the articles!

    Aussie Achmad

    [this is what we call “a disturbance in the Force”]

    Was thinking For the times they are a’changin’ myself; but I’ll go with a disturbance in the Force too.

    Has Rupert written Abbott off?

    Has he realised his Nemesis, The Guardian, will publish what NewsLtd/Corp has deliberately suppressed for so long?

    Has he given up hoping Abbott stops lying, when his lies almost instantaneously send Twitter berserk?

    Has he given up thinking the Libs can come up with decent policies?

    Does he think he can con Rudd into flogging him AN, ABC, SBS & NBN for peanuts?

    Or is he now staring at jail for lying to Parliament (HoC) & Leveson, corruption of the police force, etc, and can’t be bothered fighting anymore? (Not that I think he will.)

    Or are News journos fighting to win back some Labor & green voters’ patronage to save their jobs?

  26. sohar

    [. Not surprising that Tony has booked in for one of Chris’s tongue massages, then.]
    Failed seminarians of a feather stick together.

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