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. OzPolTragic @2071 – it looks as though we’ll be hearing a lot about boats in the next few months (assuming an October election). It also looks like part of Abbott’s and Morrison’s plans include reliving the glory days of the Tampa. The more boats that arrive the better as far as they’re concerned.

    Of course what they’d really like would be for an asylum seeker boat to make it though Torres Strait, turn right, turn right again at Broken Bay, sail up the Hawkesbury and Nepean rivers and land in Penrith (in the Federal seat of Lindsay in Western Sydney).

  2. Taking this Morgan into account and adjusting for it’s face to face bias and the MOE, I would say that we are sitting at;

    50.5/51 – 49/49.5 Abbott’s way 😎

    The most promising statistic for validity of accuracy in the poll are the numbers for the Greens.

  3. DN

    I think that’s most likely the situation now, but even 51/49 to the LNP on average will be enough to start deep discussion among them.

  4. JV

    Hope you are going to mosey on down to your local branch and sign on now.

    I feel that NOW I can start to recruit – something to offer people.

  5. my say

    Random digit dialling (RDD) can be used for mobiles too. Just requires more time to pin down the respondent’s location, as unlike landlines it’s impossible to tell where a mobile number is from.

  6. From memory the Morgans were similar to the other polls for months 56/7 to Libs. Perhaps their new polling system picks up changes quicker than the others.

  7. [Roy Morgan ‏@roymorganonline 6m
    The biggest swings to the ALP have been recorded in Queensland and New South Wales. ]

    Where the biggest swings could occur with even just a moderate shift to Labour. Still, that’s why he was given the job and so far so good. His strategy has been impeccable topped off with today’s

    [50% membership 50% caucus to choose leader]

    which is a master stroke.

    Keep up the good work Kevin and you’ll earn yourself one or two Elephant Stamps in your exercise book.

  8. “@kimogrady1: Unless @CUhlmann burns Abbotts disemboweled intestines in front of him on #abc730 tonight ALP supporters are not going to be happy”

    Pretty much sums up my expectations

  9. I work in three east/outer east seats in Melbourne – Chisholm, Deakin and Latrobe, dealing with many people every day. Until 12 days ago I had written all three off. Since then there has been a palpable change and I think Chisholm has been “reeled in”, and Deakin is closing. Just my gut feeling. Polls do mean something.

  10. “Has Morgan ever accurately predicted an election?” Yes, from memory Morgan’s final polls on the eve of elections has been very close.

  11. Sean Tisme

    I don’t know but a quick skim of their polling over the last year or so on their website reveals their results to be rouuuuuuuuughly in the mainstream.

    I know how you feel, Sean. Just assume its a rogue for now. The Australian public’s love affair with Abbott is just around the corner. Right?;)

  12. Sean Tisme

    Posted Monday, July 8, 2013 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    Has Morgan ever accurately predicted an election?

    getting worried Sean?

    Abbott still has to show some honesty about the $9,000 and other allowances claimed when on “charity” work

  13. Another great thing about the PMKR reform is it will stop MSM doing interminable stories about Labor leadership.

    It will have to be stories about policy.

    That is great for everyone even non Labor voters
    🙂 🙂 🙂

  14. Sean Tisme@2085

    The morgan is rogue

    * Another 3 years in opposition looming for tories – tick.
    * truthie retrives suitcase from the storeroom – tick.
    * truthie makes sure passport is still valid – tick.
    * truthie checking websites for cheap ticket to NZ – tick.

    Good stuff.

  15. sohar @ 2077 and others – Labor 54.5 / Libs 45.5 in latest Morgan. No wonder Tony going on 7.30 – nothing to lose now.

    That seems like a rogue. The 2PP also seem inconsistent with the primary figures given by docantk (2050), which look more plausible and are consistent with something like 51-49 or 52-48. 54.5 – 45.5 would require Labor to get 60% of ‘others’, mostly right wing fringe groups I would have thought. Anyway, 54.5 would be Labor’s greatest landslide since 1943, which would seem unlikely.

  16. Centre

    [PM Gillard was placed in an extremely awkward situation by the media of whether it was indeed a tax courtesy of Christine Milne and the Greens 😯 ]
    Very true. It led to the press doing the equivalent of kids “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” ad infinitum about the tax word.

  17. “@ch150ch: #CapitalHill @lyndalcurtis Just asked about #Battlerort and Jamie Briggs does not like it and tries to change the subject.”

  18. Don’t remember the year, but Morgan was dropped as The Bulletin’s pollster when it predicted a federal Labor win but all the other polls correctly suggested a Coalition landslide.

  19. Whilst I certainly agree with Kevin and others urging caution regarding Morgan, I more and more think bring back parliament is a bad move for Rudd.

    For a start it makes it much harder for the Coalition to organise a spill ;-). Early days yet, but the EMS Leadership attributes survey don’t make cheering reading for the Libs. Even Gillard supporters like myself have to acknowledge that whatever the reasons her unpopularity was dragging down the vote. Labor don’t want at this point to lose the leadership popularity advantage they now have.

    This week obviously there would be no chance of a Libspill, but 6 weeks from now if Labor is looking at least even money to hang on and Lib polling is showing that dumping Abbott would win the election, well it will be thanks Tone, but we’ll take it from here. It could be a disaster for them, but I wouldn’t be taking the chance if I was Rudd.

    Secondly, Rudd as others have noted is excelling at the announce and look like a leader stuff – the use of executive power. Where Abbott got him in 2010 was using the legislative power (or more correctly legislative blocking power) to make Rudd look impotent. With less than completely dependable allies like the Greens who would love a chance to play to their own audience Rudd would be running a pretty big risk going back to Parliament. He can simply make (populist) announcements and run them as his campaign platform, rather than getting his hands dirty trying to make deals to get something through this parliament.

    He’ll be looking to dump the referendum and go August as soon as he thinks he’s close enough to get the job done I reckon. Alternatively he could be trolling the Libs and go for Sept 14. October just looks like too much risk for little to no gain to me.

  20. Another joy out of PMKR reform proposal.

    Joe De Bruyn will have less influence on the party. Has to be good.

  21. AussieAchmed@1943

    Send the SAS onto a foreign flagged ship if they request assistance with refugees who have threatened to kill themselves if not taken to Christmas Island.

    Refugee: “If I’m not taken to Australia I will kill myself”

    SAS: “If you try to kill yourself we will shoot you”

    Sadly, that is all too often how police in Australia treat the mentally ill. 🙁

  22. Liberal Policy
    “There should be no difference in the eyes of the law between a union boss ripping off union members to company directors who rip off shareholders.”

    Except Union bosses can’t vote to suspend share dividends for 2 yrs while the “company” buys $410 million in shares to use for Board and CEO bonuses.

    Except Union bosses can’t award themselves a pay rise then sack workers, move the “business” overseas after getting $4 million in Govt support.

    Never seen a Union go bankrupt. Never seen a Union Official living in Spain after declaring bankrupt.

  23. bemused

    Posted Monday, July 8, 2013 at 6:22 pm | Permalink


    Send the SAS onto a foreign flagged ship if they request assistance with refugees who have threatened to kill themselves if not taken to Christmas Island.

    Refugee: “If I’m not taken to Australia I will kill myself”

    SAS: “If you try to kill yourself we will shoot you”

    Sadly, that is all too often how police in Australia treat the mentally ill. 🙁

    The lack of facilities and treatment of mentally ill people is a subject that could fill pages of debate.

    Being in a profession where we are required to manage mentally ill people without proper training and resources it is a subject close to me.

  24. While I support the principle of what Rudd announced this evening, I have to point out that neither he nor the Caucus has the power to change the method by which the ALP’s parliamentary leader is chosen. The Party Constitution says (Part C, 4) “In all parliaments, the parliamentary leadership, the Ministry and Shadow Ministry shall be elected by the Parliamentary Labor Party.” Only a National Conference can change the Constitution.

  25. [Puff, the Magic Dragon.
    Posted Monday, July 8, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Permalink
    our termite.

    Our Puffy

    You are forgiven.

  26. [Kevin Bonham
    Posted Monday, July 8, 2013 at 5:36 pm | Permalink
    I will add a little note of caution re Morgan. Their Multi-Mode is all rather vague – they don’t say what proportion they poll by different methods in, they don’t say whether that proportion changes, they don’t say what the measured differences over time (if any) between the methods they use are. That makes me a bit cautious about its results, especially if they are not (at the time) repeated by other pollsters. Even though MMM displayed no house effect while Gillard was PM and looked like a valid (if bouncy for the sample size) poll at that time, it’s a new polling method and we don’t know yet whether its behaviour in new circumstances will be typical. If there is nothing else this week then next week when Nielsen is expected (not sure what Newspoll will do) will be useful.

    I’d like to see two pollsters showing a Labor lead before getting excited about it.]


    I questioned William a few days ago about a particular aspect of the Morgan Multi that I was concerned about and he gave it a big tick of approval.

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