Seats of the week: Swan and Dawson

Two seats which Labor might hope to gain if they can recover from historically poor results in their respective states in 2010.

As talk firms of a September 7 election, we review another two seats which might form part of a hypothetical Labor majority, being conservative marginals in the relatively promising states of Western Australia and Queensland.

Swan (Liberal 2.5%)

The perennially tight marginal seat of Swan covers areas of inner Perth bounded to the north by the Swan River and the west and south by the Canning River. It extends from South Perth and Como north-eastwards through Victoria Park to Belmont, and south-eastwards through Bentley to Cannington. There is a division in the electorate between the affluent and Liberal-voting west and lower-income Labor-voting east, reflected in the corresponding state seats of South Perth and Victoria Park which are respectively safe for Liberal and Labor. The combination of the two areas has left the federal electorate finely poised, being decided by margins of 164 votes in 2007, 104 votes in 2004 and 294 votes in 1993.

Swan in its present form is unrecognisable as the seat that was created at federation, which covered the state’s non-metropolitan south-west. The seat’s inaugural member was John Forrest, explorer, colonial Premier, federation founding father and senior minister in early non-Labor governnments. The electorate was drawn into the metropolitan area when parliament was enlarged in 1949, at which point it continued to cover the eastern suburbs as far north as Midland. Labor only intermittently held the seat until 1969 when it was won by Adrian Bennett, who retained it until his defeat in 1975 by John Martyr.

Swan returned to the Labor fold in 1980 with the election of 32-year-old Kim Beazley Jr, future party leader and son of the Whitlam government Education Minister and long-serving Fremantle MP Kim Beazley Sr. Beazley strengthened his hold on the seat with consecutive swings of 8.1% and 8.6% in 1980 and 1983, but the expansion of parliament in 1984 cut his margin by 4.1% by transferring inner eastern suburbs around Bassendean to Perth. A sharp swing at the 1990 election further pared back Beazley’s margin, and he began to cast around for a safer seat after surviving the 1993 election by 294 votes. A safety hatch opened when Wendy Fatin retired in the somewhat safer seat of Brand along Perth’s coastal southern suburbs at the 1996 election, which Beazley was nonetheless able to retain by just 387 votes.

Swan meanwhile fell to Liberal candidate Don Randall, who was tipped out by a 6.4% swing in 1998 before returning at the 2001 election in his present capacity as member for Canning. The new Labor member for Swan was former farmer and prison officer Kim Wilkie, who barely survived a poor performance by Labor in Perth at the 2004 election despite a disastrous campaign for his Liberal opponent Andrew Murfin. A correction after the Liberals’ under-performance in 2004 presumably explains the seat bucking the trend of the 2007 election, at which the seat was one of only two in the country to fall to the Liberals, the other being the northern Perth seat of Cowan.

The seat has since been held for the Liberals by Steve Irons, a former WA league footballer and proprietor of an air-conditioning business. Irons’ tiny margin was erased by a 0.4% redistribution shift ahead of the 2010 election, but he retained the seat with a 2.8% swing that was closely in line with the statewide result. Labor’s candidate is John Bissett, deputy mayor of the Town of Victoria Park.

Dawson (Liberal National 2.4%)

Extending along the central Queensland coast from Mackay northwards through the Whitsunday Islands, Bowen and Ayr to southern Townsville, Dawson has had a wild ride after the past two elections, firstly falling to Labor with an epic swing of 13.2% in 2007 before returning to the conservative fold in 2010. The swing on the latter occasion was 5.0%, approximately in line with the statewide result, which rose to double figures in the Whitsunday region booths around Airlie Beach and Proserpine. The seat was created with the expansion of parliament in 1949, and has consistently been centred on the sugar capital of Mackay. While Mackay has consistently been an area of strength for Labor, the surrounding rural territory has tended to keep the seat in the conservative fold. The only Labor member prior to 2007 was Whitlam government minister Rex Patterson, who won the seat at a by-election in February 1967 and kept a tenuous hold until his defeat in 1975.

The Nationals retained the seat throughout the Hawke-Keating years, despite close calls in 1983 (1.2%) and 1990 (0.1%, or 181 votes). De-Anne Kelly succeeded Ray Braithwaite as the party’s member in 1996, become the first woman ever to represent the party in the House of Representatives. The swing that unseated Kelly in 2007 was one of three double-digit swings to Labor in Queensland at that election, and the only one to strike a sitting member. Labor’s unxpected victor was James Bidgood, a former Mackay councillor noted for linking the global financial crisis to biblical prophecy. Bidgood bowed out after a single term citing health problems, and was succeeded as Labor’s candidate by Whitsunday mayor Mike Brunker. Brunker however proved unable to hold back a statewide tide at the 2010 election which almost entirely undid the party’s gains of 2007.

Dawson has since been held by George Christensen, a former Mackay councillor and local newspaper publisher who sits in parliament with the Nationals. Christensen suffered an embarrassment during the 2010 campaign with the emergence of newsletters he had written as a university student containing what Tony Abbott conceded were “colourful” views on Jews, gays and women. He has more recently been noted for his hostility to Islamic radicalism, having been the only federal MP to attend rallies held in Australia by controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders. His Labor opponent for the coming election is Bronwyn Taha, a former Proserpine restaurant owner and electorate officer to state Whitsunday MP Jan Jarratt.

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.

2,259 comments on “Seats of the week: Swan and Dawson”

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  1. Polls are okay, but not as high as I would like. Rudd is doing a lot of first year of the term stuff in the retail phase of the cycle.

    Rudd needs to remember that thgis may be early days for him, with his new ascension to the throne, but it is the end of a long hard wearying term of government for the people.

    If he keeps buzzing about trying to vainly wipe out the Gillard years with a flurry of policy changes, he will turn off a weary public.

    It might explain the stall on about 50/50.

    He was put there to sell it, not rodent-cuddle it.

  2. Polls are okay, but not as high as I would like. Rudd is doing a lot of first year of the term stuff in the retail phase of the cycle.

    Rudd needs to remember that thgis may be early days for him, with his new ascension to the throne, but it is the end of a long hard wearying term of government for the people.

    If he keeps buzzing about trying to vainly wipe out the Gillard years with a flurry of policy changes, he will turn off a weary public.

    It might explain the stall on about 50/50.

    He was put there to sell it, not rodent-cuddle it.

  3. I have been at TAFE all week, learning things like how not t saw a dove-tail joint. So I have not seen much of any politics. With Abbott the Maggot that is a welcome change. I hear he has embraced Gonski/Better Schools. Was he wearing a body sized condom so he didn’t catch socialist germs?

  4. Psephos (from last thread)

    [Except that Abbott is still opposing all the revenue and savings measures that Labor has announced to pay for Gonski. Abbott’s “commitment” therefore has no credibility because he has no clue how to fund it. Education is therefore far from null and void.]

    Also, he is only committing to the first 4 years of funding, when the revenues flowing are not greatly different. It’s the following years that he is agnostic on.

    Note also that he only agrees to “honour” deals struck. If WA, Victoria, QLD & NT don’t sign up, he’s off the hook for them.

    His “unity ticket” is just an attempt to move the Gonski debate on whil an election is in prospect without making a promise that is binding in toto.

  5. Mari

    [Being on the other side of the world had its benefits I can be first cab off the rank on a new blog]

    Luckily, you didn’t say “frist”. 😉

  6. Good morning Dawn Patrollers.
    Mark Kenny seems convinced that Rudd will call a Sept 7 election.
    If you can bear reading Hartcher he has some interesting observations on the the way Abbott is seen in the electorate.
    Did Abbott get the heads up from Napthine that Victoria will sign up? Also it is unclear to me from Abbott and Pyne wheter or not they would match funding school by school based upon the established Gonski formulae.
    I could not trust this mob as far as I could throw them whe it comes to the provision of an equitable education policy.
    Alan Moir on the economic annoncement.
    And David Pope’s view on it.
    Ron Tandberg seems to have it in for the banks.

  7. Sept 7th election would mean the GG would be getting a visit from Kev tomorrow, not long to find out if Kenny is on the sauce or source.

  8. This “unity ticket” line used byboth Pyne and Abbott on Better Schools sounds
    like self parody. Are they really taking the mickey out of their own usual
    hyper negativity? It certainly sounds that way.

  9. On the election date, I would not be at all surprised if Rudd is simply planting
    stories in the press, blowing an idiot wind in Abbott’s direction.

  10. PMD 5 repeated at 6
    Good point that labour behaving like first budget after election rather than the last one before election. Rudd has still not obtained a handle on the economic debate and until he does so labour’s chances are very low.

  11. It seems that Hartcher’s Rudd-love is not making him over confident in the result. Could we hope that he has learned his predictive lesson?

    [The Labor votes are not distributed in the seats it needs to win, however. The Liberals are ahead on the seat count. Abbott goes into the campaign with the election his to lose. Election campaigns are always important, but in such a close contest this one will be crucial.]

    Read more:

  12. Just heard Mike Hirst (sp?) from Bendigo Bank appealing against the levy designed to insure savings against loss as “a tax on savings” which would lead to lower deposits.

    At no point did he propose (or did the reporter demand) a causal chain that would show a link between the levy mooted in 2016 and savings in per-capita or per dollar earned terms, nor was there any attempt to explore whether there would be offsetting implications for the bank’s cost of funds.

    Moreover, even allowing that this measure did lead to a blip downwards in local deposits in banks, the next question should have been “where would these funds go?”. Most obviously, most small deposits are from wages and salary. These days, people are rarely paid in cash. I’d be surprised if many more than a handful know or care what they are earning in interest on their main transaction accounts. They may well care more about their main savings accounts and seek the best rate, but it’s unlikely that they will stop saving. If they choose to save less, that will lead to higher consumption, which ought to underpin retail, or perhaps they will pay down debt — which latter is really another form of saving. Anyone with a mortgage or an interest-attracting balance on their credit card can do this — and probably should since it is for tax effective than most forms of saving.

    Overall, it’s hard to imagine that this proposal, if implemented, will make a flyspeck’s bit of difference to savings in this country, still less that it will edge us closer to the savings levels in the US that preceded the GFC, which is what Mr Hirst winked at. Indeed, it’s my impression that the tendency of Australian consumers to prefer saving to spending has been cited as a significant challenge for local business virtually every week for the last three years.

  13. alias

    [On the election date, I would not be at all surprised if Rudd is simply planting stories in the press, blowing an idiot wind in Abbott’s direction.]

    That’s one of the things I’d be doing were I him. I might even get a body double to drive up to Yarralumla at 3PM every Friday and faff about for 30 minutes. 😉

  14. Big business and its PR spin.
    Some of the myths we are persuaded to believe.
    [Minerals Council of Australia chief Mitch Hooke has publicly stated that the industry he promotes was the biggest employer of indigenous Australians. The ABS tells us that the health sector employs four times more indigenous workers than the mining industry and that mining actually ranks 10th out of 19 in terms of indigenous employment.]

    [Despite the fact that over the next five years tax concessions on superannuation will cost the Commonwealth more than $225 billion, this week the Rudd government promised to introduce no reforms and do nothing to rein in the rapidly rising cost. And it did this on the same day the business council was calling for reduced government spending and a commitment to reform.

    As big business spends more on advertising and PR, our public debate is going to diverge further from reality, unless we find a way to balance out the debate. Coca-Cola isn’t really committed to fighting obesity, the Pond’s Institute doesn’t really do research, and big business isn’t really interested in helping the poor. But then again, I would say that. I’m an ideologue. The only people you can really trust work in corporate PR.
    Richard Denniss is executive director of The Australia Institute.]

    Read more:

  15. According to ABC, Abbott has “closed a $15bn funding gap” by backflipping on school funding.

    Now, I’m no Nobel laureate, but one would suggest that Abbott’s decision has OPENLY EXPOSED a $15bn funding gap, not closed it.

  16. William
    [I’ve noticed that cricket commentators (perhaps it’s just Andrew Strauss) have taken to going on about “sample size” and “margin of error”.]

    PollBludger has spread its tentacles far and wide.

    Strauss is my favourite of the TV commentators. He always has interesting things to say.

    I’m still shaking my head at Bresnan’s dismissal.

  17. [William Bowe
    Posted Saturday, August 3, 2013 at 1:40 am | Permalink

    I’ve noticed that cricket commentators (perhaps it’s just Andrew Strauss) have taken to going on about “sample size” and “margin of error”.]

    Instead of hitting the ball you take a poll on the result and use that?

  18. At 50/50 it’s Abbott’s election to lose. BS. Rudd is far more popular than Abbott and on key issues Labor is either level or in front. Under normal circumstances you’d be saying it’s The government’s to lose.

  19. Morning all.

    [The way WA public schools are funded is unfair and ineffective, a long-awaited review commissioned by the State Government has found.

    The University of Melbourne report, which has been kept under wraps for more than a year, said WA’s funding model was outdated, overly complex and weighted too heavily in favour of high school students.

    Lead researcher Richard Teese said a new model should deliver a uniform price for each student based on individual needs instead of funding schools based on how many teachers they employ.

    The current model did not do enough to lift poorer students out of a cycle of disadvantage because it enhanced disparities between schools.]

    Gee, wonder why it’s been released now? 😉

  20. Was just watching ABC24 and the Announcer was interviewing a guy from the Education Union.

    He stated categorically that the Liars party were in no way matching the ALP Gonski education funding.

    He said the LNP has made an Election political committment statement and not an Education funding committment.

    He said they were only promising 4 years of the funding and not the full six years of the ALP and their election political funding statement was just a ruse to have people believe they were doing the right thing.

    The host was of course trying to goad the interviewee in to saying that the LNP false offer was a good thing even though it was not the full six years Yada Yada.

    The Education bloke basically said how can it be a good thing if they are deliberately witholding $7bil from the last two years and the LNP promise will only make up the shortfall of cuts that the states who have not signed up will make to education.

    He gave the example of the NT cutting $250mil from education and get $250mil from the LNP if they win the election.

    Vote for the Whitehead not the Dickhead

  21. Gaffhook

    Thanks for the report. It is obvious that the Liars party are just making a statement and not a fair dinkum committment. Should they win, it will become null and void

  22. victoria, yes, but he wasn’t out. The ball brushed his trousers and missed the bat easily. The umpire gave him out after a pause, he had a chat to Cook, and then he walked off. Then the replays and snicko and hot spot showed him clearly not out. Amazing!

  23. There have been howlers, but none by the batsman believing he hit the ball when he didn’t. That’s what’s hard to fathom.

  24. triton

    If Rudd leaves it to Monday, what about the senate? My understanding is that the Writs cannot be written on the same day

  25. Good morning. One issue the coalition does not have a “unity ticket” on is funding of transport. the latest example is the EW tunnel in Melbourne, where Abbott cannot even agree with Napthine. Lots of embarrassing policy failures here.
    [Mr Charlton’s investor briefing comes as the the Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott told reporters in Melbourne the project has merits, but admits he has not seen a business case.

    “There are lots of things I haven’t seen, and I know there is a business case for the East West Link,” he said.

    Mr Abbott has already pledged $1.5 billion if the Coalition wins office.]

    Even Transurban do not want to build this road on the terms proposed. That is surely a kiss of death. Transurban are the largest toll road operator in the world, and have their own internal modelling unit to analyse the revenue. If they say it won’t work then it won’t.

    So Abbott has no deliverable plan for transport in Melbourne, having ruled out rail funding as well. He says he wants to be the “infrastructure PM”. How? He has no plan, no money, and funding terms people with private money won’t agree to eitheer. His transport policy is a crock and should be called as such by Albanese or Bowen.

    Also note Abbott says he has not read any business case, yet is still prepared to “commit” $1.5 billion to an unproven project, with no explanaton of where the money will come from.

  26. confessions

    7th sep seems most likely. 14th is not being put forward as it would tie in with JG, and the 21st is precisely the date school term holidays begin in at least three states. Early Oct is out because of the long weekend and Rugby final in NSW. Which brings us to the 12th Oct. Either parliament would have to return in meantime, or election called on 19th August to avoid this, thereby ensuring a long campaign to the 12th Oct.

  27. Socrates

    Dont know if you have heard of Rita Panahi? She is a right wing mouth piece, who has a spot on Sports Radio in Melbourne every friday afternoon. She went on a spiel yesterday about the eastwest link being dissed by state Vic Labor. Wtte that goods cannot be transported by having public transport instead etc. it is only the Labor party not wanting this road built blah blah blah. of course, she got many sympathisers calling in agreeing with her.
    I was unable to call, but next week I will try and get on and give her a serve.

  28. victoria, writs for the Senate can be issued on Monday. It’s difficult because all the state governors have to sign them, but according to Antony Green it can be done. There’s no reason to do it in such a rush, though, unless he still hasn’t decided on Sunday.

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