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. Socrates

    [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 explanation of where the money will come from.]

    IF Abbott wins the election, and IF Hockey becomes Treasurer, I predict with confidence that Hockey’s hair will turn white very quickly and Andrew Robb will become VERY depressed.

  2. what stands out about cricket in the uk for me is the
    lack of children and young people , we spotted a little boy last night and oh said there is a child.

    is it so expensive to get in I wondered are the grounds capacity small
    no young groups of young peope all sitting together and you can pick the conservatives ?
    in the crowd
    may be labour voters don’t go to cricket
    but is so old fashioned, no atmosphere at all

    so is the old generation the last bastian of cricket lovers there, and woman sit around with out hats, and the stand have no cover.

    its all very strange, you would think it was 1813

    also wondered if NO alchol at all is allowed
    only cups of tea

  3. Good morning Dawn Patrol.

    So we have yet another weekend of media election hysteria? Sooner or later, they have to be right!

    Not much new news yet, other than that cited above; but this interesting “dig” does touch on climate change Bone city unmasked

    [Between then and now, northern Australia experienced a dramatic climate change and transformed from a landscape of lush rainforests, like Borneo and the Amazon today, into a continent that is predominantly arid.

    This shift is key to our understanding of modern environments, and can provide invaluable insights into how today’s mammals may fare as the globe warms, Hand says. While Riversleigh provides a spectacular and detailed record of how our environment evolved, and how species such as the kangaroo, koala, wombat and possums adapted (or disappeared) over this period, there remains a significant gap in scientists’ understanding.

    Between 15 million to 5 million years ago, a period known as the late Miocene, researchers believe the continent reached a tipping point; the tropical rainforests opened into woodlands and the country began to parch.

    ”We need to unravel what happened in this transitional period. What happened to the animals? How did the environment respond?” Archer said]

  4. victoria:

    I guess we’ll find out soon enough when the election date is.

    In many ways it will be a relief to get this election over and done with. It feels like we’ve been in campaign mode for 3 years now.

  5. Spent the last week in a forum in which I talked regularly and at length with a young ABC (about 35 years old) TV journo whose face many would recognise if not the name.

    In our talks this info emerged:

    1) Many, many of her colleagues are in the majority of us who intensely distrust and dislike Abbott.

    2) Abbott does everything in his (Credlin’s) power to avoid experienced journos.

    3) He is most comfortable running pressers 1000’s of kilometres away from Canberra, with young female journos who he constantly talks over and treats dismissively

    4) The young journos usually have received an email of questions to be asked from a senior Canberra journo a few minutes before the presser.

    5) The young journos usually do not have an intimate knowledge of the issue at hand nor do they have much preparation time. For this reason, searching follow-up questions are never on the agenda.

    This is how the Credlin team gets away with weekly about faces and outrageous mendacity.

  6. [IF Abbott wins the election, and IF Hockey becomes Treasurer, I predict with confidence that Hockey’s hair will turn white very quickly and Andrew Robb will become VERY depressed.

    And I predict with confidence that “Howard’s Child” will list all Rudd’s promises he “Me TOO’d” as the latest version of Non Core Promises he has no intention of keeping.

  7. I will be interested to see what happens with the media post election. Will they continue elevating the opposition leader (whoever it is) to the equivalence of PM, reporting everything s/he says, and framing the government’s announcements against whatever the opposition says?

  8. It is a pretty good question.

    [Malcolm Fraser ‏@MalcolmFraser12 10h

    Why not more concern Australian facilities being used help target drones, US kills US citizens in 3rd countries, not at war with,no justice.]

  9. Murdoch is at his manipulative best in the Herald Sun this morning with the first five pages all full of anti government half truths and propaganda, with supporting pictures of worried looking families – followed on page 7 by a story on Abbott’s new found support for education, accompanied by a broadly smiling LOTO. We use Coles brand toilet paper in this house so I’ve deposited this bit of putrid rubbish in the next best place – the recycle bin.

    You’ve only got to look at stuff like this to realise just how big a mountain Labor has to climb and what a fabulous victory it will be if they manage to do it.

  10. rex

    I saw it a different way I saw a treasurer in control and telling it like it is.

    nothing from the opp that would give anyone any confidence they could do better

    after all we have what have,, no hidden money buried in the back yard

    and I think the smoking tax is ok,

    but the bank levy , I never understood that so well

    till I read it here, Mike halyard I think dave and briefly.

    the banks passing it on, well that’s the down side.

    but over all I never saw a lot of negativity only straight talking,

    be interested what other s thought of the past week

    also the picture of the refugees in PNG , some would like that, others no, they vote green


    the PPL I would think that would never see the light of day,
    I had grown tired of mr swans sentences and rhetoric

  11. [SHANGHAI (AP) — It’s been so hot in China that people are grilling shrimp on manhole covers, eggs are hatching without incubators and a highway billboard has mysteriously caught fire by itself.

    The heat wave — the worst in at least 140 years in some parts — has left dozens of people dead and pushed thermometers above 40 degrees C (104 F) in at least 40 cities and counties, mostly in the south and east. Authorities for the first time have declared the heat a “level 2” weather emergency— a label normally invoked for typhoons and flooding.]

  12. Why not more concern Australian facilities being used help target drones, US kills US citizens in 3rd countries, not at war with,no justice.

    very short memory what about national service and boys who lost their life in Vietnam
    what about the high interest rates of 79/82

    rex I tweeted , those thought I have no empathy with mr frazer

  13. Another business myth:

    [Today we shatter the illusion of peak demand. Peak demand, in reality, has been falling for two or three years – both winter and summer peak demand. General demand is also in decline. Nonetheless, vested interests persist with their myth, clutching to this one last straw of rationalisation for gold-plating their networks and raking in the cash from their regulated returns.

    After a week or two of testing the industry claims, emailing back and forth, we are yet to see a shred of evidence to support the claim that peak demand is still rising.

    It may be that the only place in Australia where peak demand is still rising is Manus Island.

    When the myth of rising demand was finally exploded last year, the rhetoricians of the electricity world fell back on peak demand – to wit, that the grid still required capacity to cater for the maximum demand on the hottest day of summer and the coldest day of winter.]

    Read more:

  14. 7th September is the last Saturday before the local government referendum can be constituionally held. All the expense to do with it so far will be pulped.

    7th September means as short a campaign (33 days) as is possible, leading to the most minimal leadership comparisons.

    7th September is smack bang in the middle of G20 leaders meetings in St Petersburg, where the chair of the G20 is going to be handed over the Australian PM.

    7th September is the election date that has been leaked by “a source” to Fairfax.

  15. [Darn
    Posted Saturday, August 3, 2013 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    You’ve only got to look at stuff like this to realise just how big a mountain Labor has to climb and what a fabulous victory it will be if they manage to do it.]

    I get the opportunity to read it free every morning, I do try, but I get to Bolts crap and give up. It should come with a tab for the cartoons.

  16. the thing that’s consoles me re the Newltd papers

    especially the mainland ones who buy s them

    I would say liberals, to feel better about them selves and their leader

    its like a security blanket for liberal voters

  17. So, it seems likely that we are heading in to the official election campaign tomorrow. Already we are in very much unusual territory given the events leading up to this campaign. But the events of yesterday make the start of this campaign even more bizarre. I am really not sure how yesterday’s statement will play out, but I am really struggling to see how it can possibly play well for the Government going in to an election campaign. The media are out all guns blazing this morning and I seriously struggle to see how the Government is not going to take a considerable hit. I guess it was probably unavoidable however, due to the pre election financial outlook that is to be issued ten days in to the campaign, but starting an election campaign with a whole lot of bad news is certainly going to put a different slant on it, and I suspect it may not end well.

    On another note, it is nice to see the Government concede that being cruel to desperate people will not stop the boats, by allocating more money for building new detention centres in yesterday’s statement. Admition is a good start, but now that it is clear that even they can see that cruel policies will not stop the boats, an abandonment of such policies would seem like a good next logical step. I won’t hold my breath though, logic and this issue do not go hand in hand.

  18. why on earth mention at levy on savings at this point? what might be mute economic sense is electoral nonsense at present … all in name of financial rectitude mythology … election very much governments to lose

  19. [sprocket_
    Posted Saturday, August 3, 2013 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    7th September is the last Saturday before the local government referendum can be constituionally held. All the expense to do with it so far will be pulped.

    7th September means as short a campaign (33 days) as is possible, leading to the most minimal leadership comparisons.

    7th September is smack bang in the middle of G20 leaders meetings in St Petersburg, where the chair of the G20 is going to be handed over the Australian PM.

    7th September is the election date that has been leaked by “a source” to Fairfax.]

    All reasons why I gather september the 7th is just another day being predicted by the press so that when the date is finally announced they will have predicted it.

  20. [victoria
    Posted Saturday, August 3, 2013 at 9:56 am | PERMALINK

    Yes there is that too. Perhaps Rudd will go with the Oct 12 date after all]

    He may well visit the GG this weekend, but it may not be the 7th September – just speculating.

  21. anything to do with tax on saving is NOT good in heated up electorate which needs reassurance – this is a v minor measure but it is not right time to explain and then run campaign. surprising stupidity

  22. matt 31

    I think may be you see things through our eyes

    most people don’t give a hoot about where the boat people will live.

    they saw the them getting off the plane that now out of sight our of mind,

    I would say a lot care more about the cigarettes

    horrible thing to think

    but that how some people are

  23. lizzie

    The current problem with the network is not gold plating, the problem is a lot of it is reaching it’s end of life. The has not been enough investment since privatisation and the shit is starting to hit the fan.

  24. why does newpoll have to be the be all and end
    all as mike mentioned yesterday ( a poster}

    may be it should not be even counted

    I go with morgan

  25. Just on boat arrivals, early days but August has has only 2 boats so far – one of which was this one:

    [2 August 2013
    HMAS Pirie, operating under the control of Border Protection Command, rendered assistance to a suspected irregular entry vessel north-north-west of Ashmore Islands today.

    Initial indications suggests there are two passengers and two crew on board.

    The vessel was initially detected by a Customs and Border Protection Dash-8 surveillance aircraft, operating under the control of Border Protection Command.
    Border Protection Command will now make arrangements for the people to be transferred to Australian Government authorities on Christmas Island, where they will undergo initial checks, including health checks.
    People arriving by boat without a visa after 19 July 2013 will be subject to the regional agreement with Papua New Guinea and won’t be settled in Australia.
    Media contact: Minister Clare’s office – 02 6277 7290 ]

    only 2 people on the boat?

  26. psyclaw @ 58

    Thanks for confirming what we had guessed about Abbott’s “rural excursions”, and adding a little more interesting detail 🙂

  27. I too don’t understand the timing of the bank levy announcement, esp as it doesn’t take effect for another 3 years. Why now?

  28. [only 2 people on the boat?]

    With any luck the announcement that no boat arrivals will be settled here is impacting business for the people smugglers.

  29. [frednk

    Posted Saturday, August 3, 2013 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    More amazing stuff; Santa now needs a Boat.

    As has been pointed out before just another example of poor journalism. If they had even bothered to go to the NPEO site they linked they would have been able to see that the camera was hundreds of kilometres from the pole when the melt pond formed. Crap stories like this has prompted the Polar Science Center to add this ( the NPEO page to put it in perspective.

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