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. Diogenes
    Posted Saturday, August 3, 2013 at 10:19 am | PERMALINK
    The AFL have just been handed the 400 page ASADA report on Essendon.

    It’s just an interim report – probably has enough to justify the AFL removing Essendon from the finals.

    The ASADA investigation is ongoing, thanks to legislation strengthening ASADA’s powers, so I assume Mr Dank will be compelled to give evidence.

  2. I will be a little surprised if Rudd calls it for Sept 7.

    I would have thought Rudd would use a little more time to try to hit the front in the polls?

    Still, newspapers are full of shit and propaganda. Let’s wait and see 😎

  3. gloryconsequence
    Posted Saturday, August 3, 2013 at 10:32 am | PERMALINK
    Mark Kenny now declaring it WILL be September 7th (not rumoured or possible).

    Will visit GG tomorrow or Monday.

    Given yesterdays budget figures and the hit they will take in the polls, the Govt will be starting from a long way behind.

  4. [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]

    It’s August. Holiday time – like January in Oz. UK (well, almost anywhere in Europe) is crammed with foreign tourists. Time for Brit families to do the same – holiday at their own beaches or, better still, OS: Greek Islands, Mediterranean cruises (used to be Spanish beaches before the GFC) shopping trips, even high-altitude snowfields.

    Back home, very crowded streets ring with the sound of Aussie accents, the dreaded high-pitched Oh marrr GAAARD! of US Americans abroad & foreign languages. If, as often happens, temperature inversion fog traps in the heat & there’s too little night to cool things down, Northern Europe boils. Aircon is a rarity, even in museums, shops, theatres. Public transport, esp London’s Tube, could serve as a prison sentence.

    And, yes, Cricket Ground capacity is a fraction of Oz grounds’, and, esp given the GFC, expensive. But the main reasons youth is under-represented are that youth & families prefer exciting, informal family-friendly ODI & 20/20 games, which, unlike polite/stuffy Test crowds, are wild, fun-filled, rowdy, so draw huge crowds.

  5. To those discussing timing of an election: it is most certainly not too late to call a 7 September poll. As you’re probably aware, the due date for the writs is Monday. However, an announcement could come today or tomorrow.

    To compare with last time: the writs for the 21 August 2010 Federal election were issued on 19 July 2010 (33 days, the absolute minimum time, before the election date) and the election was announced on the Saturday (2 days) before that.

  6. Centre and Rex – it depends what your expectations are on election day.

    If Rudd can keep the Coalition to under 80 seats, I’d suggest that in the overall scheme of things it isn’t a doomsday scenario.

    Anything better than that, based on the last 3 years, is a bonus as far as I’m concerned.

    I am one of the people here who aren’t anticipating victory on election night this time around.

  7. From tomorrow’s Guardian: Malcolm Fraser has announced that the Greens are now too right-wing for him, and has joined the Worker’s Revolutionary Bolshevik League (Marxist-Leninist Faction). He says he dismissed the Whitlam Government in 1975 in order to expose the futility of reformist Laborism and to bring on the inevitable crisis of capitalism.

  8. gloryconsequence
    Posted Saturday, August 3, 2013 at 10:44 am | PERMALINK
    Centre and Rex – it depends what your expectations are on election day.

    If Rudd can keep the Coalition to under 80 seats, I’d suggest that in the overall scheme of things it isn’t a doomsday scenario.

    Anything better than that, based on the last 3 years, is a bonus as far as I’m concerned.

    I am one of the people here who aren’t anticipating victory on election night this time around.

    My thoughts since the PM changeover haven’t changed.

    Coalition 77 seats
    ALP 70 seats
    Ind 3 seats

  9. gloryc

    I’m sure Labor are out to win, not try to keep the Coalition to under 80 seats.

    As for anticipating victory…I have always said, that the Monkey still leads 😎

  10. [More amazing stuff; Santa now needs a Boat. ]

    As kevjohnno has pointed out the webcam is 5 degrees south of the North Pole. That said, the consistency of the Arctic ice is that of a slushy. There are plenty of (large) gaps in the ice right at the North Pole.


  11. Quesiton is how much abbott will lose by

    the coalition fell well short of 76 seats with 43.6% in 2010 – 72 seats

    labor 37.99% – 72 seats

    Abbott short term of giving preferences to the greens- stop labor getting 2 extra seats


    Labor primary38-40% – 75 seats

    Coalition primary 43-44% – 71 seats is my pick

    labor primary over 40% majority government

    coalition needs over 45%

  12. Victoria 47

    I have not heard of Rita Panahi in any transport planning context. Google tells me she is some kind of social or political commentator. So how does she have an opinion on the east west road link tunnel in Melbourne? Presumably from what other business interests tell her.

    When you have a project costing $6+ billion, there will be plenty of people wanting it to happen, even if it makes no transport or economic sense in terms of overall public interests. That means $6 billion worth of construction work for Leightons or Theiss in a depressed market. It also means work for accountants, lawyers and financiers in doing a PPP deal if it is privately financed. Overheads on these large projects can be 20%+, so that project means over a billion $ worth of work for various consultants. I suspect it won’t be $1 billion for engineers…

    Who benefits from this project? There is not that much traffic going across Melbourne, as opposed to into it, so the transport argument is a crock. The real winners will be car park owners, owners of land near to exits but not being resumed, and mostly the PPP al arangers, not the suckers who wind up paying for it.

  13. Rudd Should most definitely call an election for September 9th. This will be the best decision he makes *laughs maniacally* 🙂 😀 :-))

  14. OPT
    I imagine that rates of child participation in football are increasing while rates of child participation in cricket are declining.

  15. Glory

    This isn’t Gillard we’re dealing with here. This is Rudd.

    He’ll keep them below 80 seats. I reckon this is very winnable albeit they are slightly behind at the moment. They should hold off calling the election by a month or so in order for the public to digest the change in economic rhetoric and for Rudd to establish more frames around the Coalition and the dysfunctional elements of the ALP.

    It looks like Victoria is backing away from the Better Schools plan thanks to Abbott’s political move yesterday which might cause a few issues

  16. Centre – of course we’re out to win. I’m sure many think we can. Its certainly a fair chance.

    What I am saying is, in the wash up, a sub-80 Coalition win as a worst case scenario is not a dire situation politically.

    Dire for Australia? Absolutely.

  17. The news about two new immigration detention centres to be built on the Australian mainland has not been trumpeted loudly by Labor. Why is that?
    [The Federal Government has set aside tens of millions of dollars for a new immigration detention centre in the Hunter region of New South Wales.

    The Government used yesterday’s budget update to allocate $43 million for a new detention centre at Singleton.

    It says the plan is to potentially house more than 1,000 asylum seekers at the Defence Force base there.

    It has also allocated almost $90 million to eventually accommodate up to 1,000 people at Blaydin Point near Darwin.]
    As SH-Y asks:
    [“It indicates that the Government doesn’t even believe their own rhetoric [on stopping asylum seeker boats], but doesn’t want anyone to find out,” she said.]

  18. MB
    If Labor wins they should award you with the Hero of the Labor Party medal and put you into the Unions’ equivalent of the Stockman’s Hall of Fame.

  19. Boewar

    Abbott has not improved the coalition at all , the newsltd/abbott coalition should be over 50% in the primary vote with every thing going his way


    the coalition primary will liekly be poorer then 2010

  20. I think everything under 5.1% 2PP in Queensland is winnable (give or take a few local issues i.e Fisher).

    Then it’s just a question of holding seats in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania. Tasmania’s bleak. NSW, improving big time. Victoria, who knows

  21. P

    I wouldn’t trust anything SHY says about asylum seekers. She is a Compassion Cop who has a long track record of preferring emotion to fact when it comes to public policy making on asylum seekers.

    It is quite clear that there are going to be all sorts of ‘lifers’ – people who are going to be sitting around waiting for visas that will never come – and that they will have to live somewhere.

  22. [My pick

    Labor will get 41.5% primary votes – 80+ seats]

    None of your predictions have ever come true in fact every single time you’ve missed by a country mile.

    Why would anyone believe your crap this time around?

  23. Socrates

    Rita is doing the spruiking for her liberal luvvies, even on sports radio. That is the point. They will get their message out to the masses however they can. Sickening

  24. Sean Tisme
    Posted Saturday, August 3, 2013 at 10:59 am | PERMALINK

    Why would anyone believe your crap this time around?


    I dont expect any one to

    im just giving my pick

  25. CM

    Yes, I think the campaign and Abbott’s costings could determine the outcome.

    How many people here have felt their confidence levels change with the possibility of the election now being called?

    A lot I bet.

    In the same way, how many people are going to vote differently to what they’ve been saying to pollsters.

    All the poll gurus should note:

    * The polls are a strong tool for predicting the outcome of elections, no doubt;

    but the betting market gives you the chances 😎

  26. One thing to consider: Abbott will not want to win a close election.

    Their plan was to control the senate and get everything done that way. Now they’re going to run into major policy issues which will effect them politically in the long term (Abbott’s unpopularity is a very big deal in regards to this). Their people will be factoring that into their equations now making their task much more uncertain

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see early speculation on Hockey or Morrison if the Coalition win by only a small margin. (Forget Turnbull as his time has long past)

  27. Lol Centre

    True betting markets do give you the chance to make a profit

    2010 election

    After Katter supported the coalition and gave the indication that Labor was going to remain in government

    the betting markets blew labor out to $6

    and coaliton came into $1.10

  28. [I wouldn’t trust anything SHY says about asylum seekers. She is a Compassion Cop who has a long track record of preferring emotion to fact when it comes to public policy making on asylum seekers.]

    SHY was part of the Woomera Riots back in 2002 that illegally camped on government property and illegally pulled down fences and damaged Commonwealth property and illegally helped break out people from the detention centre including those 2 brothers that were spirited away only to be found not to be refugees and deported.

    SHY should be taken to task on this matter by the media but they instead let it slide.

  29. This morning ABC Saturday Extra hosted by Geraldine Doogue:
    [In the lead up to the 2013 Federal election, we discuss the possibilities on offer to produce a thriving Tasmania.]

    Saul Eslake, Chief Economist at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Australia

    Christine Milne, Senator for Tasmania and Leader of the Australian Greens

    Andrew Wilkie,Independent Member for Denison

    Greens Tasmanian Senator Peter Whish-Wilson….Tasmania 2030: a vision for a green, dynamic & prosperous Tasmanian economy:

  30. Sean, considering your rhetoric is nothing more than copying and pasting pro-Coalition propaganda, I am willing to bet your predictions aren’t reliable either and, if the Coalition do triumph, your prediction of it would have very little to do with your powers of observation or analysis, and more a broken clock being right twice a day.

  31. The Govt intention would be to close down Nauru ASAP once the current PNG disincentive takes hold.

    I imagine asylum seekers under the old system will now be quickly processed/resettled.

  32. [True betting markets do give you the chance to make a profit

    2010 election

    After Katter supported the coalition and gave the indication that Labor was going to remain in government

    the betting markets blew labor out to $6]

    And a bit of research would reveal the other independents were almost certainly going to go with Labor.

    I did rather well out of that 😀

  33. September 7 is not a date I would have picked. Not that I am any judge. But then Andrew Probyn, so say in know, picked last weekend for the announcement.

    I think Rudd has a date in his mind and has already settled it.

    All the rest is froth and bubble for the stupid media pack.

    I still have this funny feeling Rudd wants to go to G20 but then, who knows? Then there is the Local Government referendum

    Maybe one of the later October dates? But then,does Rudd really want to go back to parliament?

    How about September 21?

    Let’s face it, any date is still on the cards.

    One thing however, the more stupid and wrong the press ratpack are the better. Gillard constantly had them wrong-footed and Rudd has them guessing.

    For what it is worth, despite the huffing and puffing from some sections of the media, the “budget statement” hardly constitutes more than a blimp on the radar of middle Oz.

    Fags (who still smokes?) FBT, bank levy three years from now, Public Service savings blah, blah.

    Bit of a wet lettuce leaf I would have thought.

  34. Sean
    [Rudd Should most definitely call an election for September 9th. This will be the best decision he makes *laughs maniacally* ]
    That is refreshingly honest from you Sean, in that you do sound maniacal. Are you in Shadow Cabinet?

    It would be tragic if the election were delayed just a few weeks and all that early advertising the Liberals booked was mis-timed.

  35. Possible ‘collateral damage’ from the PNG ‘solution’:

    [The ‘shanty town’ that could be razed for Australia’s refugee plan is a safe community built through collective effort. Kristian Lasslett spoke with the residents, who have resisted developers for years

    In its weekend edition, The Australian reported that a “settlement” made up of “3000 squatters” near Port Moresby airport – known locally as ATS – has been earmarked to house refugees resettled under the Rudd Government’s new asylum seeker policy.]

    [Phillipe Schneider’s photographs show a different side to the Port Moresby settlement known as ATS. Local residents say they will fight any plan to evict them under Kevin Rudd’s ‘PNG solution’]

  36. I think the theory that goes that Rudd won’t choose Sep 14 because its “gillards date” is just tosh.

    Its pretty clear its either sep 7 or 14 and I’d personally go for 14 because it allows more time to let Abbott make more blunders.

    I just hope Rudd’s advisors know what they are doing.

  37. Happy Weekend Bludgers.
    OK, A question to the board,Pro-ALP bias notwithstanding, is there any body here who can honestly say that Abbott looks PM material ?
    And if people here, who are politicaly engaged, don’t think he looks like a PM, how do you think the rest of us percieve him ?

  38. I think the 14th is a good date myself and would go for it anyway, but somebody suggested last night that Rudd actually ruled that date out, so he’d be seen as backtracking. His loss actually, it’s a nice date for an election.

  39. Bagdad

    Of course the markets provide an opportunity to make a profit…but the only one who will be LOL is the market at you 😆

  40. Democracy thieves alive and well in Italy. Note the ‘ideal’.

    “MPS from Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party (PDL) have reportedly tendered their resignation to protest the tax fraud conviction against him.

    News outlets in Italy reported on Friday that the MPs handed in their resignation to protest the landmark ruling against Berlusconi, who said after meeting them in Rome his party was ready for fresh polls.

    PDL group leaders in the lower and upper houses said they intended to tender their MPs’ resignations to President Giorgio Napolitano.

    “We are ready to resign to defend our ideal,” Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, a senior member of Berlusconi’s PDL, was quoted as saying.”

    Read more:

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