Seat of the week: Warringah

There are roughly as many seats in the House of Representatives as there are weeks until the next election. Time to get get cracking then on the 2016 election guide. Taking it from the top …

Tony Abbott’s electorate of Warringah covers Sydney’s affluent northern beaches from Manly north to Dee Why, extending inland to Balgowlah, Mosman, Middle Cove and Forestville. Out of the 150 federal electorates, it ranks fourth highest for median family income after Wentworth, North Sydney and Curtin. Warringah accommodated the entire northern beaches as far as the Hawkesbury River from its establishment in 1922 until 1949, when the creation of Mackellar caused it to be reoriented around Mosman and Seaforth. A relatively static population has since seen it expand back to the north over successive redistributions, recovering Manly in 1969 and being anchored on the north shore of Port Jackson thereafter.

Warringah has been never been held by Labor, and has only once slipped from Liberal control since the party’s foundation in 1944. That occasion was in March 1969 when one-term member and instant loose cannon Edward St John raised concerns in parliament over then Prime Minister John Gorton’s indiscreet behaviour with a female journalist, prompting him to resign from the party pending expulsion. St John contested as an independent at the election the following October, but was only able to poll 20.6% against 50.2% for Liberal candidate Michael Mackellar. Mackellar went on to serve in the Fraser government as minister first for immigration and then for health, resigning from the latter role in 1982 over a failure to declare to customs a television set he brought into the country.

The mid-term retirement of Mackellar in February 1994 initiated a by-election at which the seat safely passed to its present incumbent, Tony Abbott. Abbott had famously studied to become a priest after leaving school, but soon became set on a course for parliament via student politics, a stint as a journalist with The Bulletin, and the position of press secretary to Opposition Leader John Hewson. After securing a safe seat in parliament at the age of 36, Abbott became a parliamentary secretary with the election of the Howard government in 1996, winning promotion to cabinet as Employment Services Minister after the 1998 election and then to workplace relations in 2001 and health and ageing in 2003.

Abbott first publicly declared his leadership ambitions after the Howard government’s defeat in 2007, but he withdrew from the contest when it became clear he would not have the numbers. In late November 2009 he was one of a number of front-benchers who quit as part of a revolt against leader Malcolm Turnbull’s support for the government’s emissions trading scheme, which initiated a leadership spill. Presumed favourite Joe Hockey was unexpectedly defeated in the first round, and Abbott prevailed over Turnbull in the second 42 votes to 41. Abbott’s first year in the leadership saw Kevin Rudd deposed as prime minister in favour of Julia Gillard and Labor lose its majority at the August 2010 election, but he was unable to secure the necessary support of independents in order to form government.

Despite weak personal approval ratings attributed to his abrasive political style, Abbott’s hold on the party leadership was consolidated during Labor’s second term by crushing opinion poll leads on voting intention, which eventually wrought the downfall of a second Labor prime minister on Abbott’s watch in June 2013. Abbott became Australia’s twenty-eighth prime minister after the Coalition easily defeated Labor and its newly returned leader Kevin Rudd at the ensuing election on September 7, gaining a national two-party swing of 3.4% and securing what appears at the time of writing to be an absolute majority of 16 seats.

UPDATE (Essential Research): The new government’s first opinion poll is testament either to the absence of a honeymoon bounce, or the particular pollster’s tendency towards constancy in its results. The poll is from Essential Research and is the normal fortnightly rolling average, which it to say half of it was conducted over the weekend of the election itself. It has the Coalition on 44% (45.6% at the election on current figures), Labor on 36% (33.6%) and the Greens (9%). The published 53-47 two-party preferred (the current election result being 53.4-46.6) is weaker for Labor than the primary vote shifts suggest it should be, which may be because they are still using preference allocations from 2010.

Further questions finding 38% thinking the election of micro-parties to the Senate “good for democracy” against 25% for bad, although I’d like to see more specific questions in relation to this topic. Forty-four per cent believe the lack of a Coalition Senate majority will make for benefit against 30% for worse. Respondents were asked about various aspects they might expect to get better or worse under the new government, including the surprising finding that cost of living and interest rates are expected to be worse. Other questions relate to the country’s economic outlook, all of which you can see here.

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.

2,109 comments on “Seat of the week: Warringah”

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  1. Asha Leu @ 2039: There are plenty of political parties around the world, especially in developing countries, which essentially exist as vehicles for powerful individuals. They seldom outlast their founders. When Mr Palmer decides like Mr Toad that he’s interested in motorcars rather than caravans, the PUP will go down in a screaming heap, though it might limp along with a formal legal existence for a few years.

  2. [Part of Labor’s current woes are reflected in the fact that people like Larissa Waters felt compelled to join the Greens, not Labor]

    Well Labor would be in a lot less trouble if lots of people wanted to vote for these talented greens that could have been labor members. In fact a hell of a lot more like voting for the talentless Liberals.

    Your theorem has a fundamental flaw.

  3. Carlton ‏@MikeCarlton01 13m
    The lack of women in the Abbott cabinet is pathetic; a disgrace. But to have no Minister for Science is a gross affront to all reason.


  4. [The lack of women in the Abbott cabinet is pathetic; a disgrace. But to have no Minister for Science is a gross affront to all reason.]

    Reason isn’t the liberals strong suit, in fact it kind of works against them. Luckily their supporters don’t indulge in reason.

  5. [ “Women are unquestionably destined to exercise more and more influence upon practical politics in Australia…In the educating of the electorate in liberal ideas they have for many years been an effective force. Now we have an organisation in which all distinctions have gone, and with men and women working equally for the one body …” ]
    -Robert Menzies, Albury Conference, 1944

  6. I heard Palmer a few days ago unable to answer a simple question re how party policy would be formed with his small term of senators if they disagree…
    He seem to spoeak of concensus… but when asked” wotif”…he had no answer

  7. Warren Mundine was excited by the election result. He thinks the Monkey and he will fix the problems of indigenous Aussies.

    Good luck with that, sucker!

  8. deblonay @ 2058: It’s as plain as day that Mr Palmer doesn’t see it as part of his role in life to bankroll a party in which the parliamentary or mass membership might actually outvote him on anything, large or small.

  9. Sweden and the Science Minister

    Some years ago when in Sweden I was told at that time it was customary for the Deputy PM to Always have the Science portfolio_ thus giving it great prominsnce

    Since then Sweden has had very right-wing government and that may not now be the case

  10. Clyde Cameron as Science Minister in the dying days of the Whitlam government produced one of the more amusing moments I can recall in Parliament when, as part of a bitchy debate which he had pursued with Mr Whitlam over several weeks concerning the correct pronunciation of the world “kilometre”, read out a letter in support of his own position from Mr Whitlam’s former lecturer, one Enoch Powell.

  11. I have been contemplating on the lack of women in the Abbott ministry and have reached the sad conclusion that basically the Coalition is lacking in women with the necessary experience to solve the problem in the short/medium term. It really is a poor reflection on the pre-selection process endemic in the Coalition. The poor process that gave us the problems in QLD and poor candidates like Diaz.

    I’m not convinced the giving women a senior position just to make up the numbers is an answer although it is hard to believe there isn’t some number who could have been appointed. Women such as Kelly O’Dwyer. The Coalition really need to lift their game in this area or risk losing even more of those 50% of voters who are not born to rule males.

  12. davidwh Earlier i wrote up a list of Liberal/National MPs that four to six cabinet members could have been chosen from, i accept that Helen Kroger and Sophie Mirrabella both may have been in the cabinet had they held their seats but there are still several Women that could be considered unlucky.

    My position has nothing to do with supporting quotas as i don’t but i think there are a few MP’s with more experience and talent than one or two MP’s that have been appointed.

  13. [ A woman’s take on Gillard

    Melissa McElroy, political advisor.

    And didn’t Prime Minister Julia Gillard have a fine old time rallying the sisterhood at the Sydney launch of Women for Gillard when she told the wildly enthusiastic, hand-clapping, feet-stomping crowd of around one hundred women that an Abbott Coalition Government would see women “once again banished from the centre of Australia’s political life.”

  14. 2044

    Well said.

    [So let all those who voted for him feel the first stones he throws.]

    If only. Unfortunately, it will be those who didn’t vote for him who are going to be the first and primary targets.

  15. [Reason isn’t the liberals strong suit, in fact it kind of works against them. Luckily their supporters don’t indulge in reason.]

    Actually it works brilliantly in our favour.

    While your lot are pissing and moaning about fringe leftwing bullcrap like women quoatas which must Australians find repugnant, Prime Minister Tony Abbott gets to sit back and relax knowing Labor are doing the work for him.

  16. You can’t break what was never whole. Anyone with half a brain could see that what Abbott said changed according to whom he was speaking to. The pieces never fit together.

  17. Sean

    I don’t care about quotas.

    I care about good government

    You have not addressed why several talented good MP’s are not in cabinet yet several duds are in the cabinet

    And due to your lack of response about the Liberal Party 50/50 rule i take it that you are not a Liberal Party member

  18. [“The Australian Academy of Science’s Les Field was disappointed Mr Abbott had not appointed a science minister and hoped one would be announced in the coming days.
    ”A scientifically literate society is a society which is equipped to hold informed debate and make intelligent decisions about big issues that affect us all,” said Professor Field, the academy’s secretary for science policy.”]

    Read more:

    does anybody not realise that this is exactly the coalition’s understanding as well. informed debate? intelligent decisions? these things are anathema to the Howard/Abbott anti-rational medievalist ascendancy.

    Personally, I am amazed that there is a minister for the environment (not climate change or sustainability) and that Greg Hunt got the job – I had though barnaby would get ‘agriculture and resources’ with ‘environment’ lumped in there. That’s what they’ve done in Victoria – and no doubt it will happen federally sometime within the next three year.

  19. A friend of mine reckons the ministry is a deliberate FU to modern, progressive Australia

    I’m inclined to think he’s right. Those women are ‘trashing the joint’ after all, right?

    Abbott really is a creep.

  20. 2081

    That is Abbott all over. Anti-progressive on social issues and populist on economic issues to have the power to be hardline on social issues. I do hope the anti-populists economic dries roll Abbott or, even better, try just as Abbott is calling a DD (that he has not pre-warned them about).

  21. lefty – it is absolutely a FU to modern australia. I am sure abbott will make some comments about ‘merit’ and ‘affirmative action’ over the next few days (subtext – ‘men are better; women only get to higher office with help”). The absence of a science minister is part of this, and it is why I am amazed there is a minister for environment and they’ve given it to a minister who passes as a ‘wet’ in the arid outfit. watch hunt get rolled on anything progressive on the environment – he’ll make Garrett looks as though he ruled the roost when he was minister. I predict there will by no separate environment department/minister within the next three years.

  22. I think the meme to develop and persue from hereon is that…Abbott is unable to perform in the presence of intelligent women, Abbott excludes women because suffers performance anxiety, Abbott’s answer to developing women in the party is to keep them out of his sight.

  23. While Labor loves introducing new an mysterious ministries so their Labor buddies can get a better pay packet…. Minister for Sustainable Population for example or maybe Minister for Cities…. perhaps someone could explain exactly what a “Minister for Science” would be doing that would be any different from say… the Minister for Education.

  24. Sean

    That is a good question.

    Science and Education could go together.

    Science doesn’t have to be a stand alone departmental name, it can be held in conjunction with either Education or Innovation

  25. [perhaps someone could explain exactly what a “Minister for Science” would be doing that would be any different from say… the Minister for Education.]

    Minister for Not Sticking Our Fingers In Our Ears And Pretending Our Country Can Get By Without Innovating

  26. One week in and it is clear that we have Dodgy Bros as a government. One female cabinet minister and only one female Parl Sec – so no succession planning.

    Relations with suddenly Indonesia lower than they have been for years – which I note is within the portfolio responsibility of the said one female cabinet minister. How the hell is she there on *merit*?

  27. Spin Tisme

    So many weird Labor Ministry titles. It’s almost like they treat the different aspects of Federal Government as a complex beast that requires actual dedicated attention not just token sloganeering.

    But speaking of adding meaningless titles, adding “Border Protection” to Morrison’s title is a perfect example of that crap. But, I guess it’s a little more subtle than “Minister for totally not having a small penis”

    But once Abbott realises government is more than just spinning and reciting slogans but actually requires doing something, expect that ministry to expand.

    Also, what kind of condescending title is “Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women”?

  28. [So many weird Labor Ministry titles. It’s almost like they treat the different aspects of Federal Government as a complex beast that requires actual dedicated attention not just token sloganeering.]

    I wonder what will fall through the cracks when none of the ministers think it’s in their area?

  29. Early thoughts for Labor’s next campaign…

    I would like to see Labor pre-select a lot more candidates earlier than they have until now. Particularly in the coalition safe seats where they will need more 1:1 time to win over influential voters. Find a way to pay for this and they would pick up a lot more senate votes and in one or two cases help a strong independent over the line. Maybe even fluke a 15% swing win somewhere. It has happened before.

  30. And while the Gillard-era ministries were pretty complicated what they did do was give people a direction. Minister for Digital Productivity, Minister for Competitiveness, Minister for the Asian Century… all of these and were the result of Gillard setting the agenda for her government.

  31. [It’s almost like they treat the different aspects of Federal Government as a complex beast that requires actual dedicated attention not just token sloganeering.]

    Meanwhile you guys are pissing and moaning because Abbott isn’t hitting Labors artificial 50% women quota.

    An adult government is back in power folks, get used to it. No women quota spin bullshit, those days are over.

  32. Each election – when it actually happens – I am reminded just how important the HTVers are firstly at the early polls and then again on the main day.

    Labor’s next election budget should rate this high on the list as it must be worth a possible >1% on what they are currently achieving.

    From the booths I have witnessed over the years maybe even 2% is actually up for grabs at least in some booths based on the presentation right there and then as the truly undecideds rock up to reluctantly put pencil to paper.

    Similar with postal voting. I must have had ten advices re: postal voting from Libs and not a single one from Labor in my seat Durack.

    Fixing these things will cost of course. I wonder how much though?

  33. Sean

    It is the Liberal Party that has an internal 50/50 rule

    The ALP’s only quota that i am aware of is the 30% for preselected candidates.

    You still have not outlined any reason to think that this is the best possible cabinet when there are several highly experienced, talented MP’s left out.

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