Seat of the week: Curtin

Despite bearing the name of one of Labor’s greatest heroes, and covering his old home turf of Cottesloe, the Perth seat of Curtin is blue in tooth and claw. Julie Bishop has held the seat since she unseated a conservative independent in 1998.

Blue and red numbers respectively indicate booths with two-party majorities for the Liberal and Labor parties. Click for larger image. Map boundaries courtesy of Ben Raue at The Tally Room.

Julie Bishop’s seat of Curtin covers Perth’s most affluent and Liberal-friendly areas, from Mosman Park and Cottesloe north along the coast to the southern part of Scarborough, and along the northern shore of the Swan River through the prestige suburbs of Peppermint Grove and Dalkeith. An area of relative Labor strength is provided by the area immediately west of the city. The electorate was created with the expansion of parliament in 1949, prior to which the Perth metropolitan area had been divided in highly variable fashion between Perth and Fremantle, with each consistently accounting for some of the area of modern Curtin. Curtin was originally limited to Perth’s inner west, with Fremantle continuing to extend up the coast as far as City Beach, before acquiring its coastal orientation with the redistribution of 1955. Fremantle was thereafter concentrated more to the south of the river, although its present northern limit at the suburban boundary of North Fremantle and Mosman Park was not established until 1984.

Despite bearing the name of a Labor Party legend, Curtin has been a blue-ribbon Liberal seat since its creation, being held first by prime ministerial contender and future Governor-General Paul Hasluck, and then by Victor Garland, a minister in the McMahon and Fraser governments. Garland’s resignation in early 1981 led to a preselection brawl in which the then Premier, Sir Charles Court, marshaled forces behind Allan Rocher to thwart Fred Chaney’s ambition to move from the Senate to the House, which he would eventually realise when he became member for Pearce in 1990. Rocher was defeated for preselection ahead of the 1996 election by Ken Court, son of the aforementioned Charles and brother of Richard, who was then Premier. This greatly displeased the newly reinstalled federal Liberal leader, John Howard, who did little to assist Court’s election campaign or to dispel the conception that he owed his preselection to controversial party powerbroker Noel Crichton-Browne. Rocher was thus easily able to retain his seat as an independent on Labor preferences, while a similar story played out in the northern suburbs seat of Moore.

Curtin returned to the Liberal fold in 1998 when Rocher was defeated by a new Liberal candidate, Julie Bishop, who had previously been a managing partner at law firm Clayton Utz. Bishop’s early career progress within the Howard government was reckoned to have been constrained by her ties to Peter Costello, and in the wake of the Coalition’s 2001 state election defeat she signed on to an abortive scheme to move into state politics to succeed Richard Court as Liberal leader. She eventually won promotion to Ageing Minister in 2003, and attained cabinet rank as Education, Science and Training Minister in January 2006. Reflecting the continuing strong performance of the party’s Western Australian branch, she was elevated to the deputy leadership in the wake of the 2007 election defeat. Her success in maintaining that position under three leaders reportedly led internal critics to dub her “the cockroach”, although dissatisfaction with her performance as Shadow Treasurer caused her to be reassigned to foreign affairs in January 2009. She retained the portfolio throughout the remaining years in opposition, further serving in the shadow portfolio of trade after the 2010 election, and was confirmed as Foreign Minister with the election of the Abbott government in September 2013.

UPDATE: Channel Seven has reported the ReachTEL poll conducted on Thursday night found only 28% believe the government’s new policies to stop boat arrivals were working versus 49% who don’t, while 56% say the government should announce boat arrivals when they happen. Last night it was reported that 53% think the Prime Minister should deliver the explanation for spying activities demanded by Indonesia, while 34% say he shouldn’t; and that 38% support Australia’s bugging activities with 39% opposed. It appears Channel Seven are sitting on voting intention numbers.

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.

1,517 comments on “Seat of the week: Curtin”

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  1. It seems that Abbott and Co are going to apply to Australia/Indonesia relations the same thinking and methods as they use in relation to climate change – aggressive denial and intentional deceit.

    This technique has served Abbott very well with parts of the domestic electorate, though it means the environment will suffer and the country will lose economically. We should expect similar fallout in relation to Indonesia: it will help Abbott with his ideological base, but will worsen relations with Indonesia, lead to economic losses and to frustration of other policy aims including measures to deter people smuggling.

    But none of this will trouble Abbott. He sees himself as a fighter first and foremost. So what if he has one more fight to pursue? He is not a pacifier, not a unifier, not a conciliator, not even a builder. He derives his energy and identity from aggression – from attack. This situation will simply magnify his standing as a fighter in the eyes of his supporters and in his own eyes. It follows that we should not expect relations with Indonesia to improve. On the contrary, all his instincts will lead Abbott to make things even worse.

  2. Nic Stuart in the Canberra Times today has alluded to Ms Credlin’s possible role in the mishandling of the Indonesia spying business, and argued that she should go. This is dangerous for Mr Abbott, given the reports which have already appeared in the press that Ms Credlin has managed to get quite a few of his colleagues off side. If you are going to seek to exercise great power by slipstreaming along behind your boss, the one thing you have to ensure is that you never, ever make a mistake, because there will be lots of people around only too happy to point it out. (Memories of some of Mr Rudd’s staff spring to mind.)

  3. WeWantPaul@68

    The worst thing about Howes is that he is almost certain to one day be preselected for a safe ALP seat.

    If only you were right

    WWP, you’ve got to be kidding!

    I am in furious agreement with confessions on this one. Howes is absolutely toxic and should not even get near a pre-selection.

  4. {briefly
    Posted Saturday, November 23, 2013 at 10:35 am | PERMALINK

    Canada is blessed with 3 million lakes, more than any country on Earth — and it may soon start manufacturing new ones. They’re just not the kind that will attract anglers or tourists.etc}

    Briefly I have been there and am absolutely disgusted, I have relations in Alberta surely something can be done to stop this?

  5. [WWP, you’ve got to be kidding!

    I am in furious agreement with confessions on this one. Howes is absolutely toxic and should not even get near a pre-selection.]

    I think I expressed myself badly, while I agree with you that him getting into Parliament and wasting a safe seat is a VERY bad thing for labor, he has already and will in the future do much much worse things to us.

  6. This is issue was a gift that should have been an opportunity for Abbott to make himself look good on the international stage. Especially when it related to something that happened under a previous government. He should have been dead simple, and the easiest way in the world for Abbott to make himself look good on the international stage. In fact they could have orchestrated such a thing just to do that.

    But Abbott’s mindset is so primitive, inarticulate and perpetually defensive that he sees anybody not a signed up conservative as an enemy, especially foreign types. His instinctual uneducated simplistic and childish reaction to the issue just made it all the worse. BUT worse still his ‘smart’ advisers who would/should have been guiding him indicate that this government as a whole has the mentality of a bunch of lunch time sandpit bullies.

    What if the issue at hand was a Real serious issue that could end in real violent consequences, rather than a diplomatic issue? One wonders down what path and to what quicksand Abbott and his monkeys would take Australia, through his defensiveness and ignorance if confronted with truly serious issues.

    The man and his team represent the greater security threat to Australia.

  7. Leone,

    [Did Bananaby pull the pin on his trip to Indonesia or did the Indonesian government tell him he was not welcome?]

    Or would no hire-car outfit rent him a 4-wheel drive?

  8. Spider@107

    Diogenes @ 25 and Bemused @ 35

    Thanks for the advice re Melatonin, I will look into it.

    I am very responsive to it and only need 0.5mg for a good nights sleep.

    It is not available over the counter in Australia so I ordered via eBay where it is much cheaper than what I could get on prescription here.

    I can’t buy 0.5mg tablets so cut 1mg tabs in half.

    Some people require a lot more than I seem to so you might need to experiment to find the minimum dose that works for you.

    Good luck with it.

  9. This Murdoch media story posted earlier suggest a bleak time ahead for Abbott and unfortunately also for Australia. It is particularly disturbing as it suggests Australia will become embroiled in disputes with other countries in Asia over spying.

    The phrase “The Abbott government is bracing” implies Abbott/Murdoch are aware of much more damaging information.


    THE Abbott government is bracing for the possible release of more embarrassing material from leaked US intelligence about Indonesia and other Asian nations, as it aims for a “broader and deeper” security relationship with Jakarta.]

  10. [Leone,

    Did Bananaby pull the pin on his trip to Indonesia or did the Indonesian government tell him he was not welcome?]

    Barnaby figured out that any trip to Djakarta would almost certainly be fruitless, and, in the circumstances, only amount to another visible, ritualised rejection of Australia. The wise thing is to bail out, shut up and wait.

  11. An action plan for Abbott:

    1. Pick up the phone to SBY
    2. Apologise without reservation – in private and in public.
    3. Publicly repudiate the elements of the stop the boats policies that have been so offensive to Indonesia – no tow backs, buy backs, bribes.
    4. An unequivocal statement that he and his government will fully respect Indonesian sovereignty, in words and actions.
    5. Full commitment to Australia’s existing aid programs to Indonesia.
    6. An unequivocal commitment to cease all illicit intelligence gathering in Indonesia forthwith.
    7. Replace our current ambassador to Indonesia (poor bloke, but it’s the symbolism that counts).
    8. Appoint a new Australian Foreign Minister – make Julie Bishop minister-for-something-not-very-important.
    9. Full review of Australian intelligence services by a retired Australian judge.
    10. Commit Australia to funding whatever search and rescue infrastructure Indonesia needs for the south coast of Java – no conditions, no strings, with full Indonesian control of any activities that are undertaken.

    And that’s just for starters….

  12. After a week of argey bargey my mind’s eye has distilled the crisis down to a simple proposition: Abbott almost completely misunderstands Indonesia.

    Everything flows from that:

    * A glib belief that the Indonesians would understand – politician to politician – and forgive “robust domestic politics” re. Abbott/Morrison/Mesma’s slagging-off of Indonesia.

    * An anachronistic conviction that Indonesia was still as weak as it was in East Timor days, and would thus do our bidding after a little public (but phoney) face-saving.

    * Cheap flattery (“Our best friend”, “Good, and getting better”) would impress SBY.

    * The naive expectation that they could slag-off Malaysia, then make a smarmy apology, and that Indonesia wouldn’t be expecting the same kind of double-dealing… Abbott’s “Better to seek forgiveness than ask permission” ploy is pertinent here.

    * That Abbott’s patently phoney, overnight makeover from “bovver boy” to “statesman” would fool anyone except Murdoch journos (who actually weren’t fooled, they just went along with it).

    * That Abbott could say one thing in one place (Australia) and another thing somewhere else (Indonesia) and expect to be believed.

    * That Abbott’s admission to Kerry O’Brien that he was a liar who would say anything in the heat of the moment, and was not to be taken as his word would be ignored by SBY. Sure, the local media organized an “At Least He’s An Honest Liar” campaign, and it worked here, but probably not in Jakarta.

    * That the ranters on 2GB and in the Daily Telegraph (and like-minded newspapers) had no connection with Abbott (Mark Textor is included in this… he really has to go).

    * That employing a 3-star general to run a secretive military operation, sometimes even in Indonesian waters, would be forgiven. They love uniforms in Indonesia. For many it’s a path to political success and domestic prosperity, the only way out of poverty. Military matters are taken seriously there.

    You could add a hundred other items to the list above.

    It is Classic Abbott – say one thing, mean another. Get the media to do whatever it takes to clean up the mess afterwards, and then to declare it “cleaned up” for good measure.

    Works here. Doesn’t work in Jakarta. SBY and Abbott are appealing to different electorates, in different countries. SBY doesn’t care what the Tradies Bar at Rooty Hill RSL thinks ( Abbott can bash Labor because they have to care about Rooty Hill).

    The results? Let’s look at some potential ones:

    * When beef exports dry up, reality will hit Abbott in the face.

    * When the boats resume, or mass drownings occur, ditto.

    * When the Bali 9 are executed, because SBY wouldn’t entertain a personal plea from Abbott for clemency (because SBY doesn’t like or trust Abbott), the shit will hit the fan.

    * When trade delegations are turned around, or told not to come, Abbott’s own supporters will start to whinge.

    Abbott is running a domestic political shop and he does it well. He’s the corner grocer who knows the local neighbourhood. He thinks the same strategies will apply everywhere. He’s wrong, demonstrably so.

    SBY is making domestic political hay in Indonesia. It’s playing well to his own version of Rooty Hill. Except there are a couple of hundred million of them and they are powerful. Why would SBY ignore them when his actions are playing so well to his own mob?

    I think SBY wants a complete reset of the relationship between Australia and Indonesia. No more megaphone diplomacy, no more gunboats, no more double-dealing and no more Abbott bullshit.

    We are going to have to grovel to them, something we are not used to doing.

    But unless we do, it’s game over.

    And no amount of raving by Ray Hadley, Piers Akerman, Mark Textor, The Australian, the Daily Telegraph, Alexander Downer, Andrew Bolt or the assembled tradies at Rooty Hill RSL will make any difference.

  13. A senior member of Hizbut Tahrir called for Australian ambassador Greg Moriarty to be expelled. He told supporters it was regrettable that the bombing of the building in 2004 was not more successful.

    A fake coffin bearing a photo of Mr Abbott was laid on the street outside the embassy. The protesters later dispersed.

    How long now before the extremists target Australia’s citizens and cities?

    No matter how people view the leak, or who is to blame for the phone tapping, the lack of an timely apology has inflamed the situation.

    It now puts the Australian mainland on the extremists target list

    Read more:

  14. Bushfire:

    I said a couple of days ago that the coalition seem to have this view of Indonesia as kow-towing and inferior. This attitude is implicit in the Textor tweets.

  15. Relatives who live in Braddon have asked has Abbott started a war yet.
    I have heard the same here in Sydney. So outside the LNP/Murdoch base anecdotally this is certainly not playing well.

    As much as I hear that base defending Abbott you can see the unease as they stare reality in the face.

  16. [Corruption fighter Tony Fitzgerald says Queensland is effectively a one-party state, with a government that doesn’t understand true democracy is about more than just having the numbers.

    Fitzgerald warned that Campbell Newman’s government was using its massive parliamentary majority to denigrate opponents, extend its influence by making partisan appointments to public office and foster disdain for critics, especially the judiciary and independent media.

    In an opinion piece for Fairfax Media, the former judge says the political environment looks very much like it did when he headed a landmark corruption inquiry 25 years ago.

    Those were the days when then premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen would say “don’t you worry about that” when he came under media scrutiny.
    . . .

    “Not for the first time, Queensland is at the forefront.
    “It is again effectively a one-party state controlled by a group who seemingly don’t know, or don’t care, that the use and abuse of a large parliamentary majority is not true democracy irrespective of what they claim ‘the people want’.”]

  17. “@guytaur: If Abbott royally stuffs up and the row with Indonesia becomes a war the miners will be the first in the firing line. Yes Hypothetical.”

    @ABCNews24: Watch LIVE: Prime Minister Tony Abbott is speaking to the media in Sydney #auspol

  18. “@latikambourke: PM Abbott says the GG delivered her view with ‘grace and style.’”

    “@latikambourke: PM Abbott says he’s completed his letter to Indonesian President SBY and it’s in the process of being delivered.”

  19. @latikambourke: PM Abbott says SBY is ‘one of the best friends’ Australia has ever had and expresses gratitude to the Indonesian President.

  20. @latikambourke: PM Abbott says he’s completed his letter to Indonesian President SBY and it’s in the process of being delivered.”

    Isnt he a good little Schoolboy ?

  21. BB

    Concur with most of your post, but I am not sure i feel Abbott misundersfands Indonesia at all.
    Abbott has the belief that he is superior to them and that just as he has conned the Australian public with his double speak and weasel words, Indonesia would be conned

  22. [@latikambourke: PM Abbott says he’s completed his letter to Indonesian President SBY and it’s in the process of being delivered.”

    Isnt he a good little Schoolboy ?]

    Lets wait for those nice Indonesians to grade his paper shall we? I doesn’t matter how good the letter is the grade is going to be ‘needs improvement’ and ‘must try harder’

  23. Definitely the PM should apologise for the incident in 2009 of bugging the President’s wife’s phone but he needs to make it clear it was under authorisation of the former Labor government, and that his government has new and better protocols.
    I believe the Indons don’t care which government did it they just want to hear the word “apologise”.
    But for the LNP, they need to differentiate where the blame is.

  24. Young master Abbott has written out his lines for detention.

    All is forgiven.

    He can now leave the form room and join the rest of the prefects on the rugger field.

  25. Bullshit Prettyone.

    The Indonesians don’t care about who was PM in 2009. Australian domestic political concerns don’t interest them. Abbott is in the gun, not just for the revelations of the past week, but his sustained insensitivity to Indonesia over the past 4 years.

    It wasn’t Rudd’s photo being burned in Jogjakarta and Jakarta this week. It was Abbott’s. It’s bad luck for him the bugging stuff came out now rather than 6 months ago. But as Abbott would say. Shit happens.

  26. Yes, Zoidlord
    But this bugging of the President’s wife’s phone was something unusual and offensive.

    I don’t think the Abbott government is bugging her phone. They are in the clear. It is only that incident that has so offended them, and it was under Mr Rudd’s approval.

  27. BB@172

    Good stuff, but for the vast majority of the Oz electorate it is in “Don’t know, don’t care” territory at the moment.

    The coterie of right-wing letter writers in the West newspaper are all supportive of Abbott and want to shoot all in the ABC (“heads should roll” stuff), stop giving Indonesia aid, and essentially tell the Indonesians to get stuffed.

    It is likely that this above lot represent 30-35% of the electorate so Abbott is losing nothing appealing to his base.

    Whether all this still will bite with Middle Oz is yet to be seen.

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