|Red and blue numbers respectively indicate size of two-party Labor and Liberal polling booth majorities. Click for larger image. Map boundaries courtesy of Ben Raue at The Tally Room.
Created when the Australian Capital Territory was first divided into two electorates in 1974, Fraser covers the northern half of Canberra, with Lake Burley Griffin and the Molonglo River forming its southern boundary. The southern half of Canberra, together with the non-residential remainder of the Australian Capital Territory, is accommodated by the electorate of Canberra. Whereas Canberra was held by the Liberals from 1975 to 1980 and again for a brief period after a 1995 by-election, Fraser has at all times been held by Labor. Andrew Leigh came to the seat at the 2010 election after the retirement of Bob McMullan, who had held it since a rearrangement caused when the ACT’s representation reverted back to two seats after briefly going to three between the elections of 1996 and 1998. This involved the displacement of Steve Darvagel, who had come to Fraser at a by-election in February 1997 caused by the retirement of John Langmore. McMullan’s vacancy in Canberra was filled by Annette Ellis, who had hitherto been the first and final member for the short-lived seat of Namadji.
When McMullan and Ellis both announced their impending retirements in early 2010, there were suggestions that they were pushed as much as jumped, in McMullan’s case because powerbrokers wished for his seat to go to Left faction nominee Nick Martin. However, the independence of the local branches was instead asserted during the complicated preselection struggles which followed in both seats. Suggestions of a factional arrangement were made to appear particularly distasteful by the strong fields of candidates which emerged, with Leigh joined in the race for Fraser by constitutional law maven George Williams, locally well-connected West Belconnen Health Co-operative chair Michael Pilbrow, and over half-a-dozen others. The Left membership voted down a deal to win backing for Martin by reciprocating support for Right candidate Mary Wood in Fraser, reportedly due to concern about that the Right was not united enough to make the deal stick, and also because it was felt the faction would be better off securing an arrangement with Gai Brodtmann, who had stitched together a cross-factional support base in pursuit of her own bid for Canberra. When the Right’s own candidates dropped out early in the counts, its support was thrown behind the ultimate winners, Leigh and Brodtmann, with Leigh prevailing in the final Fraser ballot by 144 votes to 96.
Leigh was professor of economics at the Australian National University immediately before entering politics, having earlier practised law in Sydney and London and gained a doctorate from Harvard University. A Julia Gillard loyalist, he gained the position of parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister in the shake-up that followed Kevin Rudd’s abortive leadership bid in March 2013, only to lose it when Rudd returned to the leadership at the end of June. Although factionally unaligned, he won promotion to the outer shadow ministry after the September 2013 election defeat as Assistant Shadow Treasurer.