Seat of the week: Forrest

Labor last won the seat covering the south-west of Western Australia in 1969, only to lose it against the trend of the 1972 election. It’s been held since 2007 by Nola Marino, a beneficiary of Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership coup.

The safe Liberal seat of Forrest covers Western Australia’s south-western corner, taking in Bunbury, Busselton and Margaret River. The Margaret River region is a focal point of tree-changer and alternative lifestyle sentiment, and votes Greens in greater number than Labor, and Labor more than Coalition on two-party preferred. However, the dominant population centres are Bunbury, which has grown increasingly conservative, and Busselton, which has long been so, with beef and dairying country accounting for the remainder. The latest redistribution has transferred around 6200 voters in the Labor-voting coal mining centre of Collie to neighbouring O’Connor, boosting the Liberal margin in Forrest from 12.3% to 14.1%.




Forrest was created in 1922 from territory previously covered by Swan, and extended eastwards to accommodate Albany until the O’Connor electorate was created in 1980. It was held by Labor from 1943 to 1949 and again from 1969 to 1972, but the party’s fortunes thereafter declined in tandem with the logging industry. The Country Party held the seat from its creation until 1943, but has not done so since. The only interruption to Liberal control after 1949 came in 1969 with the defeat of Gordon Freeth, the Gorton government’s External Affairs Minister, whom the Democratic Labor Party campaigned against for having downplayed the Soviet threat in the Indian Ocean.

The seat reverted to type against the national trend of the 1972 election, and has since been held progressively for the Liberals by Peter Drummond, until 1987; Geoff Prosser, until 2007; and Nola Marino, thereafter. Marino backed Malcolm Turnbull in the September 2015 leadership spill and was subsequently promoted, at the expense of Abbott supporter Scott Buchholz, from a deputy whip position she had held since entering parliament to chief government whip.

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.

One comment on “Seat of the week: Forrest”

  1. [only to lose it against the trend of the 1972 election.]

    Against the national trend – yes, but in line with the WA trend at that election.

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