Seat of the week: Bradfield

This safe Liberal seat in northern Sydney has been held since 2009 by Paul Fletcher, who won promotion to the outer ministry after Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership coup in September.

Bradfield covers Sydney’s northern suburbs from Roseville through Killara, Turramurra and St Ives to Wahroonga, extending from 10 to 25 kilometres to the north-west of central Sydney. The recently published draft redistribution proposes the addition of around 6000 voters in Chatswood and Castle Cove at the southern end of the electorate, formerly in North Sydney, and minor adjustments to the western boundary that transfer around 3500 voters to Berowra. The changes add a further 0.5% to the Liberal margin.




The Liberals have held the seat by large margins since it was created with the expansion of parliament in 1949, the inaugural member having been a venerable Billy Hughes. Following his death in 1952, Hughes was succeeded at a by-election by Harry Turner, who in turn bequeathed the seat to David Connolly in 1974. Connolly was deposed by a preselection challenge ahead of the 1996 election by Brendan Nelson, high-profile federal president of the Australian Medical Association, who went on serve as Education Minister and later Defence Minister in the third and fourth terms of the Howard government. Following the 2007 election defeat, Nelson emerged the surprise winner of the Liberal Party leadership vote over Malcolm Turnbull, by a margin of 45 votes to 42. However, his tenure lasted only the ten months up to September 2008, when Turnbull defeated him 45 votes to 41.

Nelson resigned from parliament a year after losing the leadership, triggering a by-election held on December 5, 2009. No fewer than 17 candidates contested the Liberal preselection, which was won by Paul Fletcher, Optus executive and former staffer to Howard government Communications Minister Richard Alston. Other candidates included Tom Switzer, former opinion page editor of The Australian; David Coleman, executive for the Packer family’s Publishing and Broadcasting Limited; and Julian Leeser, executive director of the Menzies Research Centre. After Coleman dropped out contention, his moderate factional backers reportedly threw their weight behind Leeser with a view to blocking Swizter, who duly dropped out of the count. Fletcher then prevailed over Leeser in the final count by 60 votes to 51.

Paul Fletcher was elevated to parliamentary secretary status after the 2013 election victory, and served under Malcolm Turnbull in the communications portfolio. He was identified as a supporter of Turnbull’s successful leadership challenge in September 2015, and was promoted afterwards to the outer ministry in the territories, local government and major projects portfolio.

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.

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