The safe Liberal seat of Mitchell encompasses an elongated strip of north-western Sydney from Winston Hills at the southern end, located around 30 kilometres from central Sydney, through Baulkham Hills, Castle Hill and Kellyville to semi-rural Box Hill in the north. The recently published draft redistribution proposes two minor changes to the electorate, adding parts of Old Toongabbie and Northmead from its southern neighbour Parramatta, and transferring part of Castle Hill to Berowra in the east. Both changes involve around 3250 voters, the combined effect of which is to shave 0.7% from the Liberal margin.
2013 ELECTION RESULTS
Mitchell was created with the expansion of parliament in 1949, at which time it encompassed the entirety of what is now north-western Sydney, which was then predominantly semi-rural. Significant changes to the electorate were effected in 1969, when the western Sydney centres of Mount Druitt and Blacktown were transferred to the newly created seat of Chifley, and with the next expansion of parliament in 1984, when Richmond and the Hawkesbury River region was transferred out of the electorate, which would henceforth be dominated by The Hills Shire area. Labor was at least competitive in the electorate prior to the latter event, having won the seat in 1961 and 1972. Alan Cadman recovered it for the Liberals, and enjoyed double-digit margins at ever election thereafter, even before the fillip he received in 1984.
Cadman became proverbial for being the low-profile member for a blue-ribbon seat, and his narrow win in a preselection vote before the 2004 election appeared to be owed to an understanding that he would not seek another term in 2007. He nonetheless threw his hat into the ring once again, but withdrew on the day of the vote as it had become obvious to all that he faced defeat from 30-year-old Alex Hawke, who had worked as an electorate officer and adviser to various federal and state MPs while acquiring a fearsome reputation as an influential party numbers man. One of his employers had been state upper house MP David Clarke, a leading figure in the party’s Right faction, and had often been described as his protégé. However, a momentous split between the two in 2009 left Hawke as a leader of a faction that has lately been known as the “Centre Right”, which has recently dominated the party in alliance with the moderates.
Despite his factional clout, promotion within the parliamentary party was a long time coming. He finally reached the front bench upon Malcolm Turnbull’s ascension to the prime ministership in September 2015 as Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, placing him on an equivalent footing to those who had hitherto held the abolished title of paralimentary secretary. Despite this, Hawke had been on a small list of Liberals whose loyalties were rated as “uncertain” by The Australian at the time of Turnbull’s leadership challenge.