Seat of the week: Newcastle

In a history going back to federation, the electorate of Newcastle has had just six members – all of them Labor.

The only House of Representatives seat to have been held by Labor without interruption since federation has undergone major changes in the redistribution, following the abolition of neighbouring Charlton. A gain of 26,000 voters around Wallsend at the eastern end from Charlton has been balanced by the loss of territory beyond the city’s northern limits, where 14,000 voters in and around eastern Maitland have been transferred to Paterson, to the great benefit of Labor in that seat. The Newcastle electorate continues to encompass the city’s centre and inner suburbs, including the coast south to Merewether. The changes have had little impact on the Labor margin, which increases from 8.8% to 9.1%.




Newcastle has had only six members in its long history: David Watkins until 1935, his son David Oliver Watkins until 1958, Charles Jones until 1983, Allan Morris until 2001, Sharon Grierson until 2013, and Sharon Claydon thereafter. A supplementary election was required in the seat seven weeks after the 1998 election following the death of the Australian Democrats candidate two days before polling day, which the Liberals did not contest. Sharon Grierson succeeded Allan Morris at the subsequent election in 2001, and spent her 12 year parliamentary career on the back bench. Her 7.0% winning margin on debut was the smallest for Labor in the seat’s history, but she subsequently pushed it well into double figures with swings of 3.0% in 2004 and 6.8% in 2007, before suffering a 3.4% swing in 2010.

With Grierson’s retirement at the 2013 election, the seat passed on to her long-standing electorate officer Sharon Claydon, who had been a Newcastle councillor from 2008 to 2012 and shared Grierson’s alignment with the Left. Claydon retained the seat in 2013 by an 8.8% margin after a swing to the Liberals of 3.2%, which was well in line with the statewide result.

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: Newcastle”

  1. Labor retain is likely, the redistribution has helped them, losing most of the rural territory north of the Hunter River. That is unless there are any serious local issues in Newcastle that may dominate the campaign.

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