Seat du jour: Shortland

The post-redistribution game of musical chairs in the Hunter region finds Labor’s Pat Conroy moving from abolished Charlton to neighbouring Shortland, where he stands to succeed retiring member Jill Hall.

The safe Labor seat of Shortland covers the southern part of the Newcastle metropolitan area between Lake Macquarie and the coast. It includes Charlestown and surrounding suburbs at the northern end, and extends south through Swansea to Budgewoi. The redistribution adds new territory at the northern end, absorbing 18,000 voters around Cardiff to the west of Charlestown from the abolished seat of Charlton, and removes territory in the south, with 8000 voters around Toukley and Lake Haven transferred to Dobell. The changes have had no impact on Labor’s 7.2% margin.




Shortland was created when parliament was enlarged in 1949, but it covered western rather than southern Newcastle, around New Lambton and Wallsend, until its boundary with Hunter was reordered in 1955. It has had only three members through that time, the most recent being Jill Hall, who began her political career as state member for Swansea in 1995, moved to the federal seat in 1998, and is now to retire at the coming election. Hall’s predecessor in Shortland was Peter Morris, who in turn succeeded the seat’s inaugural member, Charles Griffiths, in 1972. She spent the entirety of her parliamentary career on the back bench, but held the party whip position without interruption from the 2004 election onwards.

Jill Hall’s retirement announcement in February resolved a potential headache for Labor caused by the abolition of Charlton, which had left four sitting members chasing three safe Hunter region seats. Shortland will now be contested for Labor by the member for Charlton, Pat Conroy. Conroy came to the seat at the 2013 election, filling the vacancy created when Greg Combet ended his two-term parliamentary and ministerial career in the wake of Kevin Rudd’s successful leadership challenge. Conroy had been Combet’s deputy chief-of-staff, and was earlier an official with two blue-collar Left faction unions, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union and Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.

The resolution to the Shortland preselection formed part of a deal in which the seat remained with the Left, while Joel Fitzgibbon kept Hunter for the Right and the Left was compensated for the loss of Charlton with deputy state leader Linda Burney’s preselection in the Sydney seat of Barton. In the absence of the Shortland vacancy, Conroy would very likely have had the support of the Left-dominated local party membership to take Hunter from Joel Fitzgibbon, who would have been displaced to the newly marginal Liberal-held seat of Paterson. Notwithstanding the factional deal, Conroy resolved that he would contest a rank-and-file ballot in Shortland rather than have his preselection enforced by the national executive, but in the event nobody nominated against him.

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *