Held prior to the 2013 election by Rob Oakeshott, one of the two country independents who used their balance of power position to decide the 2010 election in favour of Labor, the naturally safe Nationals seat of Lyne has undergone radical changes in the redistribution, owing to the abolition of the Hunter region electorate of Charlton. This has pulled Lyne’s southern neighbour, Paterson, into the Hunter region, and caused Lyne to absorb the northern parts of Paterson. This area includes the major population centre of Foster-Tuncurry, and accounts for around 45,000 voters. In turn, 37,000 voters in and around Port Macquarie, which had long been Lyne’s focal point, have been lost to its northern neighbour, Cowper, to counterbalance the gains from Lyne. The electorate now extends northwards along the coast from Tea Gardens, on the north shore of Port Stephens, through Foster-Toncurry to Lake Cathie, just south of Port Macquarie. Its main population centre further inland is Taree, and it also encompasses Wauchope and Laurieton just outside Port Macquarie.
2013 ELECTION RESULTS
Lyne was created with the expansion of parliament in 1949, and for most of that time it has been centred on Port Macquarie, although its new boundaries are broadly similar to those that applied between 1977 and 1993. The National/Country Party held the seat without interruption until the election of Rob Oakeshott until 2008, although the Liberals nearly gained the seat on the retirement of Bruce Cowan in 1993. It was held subsequently by Mark Vaile, who rose to cabinet in 1997 and the Nationals leadership and deputy prime ministership in July 2005. Vaile quit politics nine months after the defeat of the Howard government in 2007, initiating the September 2008 by-election that elected Rob Oakeshott.
Oakeshott was elected for the Nationals as the state member for Port Macquarie in 1996, and went on to quit the party in March 2002, complaining that local branches were controlled by property developers and questioning its relevance in an electorate transformed by tourism and demographic change. He would later say he had also been offended by a racist remark made at a party function about his wife, who is of Aboriginal and South Sea Islander descent. Oakeshott had been re-elected with big margins in 2003 and 2007, and few doubted Lyne was his for the taking when Vaile resigned. This he duly achieved with 63.8% of the primary vote against 22.9% for his Nationals opponent, translating into a 23.9% margin after preferences. With a Labor candidate in the field at the 2010 election, his primary vote was down to 47.2%, and his two-candidate preferred margin fell to 12.7%.
Oakeshott’s decision to support a Labor minority government after the indecisive result of the 2010 election was not favourably received in his electorate, with a Newspoll survey conducted a year later finding only 26% of respondents intending to vote for him compared with 47.1% for a yet-to-be-determined Nationals candidate. That turned out to be David Gillespie, a local gastroenterologist who was best man at Tony Abbott’s wedding, and who also ran in the seat in 2010. Shortly after Julia Gillard was dumped by her party in June 2013, both Oakeshott and the other country independent who had sustained her government, New England MP Tony Windsor, announced they would not recontest their seats.
Gillespie duly had an effortless run for re-election, the Liberals having declined to field a candidate under the terms of the state Coalition agreement, polling 53.2% of the primary vote and securing a 14.8% margin over Labor after preferences. After the new boundaries for the redistribution were unveiled, it was reported that Bob Baldwin, whose had lost all of his healthy margin in Paterson, was considering quitting the Liberal Party to run against Gillespie as an independent in Lyne, but he shortly ruled out the idea, declaring himself “completely loyal” to the Liberal Party.