Seat du jour: Perth

One of the three seats left to Labor in Western Australia, Perth will be vacated after a single term by former state minister Alannah MacTiernan, who in turn succeeded senior Rudd-Gillard minister Stephen Smith in 2013.

One of three Labor-held seats in Western Australia, each of which will be vacated by its sitting member at the election, the electorate of Perth extends in a north-easterly direction from the city centre through Mount Lawley and Maylands to Morley and Bassendean. The redistribution that gives effect to the state’s entitlement to a sixteenth lower house seat has also pushed the electorate into territory immediately to the west of the city, adding 12,000 voters in West Perth, Leederville and Mount Hawthorn from the Curtin electorate, along with 2800 in Coolbinia and Menora from Stirling. This is balanced by the loss of 10,000 voters in Kiara, Lockridge and southern Beechboro at the north-eastern end of the electorate, who go to Cowan, and 9000 in eastern Dianella further to the west, who go to Stirling. Labor is strong around Lockridge and weaker around West Perth, so the changes are to the advantage of the Liberals, paring the margin back by 1.8% to 2.6%. The retiring member is Alannah MacTiernan, who has served a single term in Perth after an earlier career in state parliament from 1993 to 2010, which included a tenure as a senior minister in the Gallop-Carpenter government of 2001 to 2008.




An electorate bearing the name of Perth has existed since federation, with the entirety of the metropolitan area having been divided between it and Fremantle until parliament was expanded in 1949. It then assumed more familiar dimensions, with Curtin created to accommodate the western suburbs and the metropolitan fringes taken over by Swan. Perth was held from federation until 1922 by James Fowler, first as a Labor member and then as a Liberal and Nationalist following his defection in 1909. It remained in conservative hands until John Curtin’s wartime landslide of 1943, when it was gained for Labor by Tom Burke, father of Brian. Burke held the seat until defeated in 1955 by Liberal candidate Fred Chaney Sr, whose son Fred Chaney Jr, was a Fraser government minister, Senator and member for Pearce. Chaney was in turn unseated in 1969 by Joe Berinson, a junior minister in the Whitlam government and later a state Attorney-General. Berinson was narrowly defeated by Liberal candidate Ross McLean in 1975, when Labor lost all its seats in WA except Fremantle.

Redistributions in 1977 and 1990 respectively reoriented Perth westwards to the advantage of the Liberals, and back eastwards to the advantage of Labor. Australian hockey captain Ric Charlesworth was able to gain and hold the seat for Labor on the tougher boundaries from 1983, and bequeathed a solid margin to Stephen Smith in 1993. The seat continued to trend in Labor’s favour thereafter, remarkably producing a slight positive swing amid John Howard’s landslide win in 1996. After serving as Foreign Minister and then Defence Minister in the Rudd-Gillard government, Smith announced his decision to bow out of federal politics on the eve of Kevin Rudd’s successful leadership challenge in June 2013. The seat then passed to Alannah MacTiernan, whose political ambitions had been thwarted on a number of fronts since the defeat of the Carpenter government in 2008. MacTiernan first sought a federal berth at the 2010 election in the seat of Canning on Perth’s southern fringe, and while she strongly bucked the statewide trend in halving Liberal member Don Randall’s margin, she still fell short by 2.2%. A swing against her in Perth of 1.5% in 2013 was well in line with the statewide result, suggesting the gain of her own personal vote cancelled out the loss of Smith’s.

Following MacTiernan’s unexpected retirement announcement in February, a Labor preselection was won without oppoosition by Tim Hammond, a barrister specialising in representing asbestos disease victims. Hammond was the Right faction’s nominee for the party’s national presidency last year, and ultimately took one of the two vice-president positions. It had long been felt he would be at the front of the queue the next time an appropriate federal berth presented itself, and MacTiernan’s retirement offered him the opportunity to run in his home electorate. Hammond unsuccessfully contested the marginal seat of Swan at the 2010 election, and was initially set to contest the Perth preselection when Stephen Smith retired in 2013, before agreeing to stand aside for MacTiernan. His Liberal opponent is employment consultant Jeremy Quinn, who won preselection ahead of Darryl Moore, the candidate from 2013; Leona Gu, a property developer and real estate agent; and Trudi Lang, who has had roles in France and Switzerland with the OECD and World Economic Forum.

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.

4 comments on “Seat du jour: Perth”

  1. Hi William

    Pity you have to squeeze all your work into a few weeks, thanks to Malcolm and his DD.

    How many seats have you still to do?

    You must be getting close to 150 now.

    Could you post a link so we can get all of them?

  2. Was there some sort of personal or health issue with McTiernan? Seems strange that she would transfer to federal politics and then bow out after a single term in Opposition.

    Labor should win with the projected swing back in WA, but on these boundaries the seat should be quite competitive in the longer term.

  3. @ markmulcair, 2

    The talk I heard suggested it might have been that she’s angling for a return to state politics, but that could just be speculation.

  4. The impression I had from the press coverage was that MacTiernan was unimpressed she hadn’t gotten rapid promotion in Canberra and wanted to contemplate a return to state politics. Which then fell over disastrously when there was pretty obviously no appetite for her ousting Mark McGowan, running for a lower house seat was unpopular because it looked like a challenge to McGowan, and then she forgot to nominate for the upper house in time. I suspect she just reached her point where her ego outstripped people’s interest in supporting her for anything senior, state or federal.

Leave a Reply

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