To crank up the action a little ahead of the big occasion, there will henceforth be daily posts profiling key seats, and accompanying threads for discussing them. Today we visit the south coast New South Wales seat of Gilmore (full election guide entry here), where the Liberals are defending a 0.7% margin in the absence of retiring incumbent Ann Sudmalis, the member since 2013. This has developed into a complicated contest between high-profile Liberal candidate Warren Mundine; an independent, Grant Schultz, who was elbowed aside as Liberal candidate to make way for Mundine; a well-credentialled Nationals candidate in former state government minister Katrina Hodgkinson; and the Labor candidate, Fiona Phillips. In a snub to Mundine, Hodgkinson has received endorsements from both Ann Sudmalis and her predecessor, Joanna Gash.
Gilmore was created in 1984 and held for its first decade by the Nationals, before a redistribution exchanged interior territory for Kiama in the southern Illawarra, strengthening Labor and causing the Liberals to supplant the Nationals as the competitive Coalition party. Peter Knott gained the seat for Labor in 1993, then fell with the Keating government’s defeat in 1996, when Joanna Gash picked up a decisive swing of 6.7%. Gash established a strong electoral record in retaining the seat through to her retirement in 2013, her best win coming with a 10.1% swing when Peter Knott attempted a comeback in 2001. This may have been influenced by Knott’s assertion during the campaign that the recent September 11 attacks had been a case of American foreign policy “coming back to bite them”.
Gash’s successor, Ann Sudmalis, had an unspectacular electoral debut in 2013, suffering a 2.7% swing despite the heavy defeat of the Labor government. She was then saved at the 2016 election by a 1.3% redistribution adjustment, which was followed by a 3.0% swing that brought the margin inside 1%. Recent reports suggest the Liberals are not optimistic – in an account of a potential pathway to victory being plotted by party strategists, Saturday’s Financial Review listed Gilmore among four seats rated almost beyond salvaging, and thus in need of balancing with gains from Labor elsewhere. Another recent report in The Age said Labor’s internal polling had them ahead, by an unspecified margin.