Welcome to episode five of Seat du jour, an opportunity for you to read about and (hopefully) discuss the individual contests that will determine the May 18 election. Earlier instalments covered Lindsay, Gilmore, Dickson and La Trobe.
Today takes us for the first time to Western Australia, specifically to the seat of Pearce, where Attorney-General Christian Porter is perhaps the highest ranked member of the government in the electoral firing line. A defeat for the Liberals would be their first since the electorate was created in 1990, and mark a watershed in the seat’s tranformation from semi-rural and conservative to outer suburban and marginal. Two distinct areas of outer northern Perth have come to dominate the electorate: the northernmost coastal suburbs around Mindarie, with their collective population of more than 50,000, which have developed entirely over the past three decades; and the still more recently developed Ellenbrook, which together with neighbouring Aveley is home to more than 30,000 people. From there it extends northwards and eastwards beyond metropolitan Perth to encompass coastal Lancelin and the towns of the Avon Valley.
Christian Porter came to the seat in 2013 after a career in state politics that began in 2008, which by December 2010 had brought him to the position of Treasurer in the Barnett government – and, it was presumed, the status of Premier-apparent. Then came the surprise announcement in mid-2012 that he was switching to federal politics, in what proved an astute assessment of the federal and state Liberals’ future prospects. The seat of Pearce appeared a safe bet for him in 2013, but his vulnerability was established by a 5.7% swing to Labor in 2016. In the meantime, Porter rose up the party food chain to cabinet in September 2015 and his present position as Attorney-General in December 2017. In common with four of his Western Australian colleagues, but very few others, Porter backed Malcolm Turnbull when Peter Dutton challenged his leadership in August 2018, then decisively defected over the next few days, ultimately voting for Dutton over Scott Morrison in the second round.
Labor’s candidate is Kim Travers, a decorated police superintendent factionally aligned with the Left. Two polls during the campaign have suggested there is nothing in it, the most recent of which is today’s result from YouGov Galaxy crediting Porter with a 51-49 lead, from primary votes of Liberal 40%, Labor 35%, Greens 11%, One Nation 5% and United Australia Party 2%. At the start of the campaign, Newspoll recorded a dead heat on two-party preferred, from primary votes of Liberal 40%, Labor 36%, Greens 8%, United Australia Party 8% and One Nation 6%. The respective samples for the polls were 525 and 509.