Seat du jour: Berowra

The northern Sydney Liberal fiefdom of Berowra is set to pass on from the Father of the House, Phillip Ruddock, to Julian Leeser, former executive director of Liberal-aligned think tank the Menzies Research Centre.

The safe Liberal seat of Berowra in northern Sydney is to be vacated at the coming election by current parliament’s longest serving member, Phillip Ruddock, who entered parliament in 1973 and came to Berowra in 1993. The electorate combines a populous southern end consisting of affulent suburbs in Sydney’s outer north, including Pennant Hills, Cherrybrook and western Hornsby, with national parks and thinly populated territory out to the Hawkesbury River in the north. The latest redistribution adds two areas in the west and east of the southern end of the electorate, respectively encompassing parts of Castle Hill (from Mitchell) and Thornleigh and Normanhurst (from Bradfield), each of which accounts for between 3500 and 4000 voters. The changes have had no effect on the Liberal margin.

Berowra was created in 1969 from an area that had been accommodated by Mitchell during a period of rapid development from 1955 onwards. The Liberals have held the seat at all times, the smallest margin having been 8.9% at the 2007 election. It was held for the first term of its existence by Tom Hughes, Attorney-General in the Gorton government and father-in-law of the current Prime Minister, who came to the new seat upon the abolition of his existing south-western Sydney seat of Parkes (no relation to today’s rural electorate of the same name). Hughes was succeeded on his retirement in 1972 by Harry Edwards, who was in turn succeeded by Phillip Ruddock in 1993.

Phillip Ruddock was first elected in September 1973 to the seat of Parramatta, where he picked up a 7% swing at the first by-election faced by the Whitlam government. When Parramatta was divided down the middle at the 1977 redistribution, Ruddock assumed the reasonably safe new seat of Dundas, which took the old Parramatta’s eastern end. Dundas was abolished in 1993, and Berowra absorbed its particularly wealthy and conservative area of Dundas around Beecroft, while most of the rest went back to the now Labor-held seat of Parramatta. A potential stand-off was avoided through the retirement of Harry Edwards, allowing Ruddock to complete his transition from marginal Parramatta to safe Berowra.

Ruddock’s positions as Immigration Minister and Attorney-General made him a key figure in the Howard government, and there was some surprise at his determination to serve three further terms beyond its demise. Liberal branches in Berowra became a focus of considerable activity in anticipation of his retirement, with the growing strength of the religious Right a cause of concern to both Ruddock and his ultimate Liberal successor, Julian Leeser. Ruddock indicated he would be interested in replacing Bronwyn Bishop as Speaker in August 2015, but the party instead turned to Victorian MP Tony Smith. Now aged 72, Ruddock finally announced his intention to retire in February, amid doubts he would have been able to retain his preselection if he remained.

Julian Leeser easily won the ensuing preselection ballot with 97 votes in the first round, compared with just ten for local barrister Robert Armitage, who came second in a field of four. Leeser is a former executive director of Liberal-aligned think tank the Menzies Research Centre, and has more recently been director of government policy and strategy at the Australian Catholic University. He is of Jewish background, and has variously been said to be factionally unaligned or attached to the Centre Right. Leeser’s first bid for preselection was when Bredan Nelson retired in the neighbouring seat of Bradfield in late 2009, in which he was defeated 60-51 in the final round by Paul Fletcher.

Seat du jour: Mackellar

With Liberal preselectors having voted on the weekend to put an end to Bronwyn Bishop’s reign of terror, the blue-ribbon northern beaches Sydney seat of Mackellar is set to pass on to only its fourth member since it was created in 1949.

Mackellar covers blue-ribbon territory on Sydney’s northern beaches, and has been held by the Liberal Party since its creation in 1949. After one of the highest profile preselection battles of recent history, the seat is set to be vacated at the coming election by Bronwyn Bishop, its member since 1994. The electorate runs along the coast from Collaroy north to the Pittwater peninsula and inland to Duffys Forest and Frenchs Forest, and has not been affected by the redistribution. This area was covered by Warringah since its creation in 1922, and previously by North Sydney. None of the relevant seats was ever held by Labor, whose closest margin in Mackellar was 5.2% when the Whitlam government came to power in 1972. Bishop is only the third member in Mackellar’s history, her predecessors having been Jim Carlton from 1977 to to 1994, and William Wentworth from 1949 to 1977.

Bronwyn Bishop was elected to the Senate in 1987, and rose to fame with a blunderbuss assault on Trevor Boucher of the Australian Taxation Commission during a committee inquiry. It was with an eye to the prime ministership that she moved to Mackellar at a by-election in March 1994, but her electoral performance proved surprisingly poor, with 23.1% of the vote going to independent candidate Bob Ellis, the late pro-Labor writer and commentator. Bishop took the Liberal primary vote backwards by 4.4%, despite the lack of a Labor candidate. Bishop was given the junior defence industry portfolio when the Howard government was collected, winning promotion to aged care after the 1998 election. She went on to serve in junior ministry positions in the early Howard years, but her standing suffered when she oversaw the kereosene baths affair as Aged Care Minister in 2000, so named for a treatment for scabies that had been used in a Melbourne nursing home.

An ambition to become Speaker appeared to motivate Bishop to sustain her political career after Labor came to power in 2007, so it came as a surprise when Tony Abbott found a place for her in the shadow outer ministry when he became leader in December 2009, notwithstanding Abbott’s description of himself as “the ideological love-child of John Howard and Bronwyn Bishop”. She was duly elevated to the Speakership when Abbott led the Coalition to power in September 2013, and was universally acclaimed as the most partisan occupant of the position in living memory. Her tenure in the position came to an end in August 2015 after a media firestorm over her chartering of a helicopter to attend a party fundraiser, and related acts of extravagance. Abbott stood by Bishop for a fortnight before her position became intolerable, dangerously weakening his hold on the leadership in the months before he was deposed by Malcolm Turnbull. Bishop rewarded Abbott by voting for Turnbull, evidently being of the view that his defence of her should have continued indefinitely.

Bishop’s first preselection battle came before the 2013 election, when she was challenged unsuccessfully by Jim Longley, who had held the state seat of Pittwater from 1986 to 1996 and served as a minister in John Fahey’s government. She was 72 by the time she lost the Speakership, but showed characteristic determination in insisting on seeking another term. Seven challengers initially nominated, the most durable of whom proved to be Jason Falinksi, owner of a health care equipment business, former adviser to John Hewson and Barry O’Farrell and campaign manager to Malcolm Turnbull in Wentworth in 2004, and Walter Villatora, a party activist who has spearheaded a campaign for preselection reforms that are principally favoured by the hard Right, and a close ally of Tony Abbott’s as the president of the Liberal Party’s Warringah branch.

Reports initially suggested that Bishop would be saved by her base of local support and backing from the Centre Right faction, although conservatives were so angered by her support for Turnbull they favoured the seat going to a moderate. Attitudes hardened after prominent local Dick Smith threatened to run as an independent if Bishop won preselection, and a poll was circulated showing he would easily defeat her at the election. Shortly before the ballot, it was reported that Scott Morrison was signalling that the party leadership wished to see Bishop defeated. After the also-rans were excluded in the first round of the April 16 preselection vote, Falinski had 40 votes to Bishop’s 37 and Villatora’s 12. Villatora’s exclusion saw the hard Right vote lock in behind Falinski, who prevailed in the final round by 51 votes to 39.

Seat du jour: Moreton

The southern Brisbane seat of Moreton has a long history as a marginal seat, but it hasn’t always reflected the national trend – as Labor’s Graham Perrett showed when he slightly increased his majority in 2013.

Moreton is a traditionally marginal seat in southern Brisbane that the current member, Graham Perrett, did well to retain for Labor amid poor results for the party in Queensland in 2010 and 2013. It extends from the southern Brisbane riverside suburbs of Oxley, Sherwood and Yeronga out to Runcorn and Acacia Ridge, the latter area being the more favourable for Labor. The seat has existed in name since federation, but was based on the Gold Coast and Brisbane’s southern outskirts until McPherson was created to accommodate the Gold Coast when parliament expanded in 1949. Moreton then began a long drift north into the inner suburbs, transforming the seat from safely conservative to marginal.




The Liberals’ first near-miss came with Jim Killen’s famous 130-vote win in 1961, achieved with help from Communist Party preference leakage, which allowed the Menzies government to survive with a one-seat majority. Killen had come to the seat in 1955 and remained until 1983, serving as Defence Minister from 1975 to 1982. He retired in the aftermath of the Fraser government’s defeat in 1983, when his own margin was reduced to 1.6%, initiating a by-election held the following November. This was won for the Liberals on a margin of 2.8% by Don Cameron, who had served in Griffith from 1969 to 1977, then moved to the seat of Fadden south of Brisbane, where he was unseated at the 1983 election. Cameron was defeated in Moreton at the 1990 election by Labor’s Garrie Gibson, amid a weak performance for the Coalition across Queensland that reflected its low stocks at that point at state level.

Garrie Gibson survived a small swing to the Liberals in 1993 before being hit by the statewide tidal wave of 1996, when he suffered what by Queensland standards was a modest swing of 4.9%. The new Liberal member was Gary Hardgrave, a former children’s television host and media adviser to Senator David MacGibbon. Hardgrave held junior ministry positions from 2001 to 2005 while maintaining a tenuous grip on his seat, surviving a 4.2% swing in 1998 and an unfavourable redistribution in 2004. Redistribution further chipped away at his margin before the 2007 election, and he was unseated by a 7.5% swing to Labor in 2007. He has since kept in the public eye as the drive presenter on Fairfax Radio’s Brisbane station 4BC.

Moreton has since been held for Labor by Graham Perrett, who had previously been an adviser to the Queensland Resources Council, and was earlier a state ministerial staffer and official with the Queensland Independent Education Union. Perrett enjoyed what proved to be a decisive 1.4% boost at the redistribution before the 2010 election, after which a 4.9% swing cut his margin to 1.1%. During Labor’s second term in office he threatened to quit parliament if the party changed leaders again, a position he backed away from when Kevin Rudd was marshalling his unsuccessful leadership challenge in February 2012. With Rudd back as leader, Labor had a better result in Queensland than it had long feared, with Perrett actually recording a 0.4% swing in his favour. In July 2014 he was promoted to the position of Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Attorney-General.

The Liberal National Party has preselected Nic Monsour, managing director of a consultancy and brother-in-law of Campbell Newman.

Seat du jour: Griffith

Kevin Rudd’s former electorate was last lost by Labor during his failed first bid for parliament in 1996, but the Liberal National Party came close to reeling it in at the by-election held upon his retirement in February 2014.

Held from 1998 to 2014 by Kevin Rudd, the Labor-held seat of Griffith covers inner Brisbane immediately south of the Brisbane River, from South Brisbane east to Bulimba and Queensport, south to Annerley and south-west to Carina Heights. The area is a mixed bag electorally, and includes the Greens’ strongest support base in Queensland around South Brisbane and West End, the scene of the party’s victory in The Gabba ward at the Brisbane City Council election in March. Griffith has an effectively unbroken existence going back to federation, but it was called Oxley prior to 1934, a name that was later revived for an unrelated new Ipswich-based seat in 1949. It has been highly marginal for much of its history, having changed hands between Liberal and Labor in 1949, 1954, 1958, 1961, 1966, 1977, 1996 and 1998. The Labor margin narrowed to 3.0% at Rudd’s swansong election in 2013, and then to 1.8% at the by-election held to replace him on February 8, 2014. The last extended period of Liberal control was from 1966 to 1977, when Don Cameron first gained it as part of the Harold Holt landslide, then retained it through the Whitlam years with help from a favourable redistribution in 1969. The next redistribution before the 1977 election shifted the seat heavily in Labor’s favour, resulting in Cameron’s move to the new Gold Coast seat of Fadden, and Griffith being won for Labor by Ben Humphreys.




The Labor preselection held when Humphreys retired ahead of the 1996 election was won by Kevin Rudd, a former diplomat who had wielded great influence as chief-of-staff to Wayne Goss during his tenure as Queensland Premier from 1989 to 1996. Rudd established a factional association during this time with the locally dominant Australian Workers Union sub-faction of the Right, which secured his preselection despite grumblings that the state branch was failing to meet affirmative action obligations. In the event, the statewide rout suffered by Labor in 1996 saw Rudd fall at his first electoral hurdle, with Graeme McDougall gaining the seat for the Liberals with a swing of 6.2%. Rudd returned for a second attempt amid the far more favourable circumstances of 1998, and picked up a 3.9% swing to prevail over McDougall by a margin of 2.4%.

Rudd established a formidable electoral record during his time as member for Griffith, picking up 3.3% and 2.4% swings against the trend of the 2001 and 2004 elections. The electorate was substantially reshaped by redistribution at the 2004 election, absorbing inner city areas at East Brisbane, South Brisbane and Dutton Park, while its eastern parts were hived off to the new seat of Bonner. In what may have been an early portent of Rudd’s electoral impact, the booths which transferred out of the electorate swung heavily to the Liberals in his absence, contribuing to a surprise Labor defeat in Bonner. Rudd enjoyed a further 3.8% swing as his party’s candidate for the prime ministership in 2007, and as its recently spurned ex-leader in 2010 he suffered what by Queensland standards was a relatively mild swing of 3.9%. The mood appeared to have hardened when Rudd had the opportunity to contest the seat as Prime Minister in 2013, with a 5.5% swing reducing the margin to 3.0%.

Kevin Rudd made an unheralded announcement of his decision to retire from politics on November 13, 2013, initiating the by-election held three months later. This developed into a keenly fought contest between Labor’s Terri Butler, a Left-aligned industrial relations lawyer with Maurice Blackburn, and the Liberal National Party’s Bill Glasson, an ophthalmologist, former Australian Medical Association president and son of a former Nationals MP and state minister, who also ran against Rudd in 2013. With the collapse in support for the Abbott government after the 2014 budget still two months away, Butler fought off Glasson’s challenge only with difficulty, and emerged with an uncomfortable winning margin of 1.8%. In October 2015 she won promotion to the position of Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Child Safety and Prevention of Family Violence.

The Liberal National Party candidate is Fiona Ward, a small business owner, former staffer to Mermaid Beach MP Ray Stevens and candidate for South Brisbane at the 2015 state election. Greens candidate Karen Anderson is manager of a legal practice, and ran in the Holland Park ward at the council election in March.

Seat du jour: Flynn

The Gladstone-based seat of Flynn formed part of Kevin Rudd’s sweep through Queensland when it was created in 2007, then joined the exodus in the opposite direction after he was dumped in 2010.

The central Queensland seat of Flynn was created in 2007, and is one of four electorates that have been created to accommodate the state’s population explosion in 1998. Central to the electorate is Gladstone, which had previously been in Hinkler since that seat’s creation in 1984, and before that was in Capricornia. To this area of Labor strength is added conservative rural territory encompassing the Capricornia Highway towns out to Emerald in the west, and the Burnett Highway through Monto to Gayndah in the south. Labor won the seat as part of Kevin Rudd’s statewide breakthrough in 2007, but it was among the Liberal National Party’s seven gains in Queensland in 2010, and swung further in their favour in 2013.

Flynn had a notional Nationals margin of 7.9% going into the 2007 election, at which it loomed as a key seat due to accurate expectations of a dramatic swing in Queensland. Labor’s candidate was Chris Trevor, a solicitor and former Gladstone councillor who had come close to unseating Liz Cunningham, the independent member for Gladstone, at the state election the previous year. The swing proved to be fractionally above what was required, with Trevor making it over the line by a margin of 253 votes. Trevor performed particularly well in the immediate vicinity of Gladstone, winning a swathe of booths that were lost in 2004 on double-digit swings.

Trevor publicly contemplated quitting politics in June 2010 after the dumping of Kevin Rudd, who had smoothed his path to preselection three years earlier, but did not follow through on the threat. His position in Flynn had been slightly firmed up by a redistribution that saw the seat exchange Nationals-voting territory in the interior for the Mount Morgan area south of Rockhampton, boosting his margin to 2.1%. However, this provied insufficient in the face of a swing that was roughly in line with the state average at 5.8%, and was particularly forceful in the area newly added by the redistribution.

The seat has since been held for the Liberal National Party by the Nationals-aligned Ken O’Dowd, former owner of Busteed Building Supplies in Gladstone, who strengthened his hold in 2013 with a further swing of 3.0%. O’Dowd’s Labor opponent at the coming election will be Zac Beers, a 25-year-old Gladstone-based organiser for the Right faction Australian Workers Union.


Seat du jour: Hasluck

Liberal member Ken Wyatt ended a curse of Hasluck in 2010 when he became the first member to win re-election in the eastern Perth seat, and has since gone on to become the first indigenous person to reach the front bench in a federal government.

Encompassing Perth’s outer eastern suburbs and semi-rural territory in and beyond the Darling Scarp, Hasluck was created at the 2001 election and changed hands at each election subsequently until 2013, when Liberal incumbent Ken Wyatt became its first member to win re-election. The shape of the electorate has been substantially altered in the latest redistribution, since it contributes nearly 40,000 voters to the new seat of Burt at what was formerly its southern end, an area encompassing Thornlie, Gosnells, Huntingdale and Southern River. A further 8000 voters around High Wycombe at the city end of the electorate have been transferred to Swan. The losses have been balanced by a geographically dramatic expansion into more lightly populated territory to the east, centred upon the Great Eastern Highway around Mundaring, which adds 33,000 voters who were formerly in Pearce. The changes have boosted the modest Liberal margin from 4.9% to 6.0%.




The populous western end of Hasluck extends from Midland in the north to middle-income suburbs in and around Kalamunda, and mortgage-sensitive Forrestfield and Maida Vale nearer the city. Labor’s strongest areas are at the northern and southern ends of this area, respectively around Midland and Kenwick. These areas have fairly low average incomes in common, but the latter has a greater preponderance of mortgage-paying young families. Kalamunda and the semi-rural areas further east have an older age profile and are singularly lacking in ethnic diversity, while being home to large numbers of English migrants.

Hasluck was won for Labor on its creation by Sharryn Jackson, who defended a notional Labor margin of 2.6% at the 2001 election against a Liberal swing of 0.6%. Jackson was then evicted by a further 3.6% in 2004, as Perth failed to take a shine to Mark Latham. The seat was then held for the Liberals for a term by Stuart Henry, former executive director of the Western Australian Master Plumbers Association. Jackson resisted urgings by her backers to succeed Kim Beazley in Brand when he retired in 2007, instead preferring another tilt at her old seat. She was duly successful in this endeavour at the 2007 election, picking up a swing of 3.1% to record a gain for Labor in Western Australia that partly balanced its losses in Cowan and Swan. However, she was again unseated in 2010, when her 1.3% margin was accounted for by a 0.4% shift in the redistribution followed by a swing to the Liberals of 1.4%. The Liberal hold on the seat was strengthened with a further swing of 4.3% in 2013.

The member since 2010 has been Ken Wyatt, the first ever self-identifying indigenous member of the House of Representatives. Wyatt was formerly a director of the Office of Aboriginal Health director and is the uncle of Ben Wyatt, an emerging figure on the other side of politics as the state’s Shadow Treasurer. After the September 2015 leadership change he won promotion to parliamentary secretary level as Assistant Health Minister, to which the aged care portfolio was added in February 2016. Wyatt is believed to have supported Malcolm Turnbull in the leadership vote, and had earlier been at odds with the Abbott government over its move to soften racial vilification laws, which had him threatening to cross the floor. His Labor opponent at the coming election is Bill Leadbetter, executive director of an obstetric practice and occasional history academic, who ran in Pearce in 2010.

Seat du jour: Swan

Redistribution and successive strong electoral performances have blown out the Liberal margin, but the Perth seat of Swan has a long history as a knife-edge marginal seat.

Swan is a traditionally marginal seat in Perth’s inner south-east where the Liberals have built up a solid margin over recent elections, in keeping with statewide trends. It is bounded to the north by the Swan River and to the west and south by the Canning River, extending from South Perth and Como in the west through Victoria Park and Belmont to the north-east, and due eastwards through Bentley and Cannington. A division in the electorate between an affluent and Liberal-voting west and a lower-income, Labor-voting east is reflected in the corresponding state seats of South Perth and Victoria Park, which are respectively safe for Liberal and Labor. The combination of the two areas has often left Swan finely balanced, with the result decided by margins of 164 votes in 2007, 104 votes in 2004 and 294 votes in 1993. The latest redistribution has been to the advantage of the Liberals, by reducing the Labor-voting south-eastern end of the electorate. This sends 4000 voters in Beckenam to Hasluck, 3200 in Langford to the new seat of Burt, and 5500 in Ferndale and Lynwood to Tangney, balanced by a gain of 8000 voters around High Wycombe from Hasluck. The changes turn the Liberal margin of 6.5% at the 2013 election into a notional margin of 7.6%.




The electorate of Swan has existed in name since federation, but until 1922 it covered the state’s non-metropolitan south-west, with the modern area of Swan accommodated by Fremantle. Swan was held from federation until 1918 by Sir John Forrest, explorer, colonial Premier, federation founding father and senior minister in early non-Labor governnments. In 1922 it was redrawn to encompass South Perth together with the city’s hinterland, but the former area returned to Fremantle in 1937, and Swan again became a mostly rural seat. The watershed came with the enlargement of parliament in 1949, since which time it has covered most of its current territory.

Labor only held Swan for two brief periods prior to 1969, after which it was held by Adrian Bennett until the 1975 landslide, and then for the Liberals by John Martyr. The seat returned to the Labor fold in 1980 with the election of 32-year-old Kim Beazley Jr, future party leader and son of Whitlam government minister Kim Beazley Sr. Beazley gained the seat with an 8.1% swing and strengthened his hold with a further swing of 8.6% in 1983, but the expansion of parliament in 1984 cut his margin by 4.1% by transferring inner eastern suburbs around Bassendean to Perth. A sharp swing against Labor in 1990 further pared back the margin, and Beazley began to cast around for a safer seat after surviving at the 1993 election by 294 votes. A safety hatch opened when Wendy Fatin retired in the somewhat safer seat of Brand at the 1996 election, which Beazley was nonetheless able to retain by just 387 votes.

Meanwhile, Swan was won for the Liberals at the 1996 election by Don Randall, who was unseated by a 6.4% swing to Labor in 1998 and returned in 2001 as member for Canning, where he remained until his death last year. Labor’s Kim Wilkie held Swan for the next three terms, barely surviving a poor performance by Labor across Perth in 2004 despite a disastrous campaign for his Liberal opponent. A correction after the Liberals’ under-performance in 2004 may explain the seat’s bucking of the trend in 2007, when it was one of only two seats in the country to switch from Labor to Liberal, the other being the northern Perth seat of Cowan.

Swan has since been held for the Liberals by Steve Irons, a former WA league footballer and proprietor of an air-conditioning business. Irons’ tiny margin was strengthened by successive swings of 2.8% in 2010 and 4.0% in 2013, but his electoral successes have not won him promotion from the back bench. He is believed to have supported Malcolm Turnbull in his successful leadership challenge last year, and is said to be particularly close to Scott Morrison, whom Tony Abbott’s backers accused of acquiescing to the challenge without actively supporting it. Labor’s candidate for the election is Tammy Solonec, an indigenous lawyer who ran for the Greens at the 2013 state election in an unwinnable position on an upper house ticket.

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.