Margin: Labor 1.3%*
Region: Hunter Region, New South Wales
Outgoing member: Bob Baldwin (Liberal)
* Liberal-held seat made notionally Labor by redistribution
In a nutshell: The radical rearrangement of the Hunter region in the New South Wales redistribution has been greatly to the advantage of Labor in Paterson, where Liberal member Bob Baldwin has opted to bow out.
Candidates in ballot paper order
The Hunter region electorate of Paterson has undergone radical change in the latest redistribution, with knock-on effects from the abolition of Charlton further to the south changing its complexion from a largely rural conservative seat to a highly marginal one dominated by the urban centres of Maitland and Kurri Kurri. The seat is to be vacated at the election by Liberal member Bob Baldwin, whose decision to retire appeared to be influenced by the blow the redistribution had dealt him. Continuity between the old Paterson and the new is maintained through eastern Maitland and the Port Stephens centres of Raymond Terrace and Medowie, accounting for 55,000 voters, but 45,000 voters in rural territory north to the coastal population centre of Forster-Tuncurry have been transferred to Lyne. Forty thousand voters in western Maitland and Kurri Kurri are gained from Hunter, together with 14,000 around Thornton and Beresfield from Newcastle. The combined effect of the changes is to transform a 9.8% Liberal margin from 2013 into a notional Labor margin of 1.3%.
Paterson was created in its current form in 1993, reviving a name that applied to a seat between 1949 and 1984 that extended west from Maitland through rural areas to Muswellbrook and Scone, which was held by the Liberals until 1969 and the National/Country Party thereafter. The revived seat was considerably more marginal by virtue of being oriented further to the east, having been won for Labor by Bob Horne in 1993, gained for the Liberals by Bob Baldwin in 1996, won back by Horne in 1998, and then recovered by Baldwin in 2001. Baldwin was assisted on the latter occasion by a redistribution that added Forster and Tuncurry, resulting in a 2.5% shift that made the seat notionally Liberal. He faced an opponent other than Bob Horne for the first time in 2004, and gained a 5.5% swing that helped sustain him against a 4.8% swing to Labor in 2007. His hold on the seat was then secured with successive swings of 4.8% in 2010 and 4.4% in 2013.
After the new boundaries were unveiled, it was reported that Bob Baldwin was considering quitting the Liberal Party to run against Nationals member David Gillespie as an independent in Lyne. However, he shortly ruled out the idea, declaring himself “completely loyal” to the Liberal Party, and ultimately announced his decision to retire in April. The new Liberal candidate is Karen Howard, a Newcastle businesswoman who performed well as an independent candidate in the Newcastle state by-election of October 2015, and ran for the Liberals in the seat at the state election the following March. She also made headlines last August after she attacked a 16-year-old high school student’s geography project as “appalling” and “a waste of time”. Labor’s candidate is Meryl Swanson, a local radio announcer, who won preselection ahead of Robert Roseworne, a community campaigner and boarding kennel owner.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.