New South Wales election 2015


Margin: Liberal 9.2%*
Region: Hunter Region
Federal: Shortland (70%)/Newcastle (22%)/Charlton (8%)
* Labor 20.8% versus Greens at by-election on 25/10/2014

Candidates in ballot paper order





Labor (top)

No Land Tax

Christian Democratic Party

Liberal (bottom)





Two-party preferred booth results from 2011 state election showing Labor majority in red and Nationals in green. New boundaries in thicker blue lines, old ones in thinner red lines. Boundary data courtesy of Ben Raue of The Tally Room.

The southern Newcastle seat of Charlestown is one of three Labor has gained since its 2011 election rout, in this case at a by-election held on October 25, 2014. Another was the neighbouring seat of Newcastle on the same day, both by-elections being occasioned by the resignation of Liberal MPs after Independent Commission Against Corruption revelations concerning donations from property developers, and both being forfeited by the Liberal Party in what its state director Tony Nutt described as “an explicit act of atonement”. Whereas Labor was run close in the Newcastle by-election by independent candidate Karen Howard, Labor’s Jodie Harrison effortlessly prevailed in Charlestown with 49.3% of the primary vote and a 20.8% two-party margin over the Greens.

Charlestown covers the coastal suburbs of Whitebridge and Dudley immediately south of the Newcastle electorate, and extends inland through Charlestown and Gateshead to Warners Bay and Eleebana on the shore of Lake Macquarie. The redistribution has added further coastal territory in the south at Redhead, accounting for 2700 voters formerly in Swansea, along with 2500 around Adamstown and 2600 immediately north of the rail line at the northern end of the electorate, who are respectively gained from Newcastle and Wallsend. In the north-west of the electorate, 2750 voters around Cardiff South are transferred to Lake Macquarie. Based on 2011 election figures, the changes have cut the Liberal margin by 0.7%.

Labor’s defeat in 2011 was its first in Charlestown in a history going back to 1971. The area had previously been accommodated by the electorate of Kahibah, which was likewise in Labor hands going back to the abolition of proportional representation in 1927, outside of the brief reign of an independent Labor member in the early 1950s. The seat was held for Labor from 1972 to 2003 by Richard Face, who served as Gaming Minister for the first two terms of the Carr government and was convicted in December 2004 of making a false statement to the Independent Commission Against Corruption. His retirement announcement less than four months before the March 2003 election was used as the pretext for a ballot under the party’s contentious N40 rule, allowing the Right-controlled administrative committee equal say along with the local branches. Unusually for such a ballot, head office failed to get its way, the winner being the Left-backed Matthew Morris, the son and nephew of former local federal MPs Peter and Allan Morris.

Morris held the seat by margins of 14.7% in 2003 and 14.6% in 2007, before coming undone in 2011 by a swing of 24.4%, the ninth largest of the election. The victorious Liberal candidate was Andrew Cornwell, a local veterinarian. Cornwell secured the position of government whip in the new parliament, but his career began to unravel last August when he conceded at the Independent Commission Against Corruption that he had received a $10,000 cash donation from property developer and Newcastle lord mayor Jeff McCloy, and paid a heavily inflated sum to another property developer for a painting and used the proceeds on a payroll tax bill. Cornwell then stood aside from the Liberal Party and announced he would not contest the next election. The following week, he resigned from parliament after Newcastle MP Tim Owen revealed that Cornwell had told him he was concerned ICAC knew of the donation from McCloy through overhearing a conversation he had with his wife.

Labor’s winning candidate at the by-election was Jodie Harrison, previously the mayor of Lake Macquarie, who had won preselection for the seat in June without opposition.

Corrections, complaints and feedback to William Bowe at pollbludger-at-bigpond-dot-com. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.

Back to Crikey’s New South Wales election guide

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