New South Wales election 2015


Margin: Labor 9.3%
Region: Illawarra Region
Federal: Cunningham (66%)/Throsby (34%)

Candidates in ballot paper order



No Land Tax

Liberal (bottom)

Christian Democratic Party


Australian Cyclists Party

Labor (top)





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

Traditionally a Labor bastion, Wollongong has been held for the party since 2003 by Noreen Hay, who survived the 2011 disaster by a 0.9% margin ahead of independent candidate Gordon Bradbery. On its present boundaries, the electorate covers the coast for about seven kilometres in either direction from central Wollongong, as far as Towradgi in the north and Windang in the south. From there it extends inland to Mount Kembla and Berkeley on the northern bank of Lake Illawarra. The redistribution sees it gain 5200 voters in Figtree at the northern coastal end from Keira, while losing 2000 in Brownsville and Kanahooka at the interior end to Shellharbour. In Labor-versus-Liberal terms, the changes increase the Labor margin from 8.9% to 9.3%.

Since it was first created in 1904, Wollongong’s existence as an electorate has been interrupted between 1920 and 1927, when single-member electorates were replaced with multi-member districts; between 1930 and 1941, when Wollongong was renamed Illawarra and Illawarra renamed Bulli; and between 1941 and 1968, when it had the name Wollongong-Kembla. Labor’s collective dominion over Wollongong, Illawarra, Wollongong-Kembla was disturbed on three occasions: when sitting member John Nicholson defected to the Nationalists in the split of 1917, followed by his defeat at the election the next year; when Jack Hough held the seat for the Liberals from 1965 to 1971; and when Frank Arkell held it as an independent from 1984 to 1991. Labor’s member from 1950 to 1963 was Rex Connor, who later held the local federal seat of Cunningham from 1963 until his death in 1977, and was famously a principal of the Khemlani loans affair as the Whitlam government’s Minerals and Energy Minister.

Frank Arkell won election as an independent on his second attempt in 1984, having served as Lord Mayor of Wollongong since 1974 and come within 51 votes of unseating Labor member Eric Ramsay on his first attempt in 1981. With Ramsay retiring at the 1984 election, Labor’s candidate was Rex Connor Jr, the son of the late former member, whom Arkell defeated by a margin of 4.2%. The redistribution before the 1988 election set up a contest between Arkell and the Labor member for the abolished neighbouring seat of Corrimal, Laurie Kelly, in which Arkell prevailed by 5.5%. The seat returned to the Labor fold when Gerry Sullivan secured an 8.6% winning margin over Arkell in 1991. Arkell was brutally murdered in 1998, two months before he was due to face court on child sex charges.

Gerry Sullivan held the seat for Labor until the 1999 election, when his preselection was successfully challenged by Left faction colleague Col Markham after a post-redistribution deal delivered Markham’s existing seat of Keira to the Right. Markham in turn fell victim to a preselection challenge from a fellow Left faction member ahead of the 2003 election, when the seat passed on to present incumbent Noreen Hay, formerly a Miscellaneous Workers Union official and electorate officer to federal Throsby MP Jennie George. Support from local councillor and numbers man Kiril Jonovski, along with lingering resentment at the manner of Markham’s imposition in 1999, were said to have been the crucial factors behind Hay’s winning the preselection vote by a 95-81 margin against the urgings of Bob Carr, who said Markham was an “ideal member”.

Hay’s relationship with her Left faction was widely seen to have deteriorated as a result of the preselection ructions, and by the end of her first year in parliament she had defected to the Right. She was twice dumped from parliamentary secretary positions during Labor’s last term in office, in the first instance after being named in an inquiry into corruption in Wollongong Council, and in the second after an incident in which Kiama MP Matt Brown danced semi-naked in her office during a late-night party and, it was alleged – though denied by both – simulated a sex act on her, costing him his job as Police Minister. The then Premier, Nathan Rees, denied that Hay’s demotion was related to the incident.

Hay faced a strong challenge at the 2011 election from Gordon Bradbery, then a Wesley Uniting Church minister and now the Lord Mayor of Wollongong. Bradbery comfortably outpolled the Liberal candidate to take second place, with Hay on 35.6% and Bradbery on 29.5%, but Hay made it home by 674 votes at the final count. The result was unsuccessfully challenged in court by Bradbery, who claimed voting irregularities and distribution of fake how-to-vote cards. Hay’s preselection ahead of the coming election was challenged by University of Wollongong academic Paul Scully and Wollongong councillor Ann Martin, but she secured an easy victory in the local ballot with 80 votes to 35 for Scully and 13 for Martin. There had also been talk of challenges ahead of the 2011 election, but she ultimately went unopposed after the withdrawal of two rival contenders.

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

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