Margin: Liberal 2.0%
Region: South Metropolitan
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JOE DELLE DONNE
Electorate analysis: The inner southern metropolitan seat of Riverton has been a key seat over recent decades, shifting decisively to Labor when Geoff Gallop came to power in 2001 and delivering a crucial 64-vote victory to Liberal candidate Mike Nahan in 2008. It covers the southern bank of the Canning River from Rossmoyne east through Shelley to Riverton, extending south through Willetton and Parkwood to the Canning Vale prison site. The redistribution has done the Liberals by adding Rossmoyne and its 2200 voters from Bateman, boosting the Liberal margin from 0.2% to 2.0%.
The electorate was created at the 1989 election with the abolition of Liberal-held Clontarf in the north and Labor-held Canning in the south. It was held for its first 12 years by Graham Kierath, the Court government’s high-profile Workplace Relations Minister. Kierath’s 6.7% margin going into the 2001 election was eliminated by a swing of 9.7%, which greatly surprised him as he watched the disaster unfold while commentating on the ABC’s election night panel, and brought much joy to his many critics in the union movement. Kierath has made a number of unsuccessful bids to return since, both as a preselection candidate and as the Liberals’ unsuccessful candidate against independent Janet Woollard in Alfred Cove in 2005.
Riverton was held for Labor through the Gallop-Carpenter years by Tony McRae, a former National Native Title Tribunal research director. McRae had a troubled run for re-election during the 2005 campaign, when The West Australian devoted its last two front pages before polling day to the matter of a dummy candidate said to have been nominated by the Labor camp without her own knowledge (McRae would later be cleared of misconduct following an investigation by the Corruption and Crime Commission). He nonetheless gained survived a 1.4% on two-party preferred, which required him to pick up 5.2% on the primary vote due to the absence of One Nation preferences which had boosted him in 2001.
McRae was promoted to cabinet as Environment Minister in December 2006, but months later became a third ministerial victim of the Corruption and Crime Commission, which produced a recorded phone conversation of McRae discussed fundraising assistance with Brian Burke’s lobbyist colleague Julian Grill. The two had earlier discussed a planning matter affecting a client of Grill’s, which McRae did not tell Grill he had already signed off on. However, no formal proceedings ensued over the matter. McRae went on to suffer a relatively mild swing of 2.1% at the 2008 election, but this was just sufficient to erase his slightly reduced post-redistribution margin.
The victorious Liberal candidate was Mike Nahan, who had a national profile as a former executive director of the Institute of Public Affairs. Nahan had been reconsidering his candidacy four months before the election because he believed the Troy Buswell chair-sniffing incident had made it almost impossible for him to win. Despite his background, it took Nahan until June 2012 to win promotion to parliamentary secretary for education, energy and indigenous affairs. He has landed a pedigree Labor opponent at the election in Hannah Beazley, daughter of local political hero Kim Beazley and marketing manager at private girls school Penhros College.
The Liberals went into the 2008 election promising $166 million would be spent on extending the Roe Highway through Bibra Lake to Stock Road south of Fremantle, thereby filling the last missing link in what was envisioned a metropolitan ring road. However, as the end of the term came into view the project remained under consideration by the Environmental Protection Authority. While the project involves enormously contentious construction through the Beeliar wetlands, which caused the previous Labor government to abandon the project on environmental grounds, it would be of value to the marginal Liberal seat of Riverton further north by reducing heavy traffic on Leach Highway. Labor has included a dividend from scrapping the project in its savings measures for Metronet.