Electorate: Swan Hills
Margin: Liberal 3.5%
Region: East Metropolitan
Click here for electoral boundaries map
Electorate analysis: One of three conspicuously large metropolitan electorates which cover Perth’s outskirts (along with Darling Range and Mindarie), Swan Hills encompasses the Swan Valley from Middle Swan to The Vines, the hills suburbs of Mundaring, Parkerville and Stoneville, and largely undeveloped areas at the north-eastern edge of the metropolitan area. The redistribution has transferred over 7500 voters at the north-western end in rapidly growing Ellenbrook to West Swan, while in the south-east it gains 4000 voters in Chidlow, Mount Helena and Sawyers Valley. This exchange of a largely, Labor-leaning area for a smaller, strongly Labor-leaning area has exactly cancelled out electorally, producing no change to the Liberal margin.
Swan Hills was created at the 1989 election in place of abolished Mundaring, which was itself carved out of Toodyay in 1971. Mundaring was held by Labor’s James Moiler from 1971 to 1977, when boundary changes helped deliver it to Liberal candidate Tom Herzfeld. Gavan Troy gained the seat when the Burke government was elected in 1983, and carried over as member for Swan Hills in 1989. Swan Hills was won by Liberal candidate June van de Klashorst upon Troy’s retirement in 1993 and held by her until 2001, when her 9.8% margin was wiped out by a surprise 11.8% swing (delivered in large part as preferences from One Nation, who polled 10.9%).
That result made Labor candidate Jaye Radisich, 25 years old and not long out of the National Union of Students, the second youngest member in the history of the state parliament and its youngest ever woman. Radisich survived a cancer scare during her first term and won promotion to parliamentary secretary in her second. It was widely considered that promotion to cabinet was not far off, so it came as a surprise when Radisich announced in March that she was quitting politics at the age of 32. This followed a breakdown in relations with Alan Carpenter over his refusal to support her ambition to move to the safer new seat of West Swan, which he insisted should go to his chief-of-staff Rita Saffioti. Radisich’s cancer returned two years after she bowed out of parliament, and she died in March 2012 at the age of 35.
Swan Hills was contested for Labor at the 2008 election by Graham Giffard, who had been a North Metropolitan MLC since 2000 but found his position undermined when electoral reform reduced the region from seven members to six. Giffard went on to suffer a decisive 7.1% swing in Swan Hills, comfortably accounting for a post-redistribution margin of 3.6%. The successful Liberal candidate was Frank Alban, an Italian immigrant who owned an antiques shop in Guildford and represented that area (which is located in the neighbouring Midland electorate) on Swan City Council. The election will see the Radisich name return to the ballot paper for Labor in the person of Ian Radisich, an IT consultant, policy officer and project manager, and the brother of Jaye.
As the home to the western half of Ellenbrook, which constitutes the recently proclaimed new suburb of Aveley, Swan Hills has been ground zero in the campaign debate over public transport. During the 2008 campaign the Liberals matched Labor’s promise to build a spur to Ellenbrook running off the Midland line after Bayswater station, which was spruiked in a Frank Alban campaign pamphlet, and they have been rueing the fact ever since taking office. With promised first-term spending failing to eventuate, Barnett weakly offered that it was intended as a “second-term project”, only to announce earlier in the campaign that it was being scrapped altogether.
The concept’s demise was hastened by a consultants’ report on the future of Perth’s public transport system, which recommended a $61 million rapid transit bus service as a more viable alternative. However, Barnett told a media conference earlier this week that this too had been knocked on the head. This caused further embarrassment for Alban, who had written in a letter to constituents that the work on the project was under way. Barnett offered that locals would sooner have the money spent on the two major roads projects it would pursue: the so-called “Perth to Darwin Highway”, in fact a 37 kilometre bypass road that promises to take 3000 trucks off the Great Northern Highway, and turning Gnangara Road into a dual carriageway. The former is among the projects where the Liberals have been faulted for relying on federal funding, making their own commitment of $196 million to an $830 million project.