Margin: Labor 12.7%
Location: Hunter Region, New South Wales
Outgoing member: Greg Combet (Labor)
In a nutshell: Greg Combet was among six ministers who quit cabinet after Kevin Rudd returned to the leadership, and one of three who has opted to bow out of politics. He will be succeeded in his safe seat by his deputy chief-of-staff, Pat Conroy.
The candidates (ballot paper order)
BRONWYN ELIZABETH REID
Covering the Hunter region on the inland side of Lake Macquarie, from Wyee north through Toronto to the outer Newcastle suburbs of Cardiff and Wallsend, Charlton has been a safe seat for Labor since it was created with the expansion of parliament in 1984. It was held successively by Bob Brown (obviously not to be confused with the former Greens leader), previously the member for Hunter since 1980; by Brown’s daughter Kelly Hoare, who succeeded her father on his retirement in 1998; and Greg Combet, who came to the seat in 2007 following a bruising preselection process in which the incumbent, Kelly Hoare, faced unwelcome publicity over sexual harassment allegations. Previously the Left-aligned secretary of the ACTU, Combet won rapid promption as expected after entering parliament, achieving cabinet rank after the 2010 election as Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Minister. He was often spoken of as a potential future leader, so there was much surprise when he announced at the end of June that he would not contest the next election, days after he had joined five other colleagues in resigning from cabinet after Kevin Rudd resumed the leadership. Combet said that while the leadership spill had been a “catalyst” for the decision, his reasons were “personal and are not attributable to the change in the leadership”.
Combet will be succeeded as Labor candidate by his deputy chief of staff, former Australian Metal Workers Union official Pat Conroy, who easily won a local preselection ballot with 57 out of 90 votes. Conroy’s path was smoothed by the late withdrawal of Daniel Wallace, a Lake Macquarie councillor and Australian Manufacturing Workers Union organiser said to have had strong support locally. Wallace reportedly faced pressure from factional leaders concerned about his two convictions for assault. An earlier withdrawal had been Sonia Hornery, member for the corresponding state seat of Wallsend. The three unsuccessful candidates who saw out the process were Joshua Brown, a Muswellbrook Council policy officer and former staffer to Combet’s predecessor Kelly Hoare; Marcus Mariani, assistant director at the Department of Defence; and Chris Osborne, a local party activities. Mark Coultan of The Australian reported rumours that “key factional players” wanted the local preselection process to be overridden to impose the party’s assistant national secretary, Nick Martin, a Left faction member who unsuccessfully sought preselection for the ACT seat of Fraser before the 2010 election.
The Liberals are going into the election without an endorsed candidate after it emerged that Kevin Baker had run an online forum for Mini Cooper enthusiasts on which various offences against political correctness were committed, some of the milder examples being from his own hand. Baker will continue to appear on the ballot paper as the Liberal candidate, the deadline for nominations having closed, but he has resigned as the party’s candidate and declared his campaign over.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.