Margin: Labor 0.2%
Region: South West
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Electorate analysis: The southern coastal city of Albany was founded two years before the Swan River Colony, and the electorate bearing its name has existed without interruption since the inception of self-government in 1890. Albany has been keenly contested between Labor and conservatives for most of its history, although Liberal member Leo Watt established an ascendancy from 1974 to 1993 that was only seriously threatened in 1983, when the defeat of the O’Connor government reduced his margin to 2.3%. Watt was succeeded in 1993 by Kevin Prince, who went on to serve as Police Minister in the Court government.
Labor’s 27-year drought ended at the 2001 election when Prince’s primary vote collapsed by 24.9%, most of which was absorbed by strongly performing One Nation and Liberals for Forests candidates. The ultimate beneficiary was Labor’s Peter Watson, a postal manager who had represented Australia as a middle-distance runner at the 1968 Mexico Olympics. A reliance on One Nation preferences raised doubts about Watson’s electoral longevity, but he was able to survive firstly a 2.3% swing to the Liberals at the 2005 election, and secondly the redistribution wrought by one-vote one-value, which produced a notional Liberal margin of 2.3% by expanding the electorate’s reach from the city limits to the distant City of Albany municipal boundary. Watson was able to pick up a 2.5% swing to survive by 89 votes at the 2008 election, bespeaking partly the concentration of the anti-Labor swing in the metropolitan area, and partly a hometown vote for the locally born and raised Alan Carpenter.
Watson was promoted to parliamentary secretary on the initiative of Geoff Gallop after the 2005 election, but failed subsequently to win promotion to the ministry. He became associated with the Old Right faction, but was one of seven members to be effectively dumped from it in the aftermath of Ben Wyatt’s abortive leadership challenge in January 2011, of which the opponents (chiefly Joe Bullock, Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association state secretary and Senate candidate) opted to freeze out the supporters by resolving their long-standing split with Michelle Roberts and her New Right faction.
The Liberal candidate for the coming election is Trevor Cosh, Albany Chamber of Commerce president and owner of a local café. Others to nominate for preselection included Sheena Prince, a school teacher and the wife of former member Kevin Prince; Alana Lacy, an electorate officer to the late Senator Judith Adams; Douglas Forrest, a local farmer; and John Hetherington, a real estate consultant. Rob Sutton, a local councillor, will run for the Nationals. The Nationals came close to winning the seat in 1993, when they nearly relegated Labor to third and defeated the Liberals on preferences, but were only able to poll 13.3% in 2008 despite the electorate’s absorption of Albany’s rural hinterland, which now provides about a third of its voters.
The biggest ticket local issue in Labor’s most marginal seat is a scheme to link Albany to the state’s natural gas network through a pipeline to Bunbury. After promising a $450 million project during the 2008 campaign, the government is only delivering a $135 million option that will carry 12 terajoules per day rather than the promised 50. Labor’s position is that the project should be left to the private sector, with the money spent instead on roads and schools.