Electorate: Alfred Cove
Margin: Independent 0.2% versus Liberal
Region: South Metropolitan
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Electorate analysis: Held by independent Janet Woollard since 2001, Alfred Cove covers affluent southern riverside suburbs from Bicton east through Attadale and Ardross to Applecross and Mount Pleasant on the Canning River. The redistribution has effected a territory swap with Fremantle in which it exchanges 2000 voters in Liberal-voting Bicton for a similar number in Labor-leaning Palmyra, which cuts Woollard’s margin over the Liberals from 1.0% to 0.2%.
Alfred Cove was created at the 1996 election upon the abolition of Melville in the west and Applecross in the east. Melville was in Labor hands from its creation in 1950 until Doug Shave won it for the Liberals in 1989, while Applecross together with its predecessor seat East Melville (the name change occurring in 1989) had been held by the Liberals since its creation in 1962. Shave contested Alfred Cove for the Liberals in 1996, Applecross MP Richard Lewis having chosen to retire. The Liberal margin in the new seat was 21.0%, but Shave came within 2.4% of defeat at the hands of Penny Hearne, preselection rival turned independent candidate.
As Fair Trading Minister, Shave was heavily implicated in the mortgage broking scandal which had much to do with the demise of the Court government, and he went into the 2001 election facing two formidable independents: Denise Brailey, a vigorous advocate for the mortgage broking victims, and Janet Woollard, an “independent Liberal” associated with the Liberals for Forests party founded by her husband Keith Woollard. Labor’s tactical decision to stay out of the contest boosted Woollard and Brailey to 20.3% and 20.1% respectively, while Shave’s primary vote collapsed to 32.8%. Woollard emerged 7.4% ahead of Shave at the final count, having received 79.9% of the preferences from Brailey and other minor candidates.
Woollard has since been re-elected twice, though she required preferences to overcome Liberal leads on the primary vote on both occasions. In 2005 she faced Graham Kierath, former Court government Workplace Relations Minister and member for Riverton, who outpolled Woollard 37.9% to 24.0% but fell 4.6% short at the final count. In 2008 her opponent was future Senator Chris Back, who polled 43.1% to Woollard’s 25.5% but was ultimately defeated by 405 votes (1.0%). Woollard has since grappled with her son Luke’s involvement in a 2008 boating accident which occurred while he was driving under the influence of alcohol, resulting in severe injury to a female passenger. Criminally convicted and ordered to pay $220,000 to the victim, Luke Woollard threatened to declare bankruptcy shortly before reaching a settlement. A letter to constituents in which Woollard wrote of “a campaign to vilify our family and force us to pay additional money” drew an angry response from the victim.
The third Liberal attempt to recover a naturally safe seat will be made by Dean Nalder, a former ANZ and Australia Post executive. The seat had earlier been discussed as a possibility for former leader Matt Birney, who bowed out as member for Kalgoorlie in 2008 and is occasionally said to be interested in a metropolitan seat, and Deidre Willmott, whose preselection for Cottesloe in 2008 was reversed when Colin Barnett withdrew his retirement plans to lead the party into the 2008 election.