Margin: Liberal 11.1%
Region: South West
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LUI ALFA CANEDOLI
Electorate analysis: Located 175 kilometres south of Perth, Bunbury is Western Australia’s biggest regional city and has formed the basis of a state electorate since self-government began in 1890. The electorate presently extends from the town centre south to Usher and east to Pelican Point and Picton, with a spur further north along the Leschenault Estuary coast taking in Clifton Park and southern Australind. The latter area has been added with the redistribution, reducing the Liberal margin by 0.6%. Bunbury’s outer north-eastern areas of Eaton, Millbridge and northern Australind are accommodated by Murray-Wellington, while the outer southern suburb of Dalyellup is in Collie-Preston.
The inaugural member for Bunbury was colonial titan Sir John Forrest, who was the first Premier and a founding father of federation as well as a noted explorer. Bunbury was in conservative hands for most of its early history, outside of the 24-year reign of Frederick Withers from 1924 to 1947 (Withers’ son Reg would become a noteworthy figure on the other side of politics as Senate opposition leader during the 1975 crisis, and later as Perth lord mayor). Phil Smith won the seat for Labor when the Burke government came to power in 1983, and it again swung with the pendulum with Ian Osborne’s win for the Liberals in 1993 and Tony Dean’s win for Labor in 2001.
Bunbury’s bellwether status came to an end in 2005 when John Castrilli, the Italian-born local mayor, won the seat for the Liberals by 103 votes in an election which returned Labor to power. The abolition of rural vote weighting at the 2008 election necessitated expansion into outer suburbs that were formerly covered by abolished Capel and Leschenault, nudging it into Labor’s column by virtue of their relative strength in Withers and Usher. This complication was effortlessly brushed away when Castrilli received a 12.6% swing at the election of September 2008, putting to rest Bunbury’s lengthy career as a marginal seat.
Castrilli became Shadow Local Government Minister immediately upon his entry into parliament, but was demoted the following year. This was said to have contributed to Matt Birney’s demise as leader six weeks later due to the upset caused to opponents of the Noel Crichton-Browne faction, which Birney was felt to have unduly favoured. Castrilli supported Paul Omodei in the ensuing leadership vote, but would not return to the front bench until the leadership of Troy Buswell, when he was enlisted in May 2008 to plug gaps caused by resignations among Buswell’s opponents. Castrilli was reportedly among the marginal seat holders who implored Barnett to resume the leadership, and he returned to his old local government portfolio when this transpired. He has retained the portolio in government, also serving in multicultural interests and heritage.