Margin: Independent 22.5% versus Labor
Region: North Metropolitan
Outgoing member: Elizabeth Constable (Independent)
Click here for electoral boundaries map
Electorate analysis: Churchlands covers strong Liberal territory in Perth’s lower northern suburbs, from City Beach on the coast through Wembley Downs, Woodlands, Churchlands, Floreat and Herdsman Lake to Wembley and West Leederville. The redistribution has added 2000 extra voters in City Beach and Woodlands from Scarborough in the north and transferred around 750 voters in Floreat to Nedlands in the south. The seat will be vacated at the election by the retirement of Liz Constable, who has held it as a Liberal-identifying independent since it was created in 1996, and it is generally presumed it will now resume its safe Liberal orientation.
Constable was originally elected to the predecessor seat of Floreat at a by-election held in 1991 upon the death of Liberal member Andrew Mensaros. She had been the popular choice locally for Liberal preselection, but withdrew when it became clear she was headed for defeat by a candidate identified with contentious party powerbroker Noel Crichton-Browne. Constable thereafter held a secure grip on Floreat and then Churchlands, to the extent that the Liberals did not field a candidate against her in 1996 and 2008. Shortly after Colin Barnett resumed the Liberal leadership in August 2008, he announced that if elected Constable would have a place in his cabinet as Public Sector Management and Government Accountability Minister. She was instead accommodated in education and tourism, but was relieved in the latter portfolio in December 2010 and dropped altogether in June 2012, after which she resumed voting as an independent.
The winner of the keenly contested Liberal preselection was Sean L’Estrange, a former army lieutenant-colonel and Afghanistan veteran. L’Estrange’s win was a sharp rebuff for Colin Barnett, who had encouraged the nomination of restaurateur Kate Lamont and vigorously advocated for her in the lead-up to the July 2012 party ballot. Lamont was granted dispensation to nominate at Barnett’s behest despite the deadline having passed and her only recently having joined the party. Barnett was reportedly dismayed that no women had emerged in the initial field of five nominees, given the party’s existing contingent of two women out of 24 in the Legislative Assembly. He had earlier made an unsuccessful approach to Rosanna Capolingua, the former federal president of the Australian Medical Association.
Despite Barnett’s considerable efforts, L’Estrage defeated Lamont by 22 votes to five. Barnett angered some in the party when he complained an “exceptional person” and “potential Premier” (whom he nonetheless didn’t know “all that well”) had been passed over in preference for a merely “good person”, prompting Mark McGowan to suggest she might care to run for Labor instead (The West Australian had indeed written that Lamont was perceived by some Liberals as “too close to State and Federal Labor figures”). Among the mooted candidates who fell by the wayside were Richard Wilson, the 30-year-old chief of staff to Energy Minister Peter Collier; Jim Bivoltsis, director of a financial services firm; long-standing party identity Andre Timmermanis; and a second late female entrant in Jane Timmermanis, wife of Andre and a lawyer for not-for-profit group Sussex Street Community Law Services.