Margin: Labor 3.8%
Region: South West
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Electorate analysis: The South West region electorate of Collie-Preston is a marginal seat by virtue of combining Collie, a rock-solid Labor coal mining and electricity industry town, with conservative dairy and beef farming country nearer the coast. Collie has formed the basis of an electorate since 1904, being held by Labor without interruption from 1908 to 1989 and going uncontested by conservative candidates at 12 elections from 1917 to 1953. However, Labor was weakened when the town’s decline forced expansion into surrounding rural territory at the 1989 election, enabling Nationals candidate Hilda Turnbull to secure what was still considered a surprise win. Turnbull retained the seat until present incumbent Mick Murray defeated her by 34 votes in 2001, the beneficiary of a 19% plunge in the Coalition vote together with the decision by One Nation (who polled 15.1%) to direct preferences against all sitting members.
A further milestone in Collie’s decline was reached when the name of the electorate was changed to Collie-Wellington at the 2005 election, when it exchanged the inland shires of Boddington, Boyup Brook and Donnybrook-Balingup for the Wellington district shires of Waroona and Harvey along the coast. The current name was acquired when the introduction of one-vote one-value at the 2008 election effected another reordering of boundaries, adding the Bunbury suburb of Eaton and the Capel district to Bunbury’s south while reverting Waroona and Harvey to a recreated Murray-Wellington. The most recent redistribution has transferred the rural Shire of Donnybrook-Balingup to Warren-Blackwood, boosting Labor’s margin by 2.8%.
Mick Murray amassed an impressive electoral record amid these upheavals, picking up a 13.0% swing on the primary vote in 2005 and surviving a cut in his margin from 9.2% to 0.8% at the redistribution before the 2008 election. He was pitted at that election against senior Liberal front-bencher Steve Thomas, whose abolished electorate of Capel provided Collie-Preston with 44% of its voters compared with only 34% for Collie-Wellington. Despite Thomas’s partial incumency benefit and reputation as an up-and-comer, Murray was able to increase his slender margin against the statewide trend by 0.2%.
Mick Murray is associated with the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (“Metallies”) sub-faction of the Left, having been a mechanic in the local coal mining industry before entering parliament. He was promoted to parliamentary secretary in September 2004 and has served on the front bench since the 2008 election defeat, firstly in agriculture, forestry, racing and gaming, then exchanging agriculture and forestry for sport and recreation when Mark McGowan became leader in January 2012. His Liberal opponent at the coming election will be Jaimee Motion, a Collie native who until recently worked as a media adviser to Troy Buswell.
On January 17, Labor promised to spend $18 million of Royalties for Regions funds on fixing black spots on the Coalfields Highway that connects the South Western Highway and Albany Highway via Collie. The Liberals responded on February 13 with a promise to spend $22 million over three years. The Liberals have promised to have Wellington Dam, located about 10 kilometres from Collie, de-proclaimed as a drinking water source, opened to recreational activities and restocked with fish.