Margin: Liberal 3.4% versus Nationals
Region: Mining & Pastoral
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COLIN DE GRUSSA
Electorate analysis: Eyre was created at the 2008 election following the one-vote one-value redistribution, taking in two major population sources: the coastal town of Esperance, and Kalgoorlie’s twin town of Boulder. To the west of Kalgoorlie it extends along the Great Eastern Highway to Southern Cross and Bodallin, while in the south it extends westwards of Esperance to accommodate Ravensthorpe. Its eastern expanse runs to the South Australia border, taking in the Eyre Highway from Eucla west to its terminus at Norseman. In common with the other four Mining and Pastoral region seats, the large district allowance causes Eyre to have a smaller than usual enrolment, of 17,319 at the end of 2012 compared with a state average of 23,756.
Before one-vote one-value required that non-metropolitan electorates enlargen, Esperance had dominated the electorate of Roe, which was created in 1950 and changed hands from the Country Party to the Liberals in 1974, after the former pursued an electorally disastrous state-level “National Alliance” with the Democratic Labor Party. The seat was abolished in 1983 and recreated at the 1989 election, when Liberal candidate Graham Jacobs was narrowly defeated by Ross Ainsworth of the Nationals. Jacobs returned to the field when Ainsworth retired 16 years later, having remained well known locally through his role as state president of the Rural Doctors Association, and this time prevailed comfortably with 48.3% of the primary vote.
Murchison-Eyre meanwhile existed as an electorate from 1968 to 1989 and again from 2005, being superseded in the interim by Eyre. Murchison-Eyre was held by the Liberals during its first life, but Eyre presented Labor with favourable boundaries and it was won in 1989 by Julian Grill, earlier member for abolished Yilgarn-Dundas and Esperance-Dundas (the Liberal member for Murchison-Eyre, Ross Lightfoot, took refuge in the upper house and later went to the Senate). Grill retired at the 2001 election, his political ambitions having been stymied by his WA Inc association, and he later formed an ill-fated lobbying partnership with Brian Burke. He was succeeded as member for Eyre and subsequently Murchison-Eyre by John Bowler, former ABC presenter and proprietor of the Golden Mail newspaper. Bowler’s association with Burke and especially Grill would result in his exit first from Alan Carpenter’s ministry and then from the ALP, and in 2008 he successfully contested Kalgoorlie as an independent.
Noted as a social conservative, Graham Jacobs moved a spill motion against Troy Buswell after the chair-sniffing story broke in April 2008, and two months later resigned from the front bench position he had gained in January. After the election win he was made Minister for Water and Mental Health, but he was dumped in a reshuffle in December 2010, ironically to accommodate the return of Buswell. At the 2008 election he faced a strong challenge from an insurgent Nationals, who increased their primary vote by about 10% to 26.6% and fell 3.4% short of unseating Jacobs after preferences. The Nationals candidate this time is Neridup pastoralist Colin de Grussa, who won preselection ahead of Esperance business owner David Eagles.