Margin: Labor 6.7%
Region: North Metropolitan
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CHE TAM NGUYEN
Electorate analysis: Girrawheen is located on the inland side of the Mitchell Freeway, which tends to divide the more from the less affluent suburbs in Perth’s northern suburban corridor. It was created at the 1996 election in place of abolished Marangaroo (itself created in 1989 in place of Balga), and has been substantially redrawn at two consecutive redistributions to the considerable detriment of Labor. The one-vote one-value redistribution before the 2008 election set Labor back 4.2% by hiving off the eastern half beyond Mirrabooka Avenue to the new electorate of Nollamara, while adding middle-income Warwick and Hamersley. Now it has been shifted substantially northwards, the Labor strongholds of Balga and Mirrabooka being transferred to Nollamara (the name of that seat being changed to Mirrabooka) in exchange for Madeley, Darch and Landsdale in the north from Wanneroo and West Swan. This has reduced Labor to a loseable 6.7% margin in a seat it won by 23.3% in 2005 and 11.5% in 2008.
Girrawheen was initially held by Ted Cunningham, earlier the member for Balga (where he succeeded Brian Burke in 1988) and Balcatta. Cunningham’s retirement in 2001 initiated a fateful split in the Right as he and his allies succeeded in placing National Crime Authority lawyer Margaret Quirk in Girrawheen, together with John D’Orazio in Ballajura, against the opposition of those aligned with Brian Burke. The latter included Transport Workers Union secretary Jim McGiveron, who registered his displeasure with the 61-year-old Cunningham by breaking two of his teeth. Those on Cunningham’s side of the dispute, including Stephen Smith and Midland MP Michelle Roberts, broke off to form the “New Right”, which was finally absorbed back into the broader faction in the upheavals following Ben Wyatt’s unsuccessful leadership pitch in January 2011.
Quirk won promotion to parliamentary secretary in June 2003, but then had to contend with a second attempt on her seat by Burke’s “Old Right” faction. Their efforts to have Quirk make way for Wanneroo mayor Jon Kelly triggered a brawl which was resolved by national executive intervention at the behest of Geoff Gallop, the effect of which was to guarantee preselection for all sitting members. Kelly ran against Quirk as an independent at the 2005 election, managing third place with 15.4% of the vote against Quirk’s 52.3%. He would later win preselection to run for the federal seat of Cowan at the 2010 election, but withdrew after a Corruption and Crime Commission report criticised his interactions as mayor with Brian Burke.
Quirk entered cabinet as Disability Services Minister in November 2005 and was promoted to Justice Minister in May 2006, further acquiring small business the following November. Following the 2008 election defeat she took on the police, emergency services and road safety portfolios. Quirk and her New Right colleagues supported Eric Ripper through both the Ben Wyatt and Mark McGowan leadership challenges, and speculation she would suffer for it under McGowan appeared to be confirmed by her loss of the police portfolio. However, McGowan insisted Quirk had not been demoted by talking up her compensating gain of electoral affairs.
The Liberal candidate is John Halligan, who owns a news agency at the Kingsway Shopping Centre.