Margin: Labor 11.4%
Region: South Metropolitan
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Electorate analysis: Based on a coastal regional centre 50 kilometres south of Perth, the electorate of Rockingham has been held by Labor since its creation in 1974. The redistribution has added territory in the electorate’s east at Hillman and Cooloongup, previously in Kwinana, adding 0.8% to the Labor margin. It has been held since 1996 by Mark McGowan, who served as a parliamentary secretary during the Gallop government’s first term before winning promotion to Tourism Minister after the 2005 election, and thence to Environment Minister when Alan Carpenter became leader in January 2006. Another promotion to Education Minister the following December further encouraged talk of McGowan as a future leader, although when he ran for deputy after the 2008 election defeat he was only able to attract nine votes against 30 for newly elected Kwinana MP Roger Cook. The portfolios assigned to him in opposition were state development, trade, planning and housing and works, with planning being exchanged for regional development in March 2010.
McGowan was among the members of the Right who supported factional colleague Ben Wyatt’s abortive tilt at the leadership in January 2011, resulting in the Ripper backers in the faction – chiefly those associated with the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association and its state secretary Joe Bullock – effectively freezing them out of the faction by going into alliance with the previously estranged “New Right”. However, this left the outcasts, who included the main leadership hopefuls, as a base of potential opposition to Ripper if a new challenge emerged, as most thought it likely to eventually. The issue came to a head in January 2012 when the “Missos” Left told Ripper he had lost their support. With Wyatt still damaged by his failed first attempt, the mooted contenders were Mark McGowan and Willagee MP Peter Tinley. While Tinley evidently received encouragement from some who were wary of McGowan, he instead chose to simplify matters by declaring himself too inexperienced. Momentum for the change became irresistible when parts of the AMWU Left joined independents in backing the challenge, prompting Ripper to stand aside for McGowan.