Electorate: South Perth
Margin: Liberal 14.3%
Region: South Metropolitan
Click here for electoral boundaries map
DAVID J MANGINI
PETER JOHN BEST
Electorate analysis: Confined by the natural boundaries of the Swan River to the north and the Canning River to the west and south, South Perth extends from the suburb of that name south through Como and Manning to Salter Point, and eastwards to Kensington, Karawara and Waterford. Created in 1950, it was held for 37 years by Bill Grayden, sometimes as an independent but usually as a Liberal (he was also federal member for Swan from 1949 to 1954). Grayden was succeeded at the 1993 election by Phillip Pendal, an upper house member since 1980, who first had to overcome an independent challenge from Grayden’s son John, which Labor encouraged by declining to field a candidate. A factional enemy of the Court family, Pendal quit the Liberal Party in 1994 and retained South Perth as an independent in 1996 and 2001.
Pendal’s decision to retire ahead of the 2005 election led to a lively Liberal preselection battle, which was ultimately resolved with the installation of a cleanskin candidate in John McGrath, chief football writer at The West Australian. A preselection ballot conducted against a backdrop of local factional warfare had been won by local businessman Tony Rocchi, who had already been nominated for Riverton but sought a safer seat. However, the party’s appeals and disciplinary committee overturned the result and ordered a new vote. A disgruntled Rocchi threatened to run as an independent, but the controversy seemed to be resolved with the endorsement of McGrath, who had been removed from the local power struggles.
McGrath had no trouble recovering the seat for the Liberals at the ensuing election, although there was talk he might face a preselection challenge from Matt Birney, partly from a desire to move to a city seat but also as revenge for supporting Paul Omodei’s leadership takeover. He was promoted to the front bench in 2006, although there were calls for him to be dumped in 2008 when it emerged he had moved a parliamentary motion provided to him by Brian Burke including from Liberal colleague Rob Johnston, who consequently lost his own position. McGrath was cleared by the Corruption and Crime Commission, but he was nonetheless overlooked for a place in the ministry after the election. He was instead given the position of government whip, from which he moved to a parliamentary secretary position in July 2011.