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Federal Election 2016

Sep 15, 2013

Seat of the week: Warringah

There are roughly as many seats in the House of Representatives as there are weeks until the next election. Time to get get cracking then on the 2016 election guide. Taking it from the top ...

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Tony Abbott’s electorate of Warringah covers Sydney’s affluent northern beaches from Manly north to Dee Why, extending inland to Balgowlah, Mosman, Middle Cove and Forestville. Out of the 150 federal electorates, it ranks fourth highest for median family income after Wentworth, North Sydney and Curtin. Warringah accommodated the entire northern beaches as far as the Hawkesbury River from its establishment in 1922 until 1949, when the creation of Mackellar caused it to be reoriented around Mosman and Seaforth. A relatively static population has since seen it expand back to the north over successive redistributions, recovering Manly in 1969 and being anchored on the north shore of Port Jackson thereafter.

Warringah has been never been held by Labor, and has only once slipped from Liberal control since the party’s foundation in 1944. That occasion was in March 1969 when one-term member and instant loose cannon Edward St John raised concerns in parliament over then Prime Minister John Gorton’s indiscreet behaviour with a female journalist, prompting him to resign from the party pending expulsion. St John contested as an independent at the election the following October, but was only able to poll 20.6% against 50.2% for Liberal candidate Michael Mackellar. Mackellar went on to serve in the Fraser government as minister first for immigration and then for health, resigning from the latter role in 1982 over a failure to declare to customs a television set he brought into the country.

The mid-term retirement of Mackellar in February 1994 initiated a by-election at which the seat safely passed to its present incumbent, Tony Abbott. Abbott had famously studied to become a priest after leaving school, but soon became set on a course for parliament via student politics, a stint as a journalist with The Bulletin, and the position of press secretary to Opposition Leader John Hewson. After securing a safe seat in parliament at the age of 36, Abbott became a parliamentary secretary with the election of the Howard government in 1996, winning promotion to cabinet as Employment Services Minister after the 1998 election and then to workplace relations in 2001 and health and ageing in 2003.

Abbott first publicly declared his leadership ambitions after the Howard government’s defeat in 2007, but he withdrew from the contest when it became clear he would not have the numbers. In late November 2009 he was one of a number of front-benchers who quit as part of a revolt against leader Malcolm Turnbull’s support for the government’s emissions trading scheme, which initiated a leadership spill. Presumed favourite Joe Hockey was unexpectedly defeated in the first round, and Abbott prevailed over Turnbull in the second 42 votes to 41. Abbott’s first year in the leadership saw Kevin Rudd deposed as prime minister in favour of Julia Gillard and Labor lose its majority at the August 2010 election, but he was unable to secure the necessary support of independents in order to form government.

Despite weak personal approval ratings attributed to his abrasive political style, Abbott’s hold on the party leadership was consolidated during Labor’s second term by crushing opinion poll leads on voting intention, which eventually wrought the downfall of a second Labor prime minister on Abbott’s watch in June 2013. Abbott became Australia’s twenty-eighth prime minister after the Coalition easily defeated Labor and its newly returned leader Kevin Rudd at the ensuing election on September 7, gaining a national two-party swing of 3.4% and securing what appears at the time of writing to be an absolute majority of 16 seats.

UPDATE (Essential Research): The new government’s first opinion poll is testament either to the absence of a honeymoon bounce, or the particular pollster’s tendency towards constancy in its results. The poll is from Essential Research and is the normal fortnightly rolling average, which it to say half of it was conducted over the weekend of the election itself. It has the Coalition on 44% (45.6% at the election on current figures), Labor on 36% (33.6%) and the Greens (9%). The published 53-47 two-party preferred (the current election result being 53.4-46.6) is weaker for Labor than the primary vote shifts suggest it should be, which may be because they are still using preference allocations from 2010.

Further questions finding 38% thinking the election of micro-parties to the Senate “good for democracy” against 25% for bad, although I’d like to see more specific questions in relation to this topic. Forty-four per cent believe the lack of a Coalition Senate majority will make for benefit against 30% for worse. Respondents were asked about various aspects they might expect to get better or worse under the new government, including the surprising finding that cost of living and interest rates are expected to be worse. Other questions relate to the country’s economic outlook, all of which you can see here.

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