Margin: Independent 12.7% versus Nationals
Location: Central Coast, New South Wales
Outgoing member: Rob Oakeshott (Independent)
The candidates (ballot paper order)
JOHN WALTER KLOSE
BRIAN BUCKLEY CLARE
TROY ALEXANDER WILKIE
To be vacated at the election by its locally contentious independent member Rob Oakeshott, the electorate of Lyne covers a stretch of the New South Wales between 300 and 400 kilometres north of Sydney, the major population centre being Port Macquarie (home to 33% of the population, and a mainstay of the electorate outside of 1977 to 1984 when it was in Cowper) and Taree (14%). Smaller centres include Old Bar, Lake Cathie and Harrington on the coast, and Wauchope and Wingham further inland. The seat was created with the expansion of parliament in 1949 and held without interruption by the National/Country Party until Oakeshott’s election, although it nearly fell to the Liberals when Bruce Cowan retired in 1993. It was held subsequently by Mark Vaile, who rose to cabinet in 1997 and the Nationals leadership and deputy prime ministership in July 2005.
Vaile quit politics nine months after the defeat of the Howard government, initiating the September 2008 by-election at which Rob Oakeshott was elected. Oakeshott had been the state member for Port Macquarie since his election as Nationals candidate at a November 1996 by-election. He went on to quit the party in March 2002, complaining of local branches being controlled by property developers and questioning its relevance in an electorate transformed by tourism and demographic change. He would later say he had also been offended by a racist remark made about his wife, who is of Aboriginal and South Sea Islander descent, at a party function. Oakeshott was re-elected resoundingly at the 2003 and 2007 state elections, and few doubted Lyne was his for the taking when Vaile resigned. This he duly achieved with 63.8% of the primary vote to 22.9% for his Nationals opponent, which became 73.9% after preferences. With a Labor candidate in the field at the 2010 election his primary vote fell to 47.2%, winning by a two-candidate preferred margin of 12.7%.
Oakeshott’s decision to support a Labor minority government was not favourably received in his electorate, a Newspoll survey conducted a year later finding only 26% of respondents intending to vote for him against 47.1% for whoever the Nationals candidate turned out to be. That has turned out to be David Gillespie, a local gastroenterologist who was best man at Tony Abbott’s wedding, and who also ran in 2010. There were reports that national rugby league player Matt Adamson had been sounded out to run as a Liberal candidate, but the Nationals have been given a clear run in the seat under the terms of the state Coalition agreement. Gillespie’s run got even clearer on the morning of June 26, hours before Julia Gillard was dumped as prime minister, when both Oakeshott and New England independent Tony Windsor announced they would bow out at the election. Labor’s candidate is Peter Alley, an IT consultant who is studying law at Southern Cross University.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.