The Poll Bludger
Margin: Liberal 21.1%
Region: North Shore, New South Wales
In a nutshell: The safe Liberal seat of Bradfield has been held since 2009 by Paul Fletcher, who won promotion to the outer ministry after Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership coup last September.
Candidates in ballot paper order
The safe Liberal seat of Bradfield covers Sydney’s northern suburbs from Roseville through Killara, Turramurra and St Ives to Wahroonga, extending from 10 to 25 kilometres to the north-west of central Sydney. The latest redistribution has added 6000 voters in Chatswood and Castle Cove at the southern end of the electorate, formerly in North Sydney, and made minor adjustments to the western boundary, transferring around 3500 voters to Berowra. The changes add a further 0.5% to the Liberal margin.
Bradfield has been held by the Liberals on large margins since it was created with the expansion of parliament in 1949, the inaugural member having been a venerable Billy Hughes. The member from 1974, David Connolly, was deposed for preselection ahead of the 1996 election by Brendan Nelson, the high-profile young federal president of the Australian Medical Association, who went on serve as Education Minister and later Defence Minister in the third and fourth terms of the Howard government. Following the 2007 election defeat, Nelson emerged a surprise winner over Malcolm Turnbull in the Liberal leadership vote, by a margin of 45 to 42. However, his tenure lasted only the ten months up to September 2008, when a leadership spill delivered a 45-41 winning margin to Turnbull.
Nelson resigned from parliament a year after losing the leadership, triggering a by-election held on December 5, 2009. No fewer than 17 candidates contested the Liberal preselection, which was won by Paul Fletcher, Optus executive and former staffer to Howard government Communications Minister Richard Alston. Other candidates included Tom Switzer, former opinion page editor of The Australian; David Coleman, executive for the Packer family’s Publishing and Broadcasting Limited; and Julian Leeser, executive director of the Menzies Research Centre. After Coleman dropped out contention, his moderate factional backers reportedly threw their weight behind Leeser with a view to blocking Swizter, who duly dropped out of the count. Fletcher then prevailed over Leeser in the final count by 60 votes to 51.
Paul Fletcher was elevated to parliamentary secretary status after the 2013 election victory, and served under Malcolm Turnbull in the communications portfolio. He was identified as a supporter of Turnbull’s successful leadership challenge in September 2015, and was promoted afterwards to the outer ministry in the territories, local government and major projects portfolio.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.