The Poll Bludger
Margin: Labor 3.8%
Region: Southern Perth, Western Australia
Outgoing member: Gary Gray (Labor)
In a nutshell: The exodus of Western Australian Labor MPs at this election encompasses Gary Gray in Brand, who succeeded Kim Beazley in the southern Perth electorate in 2007.
Candidates in ballot paper order
Brand is one of three Western Australian seats retained by Labor at the 2010 and 2013 elections, all of which are about to be vacated by their sitting members. The electorate covers Perth’s outer southern coastal suburbs, from the Kwinana heavy industrial zone through the Rockingham town centre to the edge of the metropolitan area at Singleton. It had hitherto extended south into the northern suburbs of Mandurah, but the redistribution has ceded this area and its 17,000 voters to Canning. This has been slightly to the advantage of Labor in Brand, boosting the margin by 0.9% to 3.8%.
Brand was created with the expansion of parliament in 1984, from territory that had historically been accommodated by Canning and Forrest. It has been in Labor hands at all times, thanks to the party’s strength in Rockingham and especially around Kwinana. However, the Liberals are strong in growing suburbs south of Port Kennedy, and inland of Rockingham at Baldivis. Wendy Fatin held the seat from its creation until 1996, when it provided an escape hatch for Kim Beazley after one close scrape too many in Swan. Beazley’s move only just delivered the desired result, as the anti-Labor backlash of 1996 reduced his winning margin to just 387 votes, with Labor spending the week after its election defeat unsure if he would be available to assume the leadership. Having been established as leader, Beazley picked up an 11.1% swing in 1998 to record a comfortable win in his own seat for the first time since 1987, and his hold on Brand was secure thereafter.
Beazley bowed out of politics at the November 2007 election, held nearly a year after he lost the Labor leadership to Kevin Rudd. His successor in Brand was Gary Gray, the party’s national secretary at the 1996 and 1998 elections, and later an executive with mining giant Woodside. Labor’s margin changed little on Gray’s watch, with a 1.0% swing in his favour in 2007 followed by successive swings to the Liberals of 2.3% and 0.5% in 2010 and 2013. Gray served in cabinet as Minister for Resources and Energy, Tourism and Small Business from March 2013 until Labor’s defeat the following September. He announced his intention to retire from politics in February, saying at the time it was “highly unlikely” that Bill Shorten would win the election. Shorten refused to accept Gray’s resignation from the front bench, but removed Shadow Special Minister of State from his portfolio responsibilities a fortnight later, after he criticised Labor’s position on Senate reform in parliament.
The vacancy created by Gray’s resignation in Brand resolved an affirmative action headache for Labor, which had a male candidate lined up to succeed Alannah MacTiernan in Perth and two male contestants for preselection to replace Melissa Parke in Fremantle. The new candidate is Madeleine King, chief operating officer of the international policy think tank Perth USAsia Centre, who won preselection without opposition. The Liberal candidate is Craig Buchanan, community relations officer at the Peter Carnley Anglican Community School.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.