The Poll Bludger
Margin: Liberal 4.9%*
Region: Southern Perth, Western Australia
* New electorate
In a nutshell: The new seat of Burt in Perth’s south has a seemingly solid Liberal margin, but a souring of the mood in Western Australia combined with the lack of a defending Liberal member has placed it high on Labor’s target list.
Candidates in ballot paper order
Burt is a newly created electorate in the southern suburbs of Perth, brought into existence by rapid population growth that has entitled Western Australia to a sixteenth seat in the House of Representatives. At the northern end, the electorate encompasses Langford, Thornlie and Gosnells on the southern bank of the Canning River, and extends south through Canning Vale, Southern River and Kelmscott to the outer south-eastern metropolitan centre of Armadale. The southern part of the electorate has been a scene of rapid development over recent decades, and is accordingly dominated by mortgage-paying young families. The other distinguishing demographic pattern is that incomes tend to be lower at the eastern end of the electorate, particularly at Armadale in its south-eastern corner.
The electorates of Hasluck and Canning provide Burt with around 40% of its voters, at the northern and southern ends respectively. The rest come mostly from Tangney in the west, together with a small number from Swan at its northern tip. All four seats were won by the Liberals in 2010 and 2013, although the bulk of the area is represented by Labor at state level. Canning had broadly similar boundaries to those of Burt from 1990 until the creation of Hasluck in 2001, in which time it was won only won by the Liberals in 1996. A by-election was held in Canning days after Malcolm Turnbull deposed Tony Abbott as Prime Minister in September last year, which delivered Labor a swing approaching 10% in the part of the electorate being transferred to Burt, compared with an overall swing in the seat of 6.6%.
Burt will be contested for the Liberals by Matt O’Sullivan, chief operating officer of Andrew Forrest’s GenerationOne indigenous youth employment scheme. O’Sullivan was initially defeated in the ballot of local party delegates by Liz Storer, a Gosnells councillor backed by an increasingly assertive Christian Right, who scored 13 votes out of an available 25. However, the party’s state council ruled this was an insufficient number of participants and took the matter into its own hands, determining the matter in O’Sullivan’s favour.
Labor’s candidate is Matt Keogh, commercial lawyer and president of the WA Law Society, who had a valuable opportunity to promote himself to voters at the electorate’s southern end as the party’s candidate for the Canning by-election. Despite backing from Bill Shorten and the Right, Keogh faced resistance in his preselection bid from Pierre Yang, a lawyer and Gosnells councillor who had support from the powerful Left faction United Voice union. However, Yang withdrew citing family reasons, amid suggestions the party’s national executive would intervene in favour of Keogh if the vote went the other way.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.