The Poll Bludger
Margin: Liberal 14.0%
Region: South West, Western Australia
In a nutshell: Malcolm Turnbull coup beneficiary and preselection challenge survivor Nola Marino holds a seat that hasn’t been won by Labor since 1969.
Candidates in ballot paper order
ROSS MAITLAND SLATER
The safe Liberal seat of Forrest covers Western Australia’s south-western corner, taking in Bunbury, Busselton and Margaret River. The Margaret River region is a focal point of tree-changer and alternative lifestyle sentiment, where the Greens outpoll Labor on the primary vote, and Labor outpolls the Coalition on two-party preferred. However, the dominant population centres are Bunbury, which has grown increasingly conservative, and Busselton, which has long been so, with beef and dairying country accounting for the remainder. The latest redistribution has transferred around 6200 voters in the Labor-voting coal mining centre of Collie to neighbouring O’Connor, boosting the Liberal margin in Forrest from 12.3% to 14.1%.
Forrest was created in 1922 from territory previously covered by Swan, and extended to Albany until the O’Connor electorate was created in 1980. The Country Party held the seat for the first two decades of its existence, but has not done so since. Labor strung together successive wins in 1943 and 1946 and later made it over the line in 1969, but its fortunes declined in tandem with those of the local logging industry. The aberration of 1969 resulted from an unusually large leakage of Democratic Labor Party preferences away from the then Liberal member, Gorton government External Affairs Minister Gordon Freeth, who had angered the party by downplaying the Soviet threat in the Indian Ocean. The seat reverted to type against the national trend of the 1972 election, and has since been held progressively for the Liberals by Peter Drummond, until 1987; Geoff Prosser, until 2007; and Nola Marino thereafter.
Marino backed Malcolm Turnbull in the September 2015 leadership spill and was subsequently promoted from a deputy whip position she had held since entering parliament to chief government whip, at the expense of Abbott supporter Scott Buchholz. She was then challenged for preselection by Bunbury businessman Ben Small, whose backers included Geoff Prosser, but defeated him in a local party ballot by 51 votes to 16.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.