The Poll Bludger
Margin: Labor 2.7%
Region: South-Eastern Sydney, New South Wales
In a nutshell: Labor has held Kingsford Smith since its creation in 1949, and the present narrow margin is a measure of the party’s poor show in Sydney recently.
Candidates in ballot paper order
Held for Labor by Peter Garrett until the 2013 election and by Matt Thistlethwaite thereafter, Kingsford Smith covers beachside Sydney from Coogee through Maroubra to the entrance of Botany Bay, extending westwards through Randwick to Kensington in the north, and Port Botany to the airport at Mascot in the south. It was created with the enlargement of parliament in 1949 to accommodate the area immediately around Randwick, then reoriented southwards to the bay in 1955. The last substantial change to its boundaries was in 1993, when the abolition of Phillip caused Randwick to be divided between Kingsford Smith and Wentworth, and Kingsford Smith to lose inner-city Erksvineville. It has not been affected by the latest redistribution. The seat has been held at all times by Labor, whose narrowest margins have been 1.5% amid the landslide defeat of 1966, and the current 2.4% after consecutive swings of 8.1% in 2010 and 2.4% in 2013.
Kingsford Smith was held from 1969 to 1990 by Hawke government Deputy Prime Minister Lionel Bowen, and then by senior Wran-Unsworth state government minister Laurie Brereton, who went on to serve on the government and opposition front benches from 1993 until his retirement in 2004. Labor’s then leader, Mark Latham, then secured the seat for Peter Garrett, nationally famous since the 1980s as lead singer for Midnight Oil, and more recently president of the Australian Conservation Foundation. Garrett served as Environment Minister during Labor’s first term in government, which left him heavily exposed to the troubled insulation batts program. The attribution of responsibility for the scheme was reportedly a point of contention between Garrett and Kevin Rudd, whom Garrett vowed not to serve under if he resumed the leadership. When this duly transpired at the end of June, Garrett joined an exodus of Rudd opponents from cabinet and announced he would not seek another term.
The seat has since been held by Matt Thistlethwaite, who had previously been a Senator since mid-2011. With the Right’s backing, Thistlethwaite served as the state party’s general secretary from 2008 to 2010, when he was eased out through a deal that gave him second position on the Senate ticket at the 2010 election. Thistlethwaite had ruffled feathers by backing then Premier Nathan Rees in his determination to choose his own cabinet, which Rees used to dump Joe Tripodi and Ian Macdonald, and throwing his weight behind Frank Sartor to replace Rees as Premier rather than Kristina Keneally. As a Senator he won promotion to parliamentary secretary in March 2013, and has retained that status in opposition as Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Immigration. His preselection in Kingsford Smith was secured through a 136-105 victory in the local ballot over Tony Bowen, Randwick mayor and son of Lionel Bowen. Thistlethwaite had first aspired to the seat in 2004, at which time he was state vice-president of the Australian Workers Union, but was frozen out by Latham’s insistence that it go to Garrett.
For the third election in a row, the Liberals have preselected Michael Feneley, director of cardiac physiology and transplantation at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and conjoint professor of medicine at the University of New South Wales.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.