The Poll Bludger
Margin: Liberal 21.7%
Region: North Shore, New South Wales
In a nutshell: Held since 2007 by Liberal factional warlord Alex Hawke, Mitchell rarely gives observers much cause for excitement on election night.
Candidates in ballot paper order
The safe Liberal seat of Mitchell encompasses an elongated strip of north-western Sydney that extends from Winston Hills at the southern end, around 30 kilometres from central Sydney, through Baulkham Hills, Castle Hill and Kellyville to semi-rural Box Hill in the north. The redistribution has made two minor changes to the electorate, adding parts of Old Toongabbie and Northmead from its southern neighbour Parramatta, and transferring part of Castle Hill to Berowra in the east. Both changes involve around 3250 voters, the combined effect of which is to shave the Liberal margin from 22.1% to 21.7%.
Mitchell was created with the expansion of parliament in 1949, at which time it encompassed the entirety of what is now north-western Sydney, but was then predominantly semi-rural. The electorate was changed significantly in 1969, when the western Sydney centres of Mount Druitt and Blacktown were transferred to the newly created seat of Chifley, and again with the next expansion of parliament in 1984, when Richmond and the Hawkesbury River region was transferred out of the electorate, which has since been dominated by The Hills Shire. Labor was at least competitive prior to the latter change, having won the seat in 1961 and 1972. Alan Cadman recovered it for the Liberals in 1974, and enjoyed double-digit margins at ever election thereafter, even before the fillip he received in 1984.
By the end of his long career, Cadman had become proverbial as a low-profile member for a blue-ribbon seat, and his narrow win in a preselection vote in 2004 appeared to be owed to an understanding that he would not run again in 2007. He nonetheless threw his hat into the ring, but withdrew on the day of the vote as it become clear that he faced defeat at the hands of 30-year-old Alex Hawke, who had worked as an electorate officer and adviser to various federal and state MPs while acquiring a fearsome reputation as an influential party numbers man. One of his employers had been state upper house MP David Clarke, a leading figure in the party’s Right faction, and had often been described as his protégé. However, a momentous split between the two in 2009 left Hawke as a leader of a faction that has lately been known as the Centre Right, which now dominates party affairs through its alliance with the moderates.
Despite Hawke’s factional clout, promotion within the parliamentary party was a long time coming. He finally reached the front bench upon Malcolm Turnbull’s ascension to the prime ministership in September 2015 as Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, giving him equivalent status to those who had held the abolished title of parliamentary secretary. Hawke had been on a small list of Liberals whose loyalties were rated as “uncertain” by The Australian following Turnbull’s leadership challenge.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.