The Poll Bludger
Margin: Labor 9.1%
Region: Central Coast, New South Wales
In a nutshell: In a history going back to federation, the electorate of Newcastle has had just six members – all of them Labor.
Candidates in ballot paper order
The only House of Representatives seat to have been held by Labor without interruption since federation, Newcastle has undergone major changes in the redistribution resulting from the abolition of neighbouring Charlton. A gain of 26,000 voters around Wallsend at the eastern end from Charlton is balanced by the loss of territory beyond the city’s northern limits, where 14,000 voters in and around eastern Maitland are transferred to Paterson, to the great advantage of Labor in that seat. The Newcastle electorate continues to encompass the city’s centre and inner suburbs, including the coast south to Merewether. The changes have had little impact on the Labor margin, which increases from 8.8% to 9.1%.
Newcastle has had only six members in its long history: David Watkins until 1935, his son David Oliver Watkins until 1958, Charles Jones until 1983, Allan Morris until 2001, Sharon Grierson until 2013, and Sharon Claydon thereafter. Labor’s margin over the Liberals has fallen into the high single digits only in 1963, 1966, 2001, 2004 and 2013. Sharon Grierson succeeded Allan Morris in 2001, and spent her 12 year parliamentary career on the back bench. Her 6.9% winning margin on debut was an historic low point for Labor in the seat, but she subsequently pushed it well into double figures with swings of 3.0% in 2004 and 6.8% in 2007, before suffering a 3.4% swing in 2010.
With Grierson’s retirement at the 2013 election, the seat passed on to her long-standing electorate officer Sharon Claydon, who had been a Newcastle councillor from 2008 to 2012 and shared Grierson’s alignment with the Left. Claydon retained the seat in 2013 by an 8.8% margin after a swing to the Liberals of 3.2%, which was well in line with the statewide result.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.