The Poll Bludger
Margin: Liberal 9.5%
Region: Perth Fringe, New South Wales
In a nutshell: Covering Perth’s northern and eastern fringes and beyond, Pearce has been held by rising Liberal figure Christian Porter since his move from state politics in 2013.
Candidates in ballot paper order
Held by the Liberals since its creation in 1990, Pearce encompasses suburban fringe and rural territory to the north and east of Perth, including the coast from suburban Quinns Rock to Lancelin, 120 kilometres north of Perth; the Swan Valley and its rapidly developing suburban centre of Ellenbrook; and the Avon Valley towns of Toodyay, Northam, York and Beverley, roughly 100 kilometres to the east of Perth. The recently published draft redistribution proposes the transfer of 32,000 out of the existing electorate’s 108,000 voters to Hasluck, from Perth’s outer east and the Darling Range, with a compensating gain of 17,000 voters in the coastal suburbs of Mindarie and Clarkson, which were formerly in Moore. Proposed alterations to the boundary with Cowan add the northern part of Beechboro in Perth’s north-east, and remove Banksia Grove in its outer north. The changes slightly increase the Liberal margin, from 8.1% to 9.7%.
The seat has been held by the Liberals since it was created as Western Australia’s fourteenth seat in 1990, mostly from territory that had previously been in Moore, which only then gained its current northern suburbs orientation. The Liberals’ position was weakened when the electorate absorbed the northern coastal fringe from Mindarie to Yanchep at the 2001 election, but the party’s Western Australian ascendancy since that time has kept the seat reasonably safe. The inaugural member was Fred Chaney, who had hitherto been a Senator since 1974, serving as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate after the Hawke government came to power in 1983. Chaney’s ambition to move to the lower house in pursuit of a more senior role went back to 1981, when party foes stymied his bid for preselection in Curtin. Chaney retired after a single term in Pearce and was succeeded at the 1993 election by Judi Moylan. Moylan entered cabinet as Family Services Minister upon the election of the Howard government, but was demoted to the junior ministry in October 1997 and relegated to the back bench after the 1998 election. Noted throughout her career as an ideological moderate, she abstained from voting on Howard government refugee and welfare-to-work legislation, and criticised Australia’s involvement in the Iraq war.
The current member, Christian Porter, came to the seat at the 2013 election, after a brief but highly successful career in state politics. A former University of Western Australia law lecturer and Director of Public Prosecutions lawyer, Porter had a strong Liberal pedigree as the grandson of Charles Robert Porter, who locked horns with Joh Bjelke-Petersen as a Queensland Liberal MP in the 1970s, and the son of Charles “Chilla” Porter, a former state party director. He won immediate promotion to Shadow Attorney-General after entering state parliament at a by-election for the safe Liberal seat of Murdoch in February 2008, and just six weeks later was being discussed as a potential replacement for disaster-prone Liberal leader Troy Buswell. With Colin Barnett’s election victory the following September 2008, Porter retained the Attorney-General portfolio and further took on corrective services, before replacing Buswell as Treasurer upon his forced resignation in December 2010, while continuing to serve as Attorney-General.
Having established himself in the eyes of most observers as heir apparent to Colin Barnett, Porter made the surprise announcement in mid-2012 that he would be switching to federal politics, evidently having calculated he would catch the federal party’s fortunes on the upswing. He promptly won an admirer in Sydney Morning Herald columnist Paul Sheahan, who wrote in December 2013 that he would be “surprised if he does not become prime minister one day”. When the ministry was reshuffled in December 2014, Porter won promotion to parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister. Despite supporting Tony Abbott in Malcolm Turnbull’s September 2015 leadership challenge, he won promotion to cabinet in its wake as Social Services Minister.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.