The Poll Bludger
Margin: Labor 7.2%
Region: Hunter Region, New South Wales
Outgoing member: Jill Hall (Labor)
In a nutshell: Post-redistribution musical chairs in the Hunter region finds Labor’s Pat Conroy moving from abolished Charlton to neighbouring Shortland, to be vacated by the retirement of Jill Hall.
Candidates in ballot paper order
The safe Labor seat of Shortland covers the southern part of the Newcastle metropolitan area between Lake Macquarie and the coast, including Charlestown and surrounding suburbs at the northern end, through to Swansea and Budgewoi further to the south. The redistribution has added new territory at the northern end, where it absorbs 18,000 voters around Cardiff to the west of Charlestown from the abolished seat of Charlton, and removed territory in the south, where 8000 voters around Toukley and Lake Haven are transferred to Dobell. The changes have had no impact on Labor’s 7.2% margin.
Shortland was created when parliament was enlarged in 1949, but for the first six years of its existence it covered western Newcastle around New Lambton and Wallsend, in contrast to its current orientation in the city’s south. It has had only three members through that time, the most recent being Jill Hall, who began her political career as state member for Swansea in 1995 before moving to Shortland in 1998. Hall’s predecessors were Charles Griffiths from 1949 to 1972, and Peter Morris from 1972 to 1998. After a career spent on the back bench, Hall announced her impending retirement in February, resolving a problem Labor faced in accommodating four members in three Hunter region seats following the abolition of Charlton in the redistribution.
Shortland will now be contested for Labor by Pat Conroy, the member for Charlton since 2013. Conroy came to Charlton in succession to former Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Greg Combet, who ended his two-term parliamentary and ministerial career in the wake of Kevin Rudd’s successful leadership challenge in June 2013. Conroy had been Combet’s deputy chief-of-staff, and was earlier an official with two blue-collar Left faction unions, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union and Australian Manufacturing Workers Union. His preselection in Shortland formed part of a deal in which Shortland remained with the Left, Joel Fitzgibbon kept his existing seat of Hunter for the Right, and the Left was compensated for losing Charlton with deputy state leader Linda Burney’s preselection in the Sydney seat of Barton.
In the absence of the Shortland vacancy, Conroy would very likely have had the support of the Left-dominated local party membership to take Hunter from Joel Fitzgibbon, who would have been displaced to the newly marginal Liberal-held seat of Paterson. Notwithstanding the factional deal, Conroy resolved that he would contest a rank-and-file ballot in Shortland rather than have his preselection enforced by the national executive, but in the event nobody nominated against him.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.