The Poll Bludger
Margin: Labor 7.0%
Region: Southern Illawarra, New South Wales
Renamed from Throsby in redistribution
In a nutshell: Newly garbed in the name of the late former Prime Minister, the electorate formerly known as Throsby covers the southern Illawarra region, and provides a safe home for Labor MP Stephen Jones.
Candidates in ballot paper order
Following the death of Australia’s twenty-first Prime Minister on October 21, 2014, the New South Wales redistribution has allocated the name of Whitlam to the seat of Throsby, which covers the southern part of the Illawarra region. On its new boundaries, the electorate covers the coastal urban areas around Shellharbour, along with Dapto and its surrounds on the northern shore Lake Illawarra, and from there extends inland for approximately 50 kilometres to encompass the Southern Highlands towns of Bowral, Moss Vale and Mittagong. The redistribution has added around 16,000 voters from Gilmore at the southern end, encompassing central Shellharbour and the immediately surrounding suburbs, while transferring 9000 in and around Port Kembla to Cunningham in the north. The changes have cut the Labor margin from 7.8% to 6.6%.
Throsby was created in 1984 out of territory previously covered by Cunningham and Macarthur, and held safely by Labor through the 32 years of its existence. Labor was particularly secure after the 1993 transferred the Mittagong, Bowral and Moss Vale area to Macarthur and Gilmore, leaving the electorate concentrated on coastal Illawarra. These areas were returned to the electorate in 2010, which boosted the Liberals by 6.7%, while still leaving Labor with a commanding margin. The inaugural member was Colin Hollis, who had gained Macarthur for Labor at the 1983 election, and remained in Throsby until his retirement in 2001. He was then succeeded by Jennie George, former president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
With George’s retirement in 2010, the seat passed to its current member, Stephen Jones, who had previously been national secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union. The Left-aligned Jones faced a preselection challenge ahead of the 2013 election from John Rumble, a Wollongong nurse and son of former local state MP Terry Rumble, which was widely attributed to the ambitions of local forces in the Right associated with state Wollongong MP Noreen Hay. This grouping was reportedly aggrieved that the seat was reserved for Anthony Albanese’s “hard Left” faction by a factional agreement that retained the support of the Right hierarchy. There were suggestions that head office would intervene to protect Jones, but in the event this proved unnecessary, with Jones prevailing in the local ballot by 90 votes to 47.
Following the 2013 election defeat, Stephen Jones secured shadow parliamentary secretary status in the regional development and infrastructure portfolio, followed by further promotion to the outer shadow ministry as Shadow Assistant Minister for Health in March 2014. He backed Kevin Rudd through his leadership challenges of 2012 and 2013, and publicly supported Anthony Albanese over Bill Shorten during the 2013 Labor leadership election.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.