Margin: Liberal 0.3%
Region: Hunter Region
Candidates in ballot paper order
2011 BOOTH RESULTS MAP
Two-party preferred booth results from 2011 state election showing Labor majority in red and Nationals in green. New boundaries in thicker blue lines, old ones in thinner red lines. Boundary data courtesy of Ben Raue of The Tally Room.
Swansea was one of a number of traditional Labor strongholds in the Hunter region that were swept away in the tide of 2011, and in common with most of the others, the successful Liberal candidate has since become embroiled in the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s inquiries into illegal donations from property developers. The electorate covers the thin strip of land between Lake Macquarie and the ocean, including Swansea itself and the southern outskirts of Newcastle, along with further territory to the south as far as Lake Budgewoi. The redistribution has pared back the Liberal margin from 1.1% to 0.3% by adding 3300 voters in San Remo and Budgewoi at the electorate’s southern end, formerly in Wyong, and transferring 2700 voters around Redhead at the northern end to Charlestown.
Labor’s defeat in 2011 was only its second in an electorate that has existed since 1981, the first being in 1988 when independent Ivan Welsh benefited from a local backlash over the Unsworth government’s opposition to a second bridge over the entrance to Lake Macquarie. The defeated Labor member, Don Bowman, recovered the seat from Welsh in 1991 and bequeathed it to his electorate officer, Jill Hall, upon his retirement in 1995. Hall moved to federal politics as the member for Shortland in 1998 and was in turn succeeded in Swansea by her own electorate officer, Milton Orkopoulos, who entered the annals of political infamy when he was sentenced to 13 years’ jail on 2008 on 28 counts of sexual assault of a minor, indecent assault and related charges of supplying heroin and cannabis.
The filing of charges against Orkopolous in November 2006 left Labor without a candidate for an election due the following March, at a time when other Labor members in the region were under the spotlight as reports circulated that Orkopoulos’s activities had been the subject of widespread rumour in local party circles. Fearing that a local rank-and-file ballot might produce a candidate with links to him, Morris Iemma and party state secretary Mark Arbib enlisted the ALP national executive to impose an outsider, Maritime Union of Australia national president Robert Coombs. Despite the party’s recent woes, Coombs retained the seat at the ensuing election by a 10.9% margin, but this did not prove enough of a buffer to save him from an 11.9% swing in 2011.
The incoming Liberal member was Garry Edwards, formerly the deputy mayor of Lake Macquarie. Edwards was compelled to resign from the parliamentary Liberal Party in August 2014 when Newcastle Lord Mayor Jeff McCloy told ICAC he had made an $1800 donation to Edwards’ 2011 election campaign, which he was prohibited from doing as a property developer. He was expelled from the party in January, but proposes to seek re-election as an independent. Labor’s candidate is Yasmin Catley, a former staffer to Gillard government Climate Change Minister Greg Combet and the wife of former member Robert Coombs. The Liberals have a low-profile candidate in Johanna Uidam, who was not preselected until three days before the close of nominations.
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