Margin: Labor 12.1%*
Region: South Metropolitan
* By-election 16/5/2009: Greens 4.0% versus Labor
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JAN TER HORST
Electorate analysis: The electorate of Fremantle extends from Fremantle and East Fremantle south through Beaconsfield and South Fremantle to Spearwood (along with Rottnest Island), and has existed as an electorate since the establishment of self-government in 1890. The redistribution has effected slight changes at the north-eastern end, exchanging part of Bicton for part of Palmyra. The seat was held by Labor from 1924 until a by-election in 2009, when it gave the Greens their first ever victory in a WA lower house seat. However, winning candidate Adele Carles soon became estranged from the party, and has sat as an independent since May 2010.
The three previous members for Fremantle had been John Troy, son of Communist Party and maritime union leader Paddy Troy, whose tenure was limited to one term in part due to his tendency towards radical views; David Parker, who unseated Troy for preselection in 1980 at the age of 25 and served as Deputy Premier and Treasurer under the premiership of Peter Dowding, eventually serving a six-month prison term in the aftermath of the WA Inc scandals; and Jim McGinty, who succeeded Parker at a May 1990 by-election and served as party leader from October 1994 to October 1996, and as a senior minister throughout the Gallop-Carpenter government.
McGinty’s exit from parliament six months after the September 2008 election placed the seat at obvious risk from the Greens, whose candidate Adele Carles had nearly succeeding in overtaking the Liberals at the election and unseating McGinty on their preferences. With the Liberals declining to field a candidate at the by-election, Labor appeared to make a pitch for Liberal supporters by endorsing as their candidate Fremantle mayor Peter Tagliaferri, who was noted for his business links and had directed preferences against McGinty as an independent candidate in 1990. However, Carles proved able to consolidate a support base she had first built up as an independent candidate running on local environmental issues in 2005, increasing her 2008 vote from 27.6% to 44.1% and prevailing by 4.0% after preferences.
Carles’ hero status within the Greens proved short-lived, as she was compelled to admit in April 2010 she had been conducting an extra-marital affair with the Treasurer, Troy Buswell. She quit the party a fortnight later, complaining that her colleagues Giz Watson and Alison Xamon had pushed her into going public about the affair. Buswell and Carles co-habitated for a period thereafter, but their relationship broke down in 2012. Carles announced in May that she would not seek re-election, as she believed the Liberals’ determination to field a candidate against her had doomed her to defeat. However, the following October she announced that she was reconsidering, ultimately confirming her decision to run in late January.
The Carles-Buswell affair was back in the headlines in December when Carles accused Buswell of having a drinking problem, and of engaging in an off-coloured jape by “dry humping” a businessman’s leg at a private function. When Buswell’s denial of this was backed by another businessman with Liberal Party connections who had been at the function, Carles went public with private correspondence from Buswell to refute the latter’s claim that her actions had been those of a “jilted lover”. Buswell responded with a defamation writ against Carles, which is due to come before the court shortly before election day.
Labor’s candidate for the coming election is UnionsWA secretary Simone McGurk, who ultimately emerged without opposition for preselection following the late withdrawal of Maritime Union of Australia candidate Adrian Evans. It was earlier reported that ABC TV gardening program presenter Josh Byrne had received an approach from the party, but he promptly ruled himself out. The Greens have endorsed Andrew Sullivan, a Fremantle councillor and local architect. The Liberal candidate is Matthew Hanssen, owner of a locally based IT business.