Margin: Liberal 8.5%
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SHANE VAN STYN
Electorate analysis: Located 420 kilometres north of Perth, Geraldton is Western Australia’s fifth largest city and has been the basis of an electorate since self-government began in 1890. It was held by Labor for all but one term from 1914 until 1991, when Jeff Carr quit parliament after being dropped from Carmen Lawrence’s cabinet. The resulting by-election saw Labor’s vote collapsed from 47.6% to 16.6%, with Liberal candidate Bob Bloffwitch narrowly prevailing over the Nationals in a result that helped deprive Labor of its parliamentary majority. Bloffwitch held the seat for two more elections before suffering his own electoral disaster in 2001, when a 20.1% vote for One Nation and its direction of preferences against sitting members fuelled a decisive 11.3% two-party swing to Labor.
The seat was then held for Labor during the Gallop-Carpenter years by Shane Hill, who retained it in 2005 as One Nation voters returned to the major parties in roughly equal proportions. The leadership of the Labor Party by locally born and raised Geoff Gallop may have boosted Hill in 2001 and 2005, as the 5.0% swing he suffered under Alan Carpenter’s leadership in 2008 was unusually strong by non-metropolitan standards. The swing was well and truly decisive, as the one-vote one-value redistribution had caused the electorate to absorb 7000 rural voters in what had formerly been the Shire of Greenough (which had been merged into the City of Geraldton-Greenough), giving the seat a notional Liberal margin of 3.5%. The Nationals vote increased 9.0% to 19.3%, which still left them well short of the 29.1% vote for Labor.
The victorious Liberal candidate was Ian Blayney, owner of a farming property 40 kilometres east of Geraldton. He will be opposed at the coming election by primary school teacher Kathryn Mannion for Labor, and local councillor and businessman Shane van Styn for the Nationals.
As part of its Metronet savings, Labor said it would scrap the $339 million the Barnett government committed to the Oakajee port and rail project 25 kilometres north of Geraldton, on the basis that the project should proceed on a private footing. Their readiness to do so might be read as an implicit acknowledgement that Labor is no longer competitive in the seat. The government received a blow when the project’s owners, Mitsubishi, announced in December it would be indefinitely delayed, although Barnett says he is hopeful it can proceed if Chinese investors can be brought in.