Margin: Liberal 12.9%
Region: North Metropolitan
Click here for electoral boundaries map
Electorate analysis: Located 20 kilometres north of the city, Hillarys extends along the coast from Marmion north through Sorrento and Hillarys to Kallaroo, also taking in the suburb of Padbury inland of Marmion Avenue. The redistribution adds 1.5% to the Liberal margin by swapping the interior suburb of Duncraig for the coastal electorate of Marmion with Carine, and adds Kallaroo from Ocean Reef. The electorate was created in 1996 in place of abolished Whitford, which had been progressively shrinking since its creation as a semi-rural seat in 1977 (locals might be amused to learn the area was previously covered by Toodyay). Whitford spent its short life as a bellwether seat, changing from Liberal to Labor with the election of the Burke government in 1983 and back again when Richard Court came to power in 1993. The victor on the latter occasion was Rob Johnson, who then progressed to the safer new seat of Hillarys. Johnson held on in 2001 in the face of a 13.2% slump on the primary vote, possibly being saved by One Nation’s decision to exempt him and three others from their decision to direct preferences against all sitting members.
Rob Johnson is a former mayor of the London borough of Sutton, and has kept his English accent since moving to Perth in 1988. He came to be associated with the now fractured Noel Crichton-Browne faction, and rose to the ministry in the last 14 months of the Court government as Works and Services Minister. Johnson’s propensity to cause trouble for his leaders became evident during the first term in opposition, when he abandoned the job of leader of opposition business in the Assembly rather than work with Barnett chief-of-staff Richard Ellis. When the vote of Troy Buswell allowed Paul Omodei to topple Matt Birney in March 2006, Johnson accused Buswell of cowardly and gutless disloyalty. Johnson nominated against Buswell when Omodei stood aside in January 2008, reportedly attracting 10 votes to Buswell’s 17. Johnson remained on the front bench until June 2008, when he was dumped after threatening to resign unless South Perth MP John McGrath was sacked for moving a parliamentary motion provided to him by Brian Burke.
With Buswell out of the way, Johnson was made Police, Emergency Services and Road Safety Minister following the 2008 election victory. His performance in the role was not well received by the media, and the emergency services role was transferred to his old foe Buswell upon his return to the front bench in December 2011. Johnson was dumped altogether in the reshuffle which followed Christian Porter’s departure in June 2012, prompting him to accuse Barnett of having betrayed him by reneging on an earlier agreement in which he would leave the front bench of his own volition after the election. Among the unfavourable personality appraisals being circulated by Liberal sources at the time were claims Johnson had threatened to re-contest his seat as an independent unless he was guaranteed not only his existing position until the election, but the Speaker’s position thereafter.