The Hunter and the Central Coast is a region mostly dominated by Labor, who recovered most of their ground in 2015 after a disastrous election in 2011.
At the 2011 state election, the Liberal Party won all four seats on the Central Coast as well as the typical Labor seats of Swansea, Charlestown, Newcastle and Maitland.
Labor won back two seats in the Hunter at by-elections in 2014, and then won those other seats listed above plus three out of four Central Coast seats at the 2015 election. They also recovered Port Stephens, which had flipped in 2007.
This doesn’t leave much for the Coalition in this region. Out of thirteen seats in the region, ten are held by Labor, along with one for the Nationals, one for the Liberal Party and one held by an independent.
I’ve identified six seats worth paying attention to, which I’ll run through below the fold.
Let’s start with Upper Hunter, which is the only truly rural electorate in this region. You could argue it could have fit in with inland NSW. It’s also the second most marginal Coalition seat in the state, held by Nationals MP Michael Johnsen by a 2.2% margin. This seat covers Dungog, Gloucester, Muswellbrook, Scone and surrounding areas. It will be a key seat in this election. The electorate was the best seat in NSW for the Shooters party at the 2015 upper house election, but unlike other strong Shooters seats the ALP is not receiving their preferences. Upper Hunter is also one of the only marginal or semi-marginal coalition seats which was not won by Labor during the last Labor government – the Nationals have held the seat continuously since the 1930s.
The only other Coalition seat in the region is Terrigal, held by the Liberal Party’s Adam Crouch by a 9% margin. This seat will probably remain in Coalition hands but it could be a stretch goal for Labor if the election goes well.
Independent MP Greg Piper has held the seat of Lake Macquarie since 2007. He also served as the directly-elected mayor of Lake Macquarie council from 2004 to 2012. He currently holds the seat by a 10.7% margin. Lake Macquarie had a long history as a Labor seat before Piper’s time. He will probably hold on to his seat, but if Labor is in a stronger position they could potentially gain ground here and make his hold on the seat more tentative.
There are also two Labor seats which are held on very slim margins.
Labor’s Liesl Tesch won the seat of Gosford at a 2017 by-election following the death of her predecessor Kathy Smith, who had won the seat off the Liberal Party by a slim 0.2% margin in 2015. Labor’s hold on the seat was significantly strengthened at the by-election, with Tesch polling 62.5% after preferences. While we generally use the general election margin to assess a seat’s marginality, it seems unlikely that Tesch will have trouble retaining her seat.
The neighbouring seat of The Entrance is held by Labor by another very slim margin. Labor’s David Mehan won the seat in 2015 by a 0.4% margin. Evidence from Gosford suggests he should strengthen his hold on the seat but it’s always dangerous to write off a seat on such a small margin.