Cunningham – Australia 2013

ALP 13.2%

Incumbent MP
Sharon Bird, since 2004.

Geography
Northern Wollongong. Cunningham covers suburbs of Wollongong north of the Wollongong CBD, as well as suburbs as far south as Unanderra. It also includes sparsely populated southern parts of Sutherland Shire as far north as Bundeena and Heathcote. Major suburbs include Wollongong, Fairy Meadow, Towradgi, Balgownie, Corrimal, Woonona, Bulli, Thirroul, Austinmer and Heathcote.

History
Cunningham was created for the 1949 election following the expansion of the House of Representatives. With the exception of a 2002 by-election, the seat has always been won by the ALP.

The seat was first won in 1949 by Labor candidate Billy Davies. Davies had held the state seat of Wollongong for 32 years. Davies held Cunningham until his death in 1956.

The seat was won at the 1956 by-election by Victor Kearney, who held it until his retirement in 1963, although he attempted to win Cunningham back as an independent in 1966.

In 1963 the seat was won by state MP Rex Connor, who had held Wollongong-Kembla since 1950. When the ALP won the 1972 federal election, Connor joined Gough Whitlam’s cabinet as Minister for Minerals and Energy. Connor’s downfall as a minister came in 1974-5 as he attempted to organise loans for the Australian government through less than reputable means. He was forced to resign from Whitlam’s cabinet in October 1975, and the ‘Loans Affair’ was considered a key factor in the downfall of the Whitlam government.

Connor was re-elected at the 1975 election, and died in August 1977. The ensuing by-election was won by Stewart West. West was appointed as Bob Hawke’s first Minister for Immigration after winning the 1983 election. He resigned from Cabinet in November 1983 in protest at a decision in support of uranium mining. He returned to Cabinet in April 1984 and remained there until the 1990 election.

West lost preselection at the 1993 election to Stephen Martin, the sitting member for Macarthur. Macarthur had been redistributed out of the Illawarra area, and Martin successfully challenged West for Cunningham. Martin had held Macarthur since 1984.

Martin was elected as Speaker of the House of Representatives following the 1993 election and served in the role for the final term of the Keating government. Martin resigned in 2002, triggering a third by-election for Cunningham.

At the 2002 by-election, the ALP preselected Sharon Bird over the protests of local Labor members. The by-election took place under the leadership of Simon Crean, and in the lead-up to the war in Iraq. The ALP was buffetted from the left by issues such as Iraq and Crean’s poor performance, coupled with the loss of support from local ALP members and unions due to Bird’s preselection. The Liberal Party did not run in the by-election, and the Greens managed to organise strong preferences from other candidates. The ALP polled 38% of the primary vote, while Greens candidate Michael Organ polled 23%. Organ received strong preference flows, and won the seat with 52.2% of the two-party preferred vote.

Organ’s victory caused shockwaves, as the first ever Green elected to the House of Representatives. At the time the party had only two senators and had only polled 5% in the 2001 election, which was substantially up from poor performances at previous elections in the late 1990s.

The 2004 election saw Bird challenge Organ for the seat. With a Liberal candidate standing, Organ failed to come in the top two. Early counts suggested that the Greens had actually gained a swing on a two-party preferred basis against the ALP, but this became irrelevant with the Liberals coming second.

Bird was re-elected in 2007 and 2010.

Candidates
Sitting Labor MP  is running for re-election. The Liberal Party is running . The Greens are running Helen Wilson. The Palmer United Party is running Chris Atlee. The Non-Custodial Parents Party is running John Flanagan. Katter’s Australian Party is running John Bursil.

  • Philip Clifford (Liberal)
  • Chris Atlee (Palmer United Party)
  • Helen Wilson (Greens)
  • Rob George (Christian Democratic Party)
  • Sharon Bird (Labor)
  • John Leslie Bursill (Katter’s Australian Party)
  • John Flanagan (Non-Custodial Parents Party)

Assessment
Cunningham is a safe Labor seat.

2010 result

CandidatePartyVotes%Swing
Sharon BirdALP43,76949.17-3.20
Philip CliffordLIB29,24132.85+4.94
George TakacsGRN13,46115.12+0.90
Jess MooreSA1,3031.46+0.68
John FlanaganNCPP1,2401.39+0.85

2010 two-candidate-preferred result

CandidatePartyVotes%Swing
Sharon BirdALP56,23463.17-3.70
Philip CliffordLIB32,78036.83+3.70
Polling places in Cunningham at the 2010 federal election. Bellambi-Austinmer in blue, Coledale-Helensburgh in red, Fairy Meadow-Corrimal in green, Sutherland in yellow, Wollongong Central in orange. Click to enlarge.
Polling places in Cunningham at the 2010 federal election. Bellambi-Austinmer in blue, Coledale-Helensburgh in red, Fairy Meadow-Corrimal in green, Sutherland in yellow, Wollongong Central in orange. Click to enlarge.

Booth breakdown
Booths have been divided into five areas. From north to south, these are Sutherland, Coledale-Helensburgh, Bellambi-Austinmer, Fairy Meadow-Corrimal and Wollongong Central. Four of these areas are in the City of Wollongong, with the northernmost one in Sutherland Shire.

The ALP won large majorities varying from 61% in Coledale-Helensburgh to 68.7% in Bellambi-Austinmer. The ALP won a slim 50.2% majority in Sutherland.

The Greens vote varied from 12.6% in Sutherland to 18.3% in Coledale-Helensburgh.

Voter groupGRN %ALP 2PP %Total votes% of votes
Wollongong Central15.0562.8728,05331.52
Fairy Meadow-Corrimal12.8065.5516,59718.65
Bellambi-Austinmer17.5268.7014,75716.58
Coledale-Helensburgh18.3361.035,5876.28
Sutherland12.6350.194,8065.40
Other votes15.0861.1819,21421.59
Two-party-preferred votes in Cunningham at the 2010 federal election.
Two-party-preferred votes in Cunningham at the 2010 federal election.
Greens primary votes in Cunningham at the 2010 federal election.
Greens primary votes in Cunningham at the 2010 federal election.
Two-party-preferred votes in central Wollongong at the 2010 federal election.
Two-party-preferred votes in central Wollongong at the 2010 federal election.
Greens primary votes in central Wollongong at the 2010 federal election.
Greens primary votes in central Wollongong at the 2010 federal election.

13 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t think that it is as safe as you think . The last opinion poll showed the Greens have sunk to an all time low and the way people now see the Labour Party…well!!

    I live in what was supposedly a very safe Labour seat at the last State Election and Liberal romped home

  2. Cmon there will be very little swing in Throsby or Cunningham. This is the seat that elected a greens MP at a by-election. Yes there will be a swing against the greens but those polls look at all seats not specifically in certain areas. this will still be an easy hold for labor

  3. Shirl in Syd
    i have a good friend who is a local ( & Greenie) who lives in Therroul .
    Whenever talking real estate the locals talk in terms of “Sydney prices”. Whether these begin at Wombarra, or Woonoona, is a point of discussion. So far rising real estate, & changing demographics, have had next to zero impact on voting patterns. I’d be interested to know which state seat you live in.

  4. I am in the seat of Coogee for State elections.
    The fact Liberal was elected, apart from the huge amount work we put in, was that everyone has had enough of Labour. I think this will be the voting pattern as predicted in the Federal election. Kingsford-Smith has pretty much always been Labour, as far as I can remember. I don’t think Peter Garret has a hope in hell being elected again from what I hear around the place.

  5. Shirl in Sydney Coogee was in the bag for the libs so much so that there was a likely chance the greens could come second and labor third. The swing was very similar to the state wide swing so no suprise in Coogee. Kingsford Smith is a way different story. Like you said its always been a labor seat and despite the margin should remain that way as its not as angry as western sydney would be. I was in Maroubra today at the shops and he made an appearance and he got a rock star reception and is a very popular figure. I’d say Kingsford Smith will hold even though a seat on a higher margin like McMahon could go

  6. Shirl in Syd
    Whether Garrett just hangs on, or gets turfed, to me is pretty irrelevant. The reasons i’m very sanguine are
    1/ he definitely will not stay , & serve full term
    2/ having served 3 terms & retiring as minister he will recieve massive entitlement.
    3/ why would he stay when he can resume his careers as activist, rock musician, christian mystic, lawyer, etc????. A lot better than an irrelevant backbencher in a decimated rump, of a discredited party wouldn’t you think ???
    Personally iv’e never thought any more highly of the bloke than any other lawyer iv’e met. That is not a very high bar, by any measurement !!!.
    Should Garrett survive what we will be left with (post election), is the fundamental injustice of a needless, & profligate by-election.
    There may be someone who believes that pollies should not pay the costs of such by-elections personally, or from future benefits (barring death, or TPD). However i have yet to meet them !!!. Perhaps someone will accept the challenge…….!!!!
    After all it is a total breach of contract between the electorate, & the MP. I will enjoy seeing The Hon Peter Garrett LLB defend that one (to the people who voted for hiM) !!!

  7. Ben
    Sorry. you are quite right, my mistake. Apologies. Is there any way you can move it as convener??

  8. No I can’t. It’s not a big deal, conversations change direction, but if you’re going to continue discussing Kingsford Smith please go to the right page.

  9. Ben

    There are just under 13 weeks to the **ELECTION**. Surely you don’t seriously think that the majority of people will stay on topic in their own little slot, do you?

    I made a comment which took a turn from the original . When I was asked which electorate I was speaking about, was I supposed to say “Sorry I can’t answer here, we have to move elsewhere.”?

    It ain’t gonna work !!

Comments are closed.