Charlestown by-election, 2014

October 25, 2014

Cause of by-election
Sitting member Andrew Cornwell resigned from the Liberal Party and moved to the crossbench in early August after revelations at the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) that he had taken donations from prohibited donors. Within a week, further revelations forced Cornwell to resign from Parliament on 12 August.

MarginLIB 9.9%

Geography
Hunter region of NSW. Charlestown covers northeastern parts of the City of Lake Macquarie, just south of Newcastle. Suburbs include Charlestown, Kahibah, Cardiff, Gateshead, Warners Bay and Kotara South. The electorate also covers a small part of the City of Newcastle.

History
The seat of Charlestown was first created for the 1971 election. A change in redistribution rules saw the lower Hunter included in the central zone, leading to a loss of a Newcastle seat. Kahibah and Hamilton were merged and Charlestown was created in their place. Charlestown was held by the ALP continuously from its creation in 1971 until the 2011 election.

The first member for Charlestown was the ALP’s Jack Stewart, who had previously held the seat of Kahibah from 1957 until its abolition in 1971. He held the seat for 18 months until his death in 1972.

The 1972 by-election was won by the ALP’s Richard Face. He held the seat for the next thirty years until his retirement in 2003, serving as Minister for Gaming and Racing from 1995 to 2003.

In 2003, the seat was won by the ALP’s Matthew Morris. In 2007, Morris retained his seat with a 7% margin over Lake Macquarie councillor Paul Scarfe, running as an independent.

In 2011, Morris was defeated by Liberal candidate Andrew Cornwell, with a massive 25% primary vote swing to the Liberal Party, partly due to the absence of independent candidate Paul Scarfe.

Candidates
The Liberal Party has announced that they will not run in the Newcastle by-election as a supposed ‘act of atonement’. The ALP had already preselected their candidate for the upcoming 2015 state election.

  1. Luke Arms (Independent)
  2. Marc Sky (Independent)
  3. Jane Oakley (Greens)
  4. Suellen Wrightson (Independent/Palmer United)
  5. Jodie Harrison (Labor)
  6. Luke Cubis (Independent)
  7. Arjay Martin
  8. Brian Tucker (Christian Democratic Party)
  9. Veronica Hope (Independent)

Assessment
With no Liberal candidate running, and considering the circumstances of the by-election, the ALP is in a very strong position to win this seat.

In the absence of a Liberal candidate, small right-wing parties should do better in Newcastle than they would normally be expected to do. It remains to be seen whether a credible centre-right independent will emerge, but that person will struggle to capture a large proportion of the Liberal vote.

Considering the seat’s long history of Labor rule, the ALP candidate should have no trouble winning.

2011 result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Andrew Cornwell Liberal 19,085 43.8 +25.2
Matthew Morris Labor 12,590 28.9 -14.6
Paula Morrow Greens 3,672 8.4 -1.8
Barry Johnston Independent 3,217 7.4 +7.4
Craig Oaten Fishing Party 1,869 4.3 +4.3
Steve Camilleri Christian Democrat 949 2.2 -1.0
Bruce Foley Family First 943 2.2 +2.2
Ben McMullen Independent 539 1.2 +1.2
Adrian Schofield Independent 460 1.1 +1.1
Arjay Martin Independent 228 0.5 +0.5

2011 two-candidate-preferred result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Andrew Cornwell Liberal 21,856 59.9
Matthew Morris Labor 14,661 40.1
Polling places in Charlestown at the 2011 state electon. Cardiff in yellow, Charlestown in blue, Gateshead in orange, Kotara in red, Warners Bay in green. Click to enlarge.

Polling places in Charlestown at the 2011 state electon. Cardiff in yellow, Charlestown in blue, Gateshead in orange, Kotara in red, Warners Bay in green. Click to enlarge.

Booth breakdown
Booths in Charlestown have been divided into five main area, based around five main suburbs: Charlestown, Cardiff, Gateshead, Kotara and Warners Bay.

The Liberal Party won large majorities in four out of five areas, with a vote ranging from 60.2% in Charlestown to 65.7% in Kotara. In Gateshead, in the south-east of the electorate, the ALP won a 54.5% majority.

Voter group Johnst. % GRN % LIB 2PP ALP 2PP Total votes % of votes
Charlestown 9.60 9.30 60.16 39.84 9607 22.06
Warners Bay 7.14 7.01 63.76 36.24 8653 19.87
Kotara 6.33 10.23 65.65 34.35 5913 13.58
Gateshead 7.21 7.11 45.55 54.45 5475 12.57
Cardiff 6.17 6.28 63.43 36.57 3695 8.48
Other votes 6.66 9.27 58.90 41.10 10209 23.44
Two-party-preferred votes in Charlestown at the 2011 state election.

Two-party-preferred votes in Charlestown at the 2011 state election.

About the Author

Ben Raue is the founder and author of the Tally Room. If you like this post, please consider donating to support the Tally Room.