Cootamundra by-election, 2017

Cause of by-election
Sitting Nationals MP Katrina Hodgkinson resigned from parliament in September 2017.

MarginNAT 20.4%

Geography
South-western NSW. Cootamundra covers the towns of Cootamundra, Gundagai, Young, Cowra, West Wyalong and Narrandera, amongst others, in the area between Wagga Wagga, Yass, Griffith and Forbes. Cootamundra covers the Bland, Coolamon, Cootamundra, Cowra, Gundagai, Harden, Junee, Narrandera, Temora, Weddin and Young council areas.

History
Cootamundra takes in parts of the former seats of Burrinjuck and Murrumbidgee.

The electoral district of Burrinjuck existed from 1950 to 2015. It was a Labor seat from 1950 to 1988, a Liberal seat from 1988 to 1998, and a National Party seat since 1999.

Bill Sheahan first won Burrinjuck in 1950. He had held the seat of Yass since 1941, and the seat was renamed Burrinjuck in 1950. He served as a minister in the Labor government from 195o to 1965, and retired in 1973.

He was succeeded by his son Terry Sheahan. He served as a minister from 1980 until 1988, when he was defeated in Burrinjuck, and the Labor government lost power.

Burrinjuck was won in 1988 by Liberal candidate Alby Schultz. Schultz held the seat for ten years, and in 1998 resigned to run for the federal seat of Hume. He has held Hume ever since.

Burrinjuck was won in 1999 by National Party candidate Katrina Hodgkinson. She held the seat until it was abolished in 2015.

Murrumbidgee was one of only two districts to have existed continuously since the first Legislative Assembly was elected in 1856. The seat was a two-member district from 1856 to 1859, a single-member district from 1859 to 1880, a two-member district until 1885, a three-member district from 1885 to 1894, a single-member district from 1894 to 1920, a three-member district from 1920 to 1927, and a single-member district from 1927 until its abolition at the 2015 election.

The seat was dominated by the ALP in the middle part of the last century, but has been held by the National Party since 1984.

In 1941, the sitting Country Party MP, Robert Hankinson, retired. The official Labor candidate was defeated by independent Labor candidate George Enticknap, who was then welcomed into the Labor caucus in the Parliament. He served as a minister from 1960 to 1965, when he retired.

Al Grassby won Murrumbidgee for the Labor Party at the 1965 election. He resigned from the seat in 1969 to take the federal seat of Riverina. He served as Minister for Immigration from 1972 to 1974, when he lost Riverina.

Lin Gordon won the 1970 Murrumbidgee by-election for the ALP. He served as a minister from 1976 until his retirement in 1984.

In 1984, Murrumbidgee was won by the National Party’s Adrian Cruickshank. He came third on primary votes, but preferences from the Liberal Party pushed him ahead of independent candidate Thomas Marriott. Marriott’s preferences elected Cruickshank over the Labor Party. He held the seat until his retirement in 1999.

Murrumbidgee was held by the National Party’s Adrian Piccoli from 1999 until 2015, when he shifted to the seat of Murray.

Candidates

  • Philip Langford (Christian Democratic Party)
  • Jeffrey Passlow (Greens)
  • Matthew Stadtmiller (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers)
  • Jim Saleam (Independent)
  • Charlie Sheahan (Labor)
  • Steph Cooke (Nationals)

Assessment
Cootamundra appears to be a safe Nationals seat on paper, but it’s very similar to the seat of Orange, which the Nationals lost to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party in a 2016 by-election.

The Shooters could again pose a thread, although some of the issues which contributed to the by-election defeat in 2016 (council amalgamations, greyhound racing ban) are no longer as controversial as they were last year.

2015 result

CandidatePartyVotes%Swing
Katrina Hodgkinson Nationals 31,08065.9-8.8
Charlie Sheahan Labor 12,25326.0+9.3
Rod Therkelsen Greens 1,6423.5-1.9
Elio CacciottiNo Land Tax1,1182.4+2.4
Philip LangfieldChristian Democratic Party1,0722.3-0.9
Informal1,3052.7

2015 two-party-preferred result

CandidatePartyVotes%Swing
Katrina Hodgkinson Nationals 31,89670.4-9.9
Charlie Sheahan Labor 13,40029.6+9.9

Booth breakdown

Booths in Cootamundra have been split into four parts: north-east (including Young and Cowra), north-west (including West Wyalong), south-east (including Cootamundra and Gundagai) and south-west (including Junee and Narrandera).

The Nationals won a large majority of the two-party-preferred vote in every area, ranging from 61% in the south-east to 78.4% in the north-west.

Voter groupNAT 2PP %Total votes% of votes
North-East73.211,14523.6
South-West71.69,80520.8
South-East61.06,78314.4
North-West78.42,6415.6
Other votes70.516,79135.6

Two-party-preferred votes in Cootamundra at the 2015 NSW state election

About the Author

Ben Raue is the founder and author of the Tally Room.

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