Cunningham – Australia 2019

ALP 13.3%

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 Warrawong and Port Kembla. Major suburbs include Wollongong, Fairy Meadow, Towradgi, Balgownie, Corrimal, Woonona, Bulli, Thirroul, Austinmer and Port Kembla.

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 has been re-elected four times.

Candidates

Assessment
Cunningham is a safe Labor seat.

2016 result

CandidatePartyVotes%Swing
Sharon Bird Labor 46,41447.9+0.9
Michelle Blicavs Liberal 28,26329.2-2.8
Cath Blakey Greens 14,20014.7+3.3
Michelle RyanChristian Democratic Party3,9394.1+1.7
Nathan WatersScience Party2,5262.6+2.6
John FlanaganNon-Custodial Parents1,5821.6+0.7
Informal4,9334.8

2016 two-party-preferred result

CandidatePartyVotes%Swing
Sharon Bird Labor 61,37763.3+2.0
Michelle Blicavs Liberal 35,54736.7-2.0

Booth breakdown

Booths have been divided into three parts: central, north and south.

The ALP won a majority of the two-party-preferred vote in all three areas, ranging from 63.5% in the north to 65.1% in the south.

The Greens polled strongly in Cunningham, with a primary vote ranging from 12% in the centre to 17.1% in the north.

Voter groupGRN prim %ALP 2PP %Total votes% of votes
South13.865.131,96433.0
North17.163.521,06121.7
Central12.063.715,53816.0
Other votes15.263.110,12110.4
Pre-poll15.359.818,24018.8

Election results in Cunningham at the 2016 federal election
Toggle between two-party-preferred votes and Greens primary votes.


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