Federal 2019 – the race in northern NSW


For this post I’m focusing on those parts of New South Wales to the north of Sydney, including the Hunter region. There are five Labor seats and six National seats in this region.

I’ve identified four seats worth discussing, below the fold.

Firstly there is the Nationals seat of Page, held by Kevin Hogan by a 2.3% margin. This seat covers parts of the far north coast, from Lismore and Kyogle down to Woolgoolga, stopping just north of Coffs Harbour. This seat would be a key target for Labor. It was Labor-held from 2007 to 2013, but after a big loss in 2013 the party only gained a small swing in 2016.

Immediately to the south we have Cowper, which is held by the Nationals’ retiring MP Luke Hartsuyker. The electorate covers both Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie, as well as areas in between.

The redistribution prior to the 2016 election shifted the north coast seats further south, pulling in Port Macquarie, which had previously been contained in Lyne. Former independent MP Rob Oakeshott, who had represented Lyne from 2008 until his retirement in 2013, made a last-minute comeback against Hartsuyker in 2016, reducing his margin to 4.6%. With Hartsuyker retiring and Oakeshott running a more organised campaign in 2019, this seat could very well be in play.

I have half an eye on the western NSW seat of Calare, which covers Bathurst, Lithgow, Orange and other surrounding towns. The Nationals’ Andrew Gee holds the seat by an 11.8% margin, and will likely hold on comfortably. This seat is worth watching because it is the one seat chosen by the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers after their remarkable success at winning three seats in western NSW at the state election in March. One of these seats, Orange, overlaps with Calare. The Shooters have generally focused on state politics but it will be interesting to see how well they perform in a federal contest, particularly when they have decided to focus on just one seat in NSW.

Finally a brief mention for the Labor seat of Richmond which covers the north-eastern corner of New South Wales, including Tweed, Byron Bay and Ballina. Justine Elliot holds this seat by just 4%, but has managed to hold the seat continuously since she first won in 2004. She will probably be fine, but this is the most marginal Labor seat in this region.

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  1. The disconnect between the Shooters’ successful strategy and campaigning and their Calare campaign with Orange Councillor Sam Romano is interesting.

    They’ve succeeded in the Orange by-election, then in holding the seat comfortably and winning two more in March, by selecting solid, hard-working candidates who spent a lot of time building connections with the electorate. They also had their professional staff from the parliamentary and party offices actively driving media strategy, while also activating local volunteers and bringing in supporters from elsewhere to support pre-poll and election day.

    Their NSW Senate campaign appears to have the party’s full support and a similar strategic approach, although I think they recognise their vote isn’t high enough to win a seat. But there’s a complete separation from their lone lower house campaign. Their two NSW upper house reps did media in Orange this week with Senate candidate Brett Cooke, yet Romano wasn’t present. Phil Donato’s Facebook page in recent weeks has posted about half a dozen “endorsements” of Cooke (unsurprisingly, as Cooke is Phil’s senior advisor) but there’s zero mention of Romano. And on the ground at pre-poll, despite Cooke living in Bathurst and there being an SFF member on council in Bathurst, the main volunteers setting up and handing out have been from Romano’s family and his friends coming across from Orange. Their Calare campaign has had little creativity with media and has mainly involved basic dogwhistling or name-calling statements rather than the opportunistic stunts they’ve pulled off in other campaigns.

    I don’t think the party has any serious interest in winning Calare, and it’s still not entirely clear to me why they chose to run, especially with a lacklustre candidate. From what I’ve seen, it also seems Andrew Gee is still respected enough as a local MP that he won’t be in danger.

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