Luke Hartsuyker, since 2001.
Cowper lies on the mid-north coast of New South Wales, stretching from Kempsey to Maclean. The seat covers the towns of South West Rocks, Nambucca Heads, Bellingen, Coffs Harbour and areas near Maclean and Grafton.
Cowper was an original federation seat, and has almost always been held by conservative parties, with the Country/National Party holding it for all but two years since 1919.
The seat was first held by Francis Clarke of the Protectionist Party, who was defeated by Free Trader Henry Lee in 1903. Lee was defeated by John Thomson in 1906. Thomson first held the seat for the Protectionist Party and held the seat for successive non-Labor parties for the next 13 years.
In 1919, Thomson, then representing the Nationalists, was defeated by Earle Page, who joined the Country Party the next year. Page held the seat for over 40 years.
Page became Country Party leader in 1921 and led the party into government for the first time in 1922, forcing the senior Nationalists to drop Billy Hughes as Prime Minister. He served as Treasurer in the Bruce government until 1929. He also served as a minister in the second and third terms of the Lyons government, and served as acting Prime Minister for three weeks upon Lyons’ death.
Page refused to serve in a government led by Lyons’ deputy Robert Menzies, but the Country Party rebelled and replaced Page with a new leader. Page returned to government in 1940 as a minister, and again served as a minister from 1949 to 1956. Page continued to serve in Parliament until the 1961 election. At that election, he was too ill to campaign and fell into a coma before the election. In a surprise upset, Page was defeat by the ALP’s Frank McGuren, and he died days later.
McGuren only held the seat for one term, which was the only term the ALP has ever held Cowper. He was defeated in 1963 by the Country Party’s Ian Robinson. Robinson transferred to the new seat of Page in 1984, and Garry Nehl won Cowper for the Nationals. Nehl retired in 2001, and was succeeded by Luke Hartsuyker. At the 2007 election, Hartsuyker’s margin was cut to 1.2%, before increasing to over 9% in 2010.
- Carol Vernon (Greens)
- Bethany Mcalpine (Christian Democratic Party)
- Luke Hartsuyker (Nationals)
- Rod Jeanneret (Palmer United Party)
- Alfredo Navarro (Labor)
Cowper has in the past been a marginal seat, but in current circumstances should be comfortably retained by the Nationals.
2010 two-candidate-preferred result
Booths have been divided into six areas. The seat is covered by five local government areas. Coffs Harbour has been split between those in the Coffs urban area and those in the rural hinterland. The other five areas cover all of the polling places in a single local government area.
The Nationals won a majority in all six areas, varying from a slim 50.1% in Bellingen to 63.5% in Kempsey.
Apart from the major parties, two candidates polled between 9% and 10: independent candidate John Arkan and Greens candidate Dominic King.
Arkan’s vote varied from 4.2% in Clarence Valley to 15.3% in Coffs Rural. The Greens vote varied from 5.5% in Kempsey to 19.7% in Bellingen.
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