Cowper – Australia 2019

NAT 4.6% vs IND

Incumbent MP
Luke Hartsuyker, since 2001.

Cowper lies on the mid-north coast of New South Wales, stretching from Port Macquarie to Coffs Habrour. The seat covers the towns of Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, South West Rocks, Nambucca Heads, Bellingen and Kempsey.

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. Hartsuyker has held the seat ever since.

A redistribution shifted the seat south at the 2016 election, and former independent MP Rob Oakeshott, who previously represented Lyne to the south, contested Cowper and came within 5% of defeating Hartsuyker.

Sitting Nationals MP Luke Hartsuyker is not running for re-election.

This seat is normally considered reasonably safe, but Rob Oakeshott’s last-minute candidacy (announced shortly before nominations closed) was enough to cut Hartsuyker’s margin to less than 5%. Oakeshott has announced his candidacy with more time to spare in 2019, which should give him a good shot at winning this seat in the absence of a sitting MP.

2016 result

Luke Hartsuyker Nationals 47,55946.0-8.1
Rob OakeshottIndependent27,20026.3+26.3
Damian Wood Labor 14,07913.6-10.0
Carol Vernon Greens 6,9016.7-3.9
Wayne LawrenceChristian Democratic Party3,5383.4+1.0
John ArkanIndependent3,4573.3+3.3
Michael GoughCitizens Electoral Council7260.7+0.6

2016 two-candidate-preferred result

Luke Hartsuyker Nationals 56,44354.6
Rob OakeshottIndependent47,01745.4

2016 two-party-preferred result

Luke Hartsuyker Nationals 64,74362.6-0.7
Damian Wood Labor 38,71737.4+0.7

Booth breakdown

Booths have been divided between the five local government areas: Bellingen, Coffs Harbour, Kempsey, Nambucca and Port Macquarie.

The Nationals won a majority of the two-candidate-preferred vote (in opposition to Oakeshott) in four out of five areas, ranging from 52.6% in Port Macquarie-Hastings to 58.4% in Kempsey. Oakeshott polled 56.1% in Bellingen.

The Labor primary vote ranged from 9.3% in Port Macquarie-Hastings to 18.6% in Kempsey.

Voter groupALP prim %NAT 2CP %Total votes% of votes
Coffs Harbour13.455.220,41319.7
Port Macquarie-Hastings9.352.618,25517.6
Other votes15.753.99,5309.2

Election results in Cowper at the 2016 federal election
Toggle between two-candidate-preferred votes (Nationals vs Oakeshott) and Labor primary votes.

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  1. Doug
    Do you really think anyone is angry over Barnaby leaving his wife, for a younger woman? It happens all the time. Bill Shorten did it too.
    i’m very sceptical Oakeshott can improve on his 2016 result. His history does not help him.
    Cowper is the seat with the highest population in NSW.Additionally the AEC ignored dozens of submissions objecting to Port Macquarie, & Coffs being placed in the same electorate. Ironically these factors may have saved Hartsuyker.
    Peta Credlin has a high opinion of Hartsuyker as a minister. However he has always come across as a bit slow, even a hayseed. Perhaps there is a bit of a shallow gene pool in the Nats

  2. Luke Hartsuyker announces today he isn’t re-contesting Cowper.

    Should open this seat up for a real contest.

  3. Though Labor got close in 07, they’ve got not chance this time around. Given Hartsuyker’s retirement however, I’m tipping this as an IND gain.

  4. The environment is perfect for Oakeshott. This’ll be an IND gain, and I don’t think it’ll be that close either.

    Port Macquarie will be a bloodbath in favour of Oakeshott and he should get a good swing out of Coffs.

  5. As others have posted Coffs Harbor and Port Macquarie shouldn’t be in the same seat.However Oakeshott has a good chance………

  6. Have voters forgotten already how he delivered govt to Gillard in 2010? Will this be an issue for or against him?

  7. This is interesting Rob Oakshott could upset things here

    Hadley will go off his head on 2GB if he does watch this seat

  8. I’m getting reliable reports that regular Nationals voters in Coffs Harbour are telling others that they are voting for Oakeshott this time. He doesn’t need much of a swing on last time to get over the line. You’d have to put this as at least equally as likely an IND gain as Warringah.

  9. Oakshot!!! Ever heard the expression : run with the foxes & bay s with the hounds ? No thank you I have a long memory. I want a work horse not a shallow show pony for my vote.

  10. Another Independent in Cowper – Allan Green

    The Greens candidate is Lauren Edwards

    This seat is still a live contest between Oakeshott and the Nats, but I think given the strength of the Nationals vote in Port Macquarie and Oxley at the state election, would put the Nats slightly ahead.

  11. How could people ever consider Oakeshott. He’s only there for the money. He has tasted the public purse and wants more. An idealist without substance. We can not afford Oakeshott nor Shorten. Heaven help us if these clowns get their hands on our hard earned dollars.

  12. There is a new candidate in the mix. Meet Kellie Pearce, the Animal Justice Party candidate for Cowper. A late entrance, Kellie is keen to see the end of live export for cattle and sheep and believes that the environment deserves a higher priority amongst Canberra’s decision makers. A Vote 1 for AJP will send the strong parties a message that animals matter.

  13. Kellie, Its good to know that you raised your hand for politics, But my question is, What will your HTV look like? Rob Oakeshott above the National’s or Vice versa?

  14. Article in OZ TODAY Oakeshott has committed to 100% renewables, with 50% by 2030. Perhaps that was the price of support from Getup ?. Otherwise, or even so, IMV incredibly poor judgement. I’LL be very surprised if he doesn’t go backwards big time.

  15. This is a safe Oakeshott gain. He got to 45.5% against a long time member after announcing a run a few weeks out from the election. Now with no Nats incumbent, an extended run from Oakeshott and a general anti-major party sentiment in the electorate I think he’ll get at least 55% 2PP

  16. For what it’s worth, Sky were quoting unnamed Nats sources yesterday who reckoned they were toast.

    “Article in OZ TODAY Oakeshott has committed to 100% renewables, with 50% by 2030. Perhaps that was the price of support from Getup ?. Otherwise, or even so, IMV incredibly poor judgement. I’LL be very surprised if he doesn’t go backwards big time.”

    That move won’t make him go backwards at all. Opinion polling over the last two years has shown public support for increasing renewables being over 70%, and rising. And before you say that this is just city people concerns or something along those lines… Internal polling among Northern NSW Nationals has shown the same thing. The traditional Nats voters in seats like Cowper want a transition away from coal and are telling their candidates that.

    If you want a source for that, try Patrick Conaghan himself… He’s finding it pretty difficult to balance his electorate’s climate concerns with the coal push of the Nats:

  17. The Nats ARE toast here. History shows it is very difficult for the major parties to compete with a well-known independent in a regional seat. Renewables or no.

  18. WD,

    Would you like to elaborate on why 50% renewables by 2030 will be such a vote loser for Oakeshott in Cowper? We will be already reach 33% in couple of years. We all know why the Australian might think so. Are you basing your view on the prejudices of the OZ or the views of the people you know in Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour and every town in between? Have you seen all the large off-grid solar PV systems in that area?

    Whilst I don’t agree with all your views expressed on this site, I can generally see you have put some independent thought into your opinion – this time, I am not is sure.

  19. High st
    I/ 50% is more than labor’s 45%, which is effectively more than 45% because of the disallowance of Kyoto targets. The real numbers are important because of Impact. Labors agenda is already the most radical ever taken to an election. Ok Oakeshott is now stating it is not radical enough. he wants to go further. How much ?
    2/ The EV factor will be an emotive issue in a Rural electorate. Cars are part of the family.
    3/ i dispute “the prejudices of the OZ” The suggestion of editorial control is absurd. The suggestion that i would fail to identify the individual views of journalists is insulting. I say this without malice as i consider you a mate.
    4/ Yeah i know about a dozen + people in Cowper. I had a longterm nurse girlfriend from Coffs in my twenties.
    5/ PV systems.. Well the money had to go somewhere. What have we spent so far on subsidies ? Is it $9 Billion or are we up to $12 Billion. I’d remind you that i have 24 panels on my roof, & i haven’t become, or transformed into a climate change zealot !!
    6/ I’ve made my personal views on this subject clear, & my position drawn from the experiences of millions of other mystics, gives me faith & hope of a quite different complexion. I think i posted something on the Hughes thread.I sincerely wish that others could share my faith in the future, rather than be terrified of “the catastrophic climate change alarmism’ that so many are obsessed by.

    Thankyou for your kind, & generous compliment on my “independent” thinking. I always appreciate your contributions too.
    cheers WD

  20. I’d be cautious about writing the Nats off here. A new independent with name recognition IS hard to beat, but the problem for Oakeshott is that he is a known quantity and seen as being aligned with Labor and the Greens. This is where his emphasis on renewables might hurt, nor because people are against renewables, but because it reminds them of his past support for the Carbon Tax and the Gillard Government. As with Tony Windsor, his big disadvantage is that he is seen my many as being aligned with the political left and not a genuine independent. Likewise, Tony Abbott’s best hope in Warringah is to tie Stegall in with Get Up, The Greens and Labor. If he can do this, he’ll hold.

  21. Expat
    Mate are you for real ??. David Crowe has got problems, issues, enemies, & history. Consequently i read his stuff pretty critically. Clearly you do not. The article you linked to, was very sloppy indeed.
    Where is the news in a candidate seizing “underdog” status ? All politicians fall over themselves doing it !!. Of course Conaghan will magnify his challenges. What a shock !!
    Gee the Nats in Victoria have a different view of coal fired power stations than the LNP in QLD.!! Well that’s a surprise !!! Gee we didn’t know that. What would motivate them !!?? i wonder!!??
    The Greens vote increased in northern NSW (SLIGHTLY ) groundbreaking stuff again.

    The problem with Crowe is that he is so sure that he is right (about everything) that he neglected to review his piece objectively. & it shows big time. The article is really about the lack of leadership in the Nats. Well with McCormack who has all the forcefulness, & presence of Woody Allen, why would that be a surprise ??

    Yes you are right that 70% of Australians love renewables. How many understand the true, full, real, impending, & future cost ??. Who actually knows ?? Plenty don’t even care. Yet. It is the almost spiritual purity of the cause. Well evangelicalisms have succeeded for millennia. Are you an individualist, or a collectivist ?

    What Crowe failed, miserably to do, & no one else has succeeded in doing. Is to explain what is going to shift approximately 6000 fully committed Nat voters, into voting Green , or the next best thing ?? That is the true dimension of Oakshott’s task. He got all the soft votes last time


  22. Peterjk23,

    But he was a known quantity last time too. That didn’t seem to stop nearly 30% of voters from giving him their first preference. Perhaps it was a protest vote. If so, I see no reason as to why that success won’t be replicated this time when the disillusionment with Australia’s current state of affairs is significantly higher.

    It all depends on how the Nats campaign here. If they try to make big mention of the Carbon Tax debacle etc, they may be able to eke out a win. However, I think voters, while never forgetting the disasters of Gillard and co, have moved on.

    Still tipping an IND gain. Even if Cowper falls it isn’t the worst thing for the Coalition. Obviously they really can’t afford to lose any seats, but I think it’ll be balanced out by likely victory in Indi.

  23. I just cannot see how Oakeshott doesn’t win. He nominated a few weeks before the election in 2016 against a long time member and got to 46% 2PP. The nationals are on the nose in rural areas nowadays, he should easily be able to swing an extra 4% of the 2PP vote now he’s been campaigning for years against no incumbent.

  24. The best chance for Oakeshott is that the collective memory doesn’t go back to 2010. Lyne and New England are both conservative voting areas and they didn’t care that their Independent MPs put a Labor government in. Also, both Oakeshott and Windsor knew they were on a hiding to nothing in 2013 and wimped out big time by not even running. Cathy McGowan learned the lesson and made it quite clear she was not going to rock the confidence boat when the Libs went back into minority – she knew that Indi was not going to be up for handing Labor the keys to the Lodge.

  25. Wreathy & Boatswain… This seat would have approx a 10% 2PP margin Nat vs ALP. All Oakeshott managed to do was reduce that by 5%. He gained for the ‘left’ 5/60ths or 1 in 12 coalition voters. He’ll need to double that this time and gain 1 in 6 if he is to win. I’m not saying he can’t do it but its not as easy as people are making it appear. The 30% he got is meaningless in this context as that is nearly all tactical voting by existing ALP & Greens voters.

  26. Peterjk23
    You’re numbers are spot on. Dead right. Thanks for saving me the trouble of the correction.

    Oakeshott’s biggest problem is that he has been exposed in so many ways, but particularly as a moral coward. He had the opportunity to be one of the most powerful, & influential politicians of all time, & he gave it all away to Gillard for 20 pieces of silver. Perhaps he couldn’t even comprehend the position he was handed ?. Either way he has proven himself a gutless wonder, & a self important preaching irrelevance.

    How will these qualities, limitations, & obvious flaws influence 6000 Nat voters to shift ??. They won’t !!.
    My guess is Oakeshott is a Type 1 fixation, but he is no reformer, except in his own mind. He simply lacks the courage of his own convictions, in a genuine, & authentic way. Country people can smell a fake a mile away.
    I wouldn’t be that surprised if his vote goes backwards.

  27. I can’t see how you can say Oakeshott only got mostly labor and greens voters when there was an 8% swing against the Nats on the PV alone. I think that’s a pretty decent amount of voters to switch after only 3 weeks of campaigning.

    All the talk I’ve seen is that this seat is gone for the Nats, I’d be very surprised if they won it

  28. Boaty1025
    Sorry mate you’re not getting the numbers. It wasn’t 8%. Even so the 2013 vote was inflated. Cowper has historically been a seat with only a small majority. 2016 was just a return to average.

  29. Boatswain, Before the recent NSW election there was a lot of talk about a huge rural backlash. It turned out that there were actually swings TO the government in most rural seats including Myall Lakes, Port Macquarie, Oxley, Clarence and Tweed on the North Coast. Only Ballina, Lismore and Coffs Harbour went the other way.
    There was indeed a big swing against the coalition at the last federal election in NSW so of that 8% you mention, maybe 3% was the general swing and the other 5% were Coalition voters that Oakeshott managed to peel off. Of Oakshott’s 45% TCP, 40% would be usual ALP/Greens voters as that is where the seat usually sits on the pendulum. Before 2013 he used to get huge numbers of crossover votes and had 2CPs of 60 or 70%. Those voters nearly all deserted him in 2016 and it will be much harder for him to win them back now as these voters now know where he stands ideologically.

  30. Ballot position this time has gone in favour of the Nats. But they lose that effect straight away with the fact that Luke Hartsuyker is not standing, which means the loss of incumbency is cancelled by the favourable position.

    There will be a swing against the Coalition in this seat and the odds have Oakeshott favourite at $1.60 to the Nats at $2. The fact that Ray Hadley has been getting very vocal on radio recently suggests that the thought of Oakeshott returning to parliament is real.

    At this stage, I would say it is a coin-flip.

  31. People should be wary of thinking that the NSW Nats doing well in Oxley means that they’ll replicate that in Cowper. Oxley’s such a safe Nats state seat that other candidates don’t campaign, and are unknown by most up to and including election day, going up against a high profile state Minister. Nats win by default. Completely different story with Oakeshott, who’s got a very high profile.

    Another factor this time is that last time there was a dynamic of Oakeshott from Port vs Hartsuyker from Coffs, which got Coffs people parochially backing the local against the outsider (the decision to put Port in Cowper didn’t go down well in Coffs). This time, the Nats have gone for a Port candidate, who has hardly visited Coffs in his campaign. Meanwhile, Oakeshott is not only well known in Port where he’s an ex state and federal MP, but he has a strong northern presence at the Coffs end of the electorate drawing many of his volunteers from the People’s Republic of Bellingen, and he’s been strong on Coffs issues including standing up against the Nats’ plans to switch designs on the Coffs Bypass to a noisier, uglier, environmentally worse design to save a few quid, then they sent McCormack to patronisingly explain Coffs didn’t deserve better, and that they should be grateful they were getting anything at all instead of another decade of Nats neglect like usual. Nats are seriously on the nose here. They’re gone, but they’ll come close, because Cowper Nats voters are masochists, and plenty will still line up for Mr Invisible who won’t do a thing for the electorate.

  32. In the state election the swing against the Nats was 3.5% and that was with a long standing MP retiring. If the bypass was such an issue then – from afar – it would seem to be an overblown issue. Some years ago in Farrer it was said that Tim Fischer was at risk because he was supporting a particular option for the Albury bypass. In the event it had no or little impact on the result – could this be a case of lots of noise for some but not much interest for the rest of the electorate.

  33. Not turning up for the Meet the Candidates function at Port Macquarie last night did not help Pat Conaghan. He has failed to turn up to other similar functions. If serious contender, he should have cancelled all other commitments for the duration of his campaign.

  34. Time to start doing the predictions: Oakeshott to pick this up thanks to a heavy local campaign.

  35. Its clear that no one has bothered to ask what any of the major parties have done for the Mid North Coast when in Power over the last 50 years, either state or federally
    1 Libs – nothing as its safe LNP/Nat seat – therefore no need to do anything
    2 ALP – Nothing – safe LNP/Nat seat – don’t waste money when we get nothing back
    3 Oakeshott – balance of power – new highway, hospital, university just to name 3 things this area received and for once someone got something for this electorate

    Pray he get the balance of power again so we can again mover forward because we have nothing since he left parliament.


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