Cowper – Australia 2022

NAT 6.8% vs IND

Incumbent MP
Pat Conaghan, since 2019.

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.

Hartsuyker retired in 2019 and Oakeshott took another shot at the seat, but lost to Nationals candidate Pat Conaghan by a slightly increased margin.


  • Faye Aspiotis (One Nation)
  • Keith McMullen (Labor)
  • Pat Conaghan (Nationals)
  • Caz Heise (Independent)
  • Simon Chaseling (Liberal Democrats)
  • Joshua Fairhall (United Australia)
  • Timothy Nott (Greens)
  • Assessment
    Cowper was a relatively close race in 2016 and 2019 due to the presence of Rob Oakeshott. An Oakeshott return may make this race interesting, but in his absence it will likely revert to being a safe Nationals seat, particularly with the new MP building a personal vote.

    2019 result

    Pat Conaghan Nationals 49,66847.1+1.1
    Robert OakeshottIndependent25,84724.5-1.8
    Andrew Woodward Labor 14,55113.8+0.2
    Lauren Edwards Greens 6,2645.9-0.7
    Alexander StewartUnited Australia Party3,1883.0+3.0
    Ruth MeadsChristian Democratic Party2,3832.3-1.2
    Kellie PearceAnimal Justice2,1762.1+2.1
    Allan GreenIndependent1,4511.4+1.4

    2019 two-candidate-preferred result

    Pat Conaghan Nationals 59,93256.8+2.2
    Robert OakeshottIndependent45,59643.2-2.2

    2019 two-party-preferred result

    Pat Conaghan Nationals 65,30261.9-0.7
    Andrew Woodward Labor 40,22638.1+0.7

    Booth breakdown

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

    The Nationals primary vote ranged from 35% in Bellingen to 51.5% in Kempsey.

    The primary vote for the independents ranged from 19.3% in Kempsey to 31.9% in Port Macquarie-Hastings.

    Labor’s primary vote ranged from 9.3% in Port Macquarie-Hastings to 17.5% in Nambucca Valley.

    Voter groupALP primIND primNAT primTotal votes% of votes
    Coffs Harbour15.726.642.116,59815.7
    Port Macquarie-Hastings9.331.948.014,35413.6
    Nambucca Valley17.520.747.07,1846.8
    Other votes15.825.242.28,1157.7

    Election results in Cowper at the 2019 federal election
    Toggle between two-candidate-preferred votes (Nationals vs Independent), two-party-preferred votes and primary votes for the Nationals, independent candidate Rob Oakeshott and Labor.

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    1. He couldn’t win Coffs Harbor or even most of Port Macquarie in 2019, but weirdly enough edged out the nationals in prepolls and absentee votes. Is that because his campaign fell apart in the last few weeks or what? My guess is that the guy’s a has-been. Coalition retain

    2. It is interesting that this seat has not become a Liberal seat considering it is more urban than traditional Nationals country. 120,000 people live in Coffs or Port MacQuarie alone

    3. Wondering what the changed demographics for the area mean for this analysis – since the pandemic, more people have moved into the area from cities, and more likely to be progressive?

    4. This is a hard one to predict. Conaghan has the sophomore bonus coming, but things aren’t going well for the Coalition in NSW right now, and Carolyn Heise is a “Voices For” candidate, things could go poorly for the Nationals here.

      It all depends on the amount of traction the Voices movement gain, and whether Oakeshott runs or supports a candidate, really. I can’t see Labor taking the seat, at least not while facing a sophomore surge, but independents have a chance.

    5. There is a lot of white noise in the media which clouds how the overall Federal election will go. Oakeshott didn’t run to defend his Lyne electorate because he knew he would be beat. He ran against Hartsukyer thinking he’d have a better shot but lost. He unadvisedly ran again, but against a new candidate in Conaghan and was beaten soundly. Would be expected to do even more poorly on a third attempt.
      Labor has an extremely lacklustre unknown candidate and can’t be expected to generate any support except the few rusted-on Labor voters in the electorate. The Greens will do as well as usual given their destructive policies, they’d have the entire Cowper timber industry closed if they had a say. A Voices independent has the backing of large financial support from billionaire Holmes-a-Court which elevates her presence but has zero name recognition and would be expected to do worse than Oakeshott by a country mile.

    6. Caz Heise (Independent) has a very large following and is a well known. She was the Director of Nursing & Midwifery for the Mid North Coast (Woolgoolga to Port Mac). This saw her have thousands of employees, and it has been said she was highly regarded in Health. At present Carolyn has close to 1000 volunteers and she gaining traction.
      It seems like this Independent has a very real chance of taking Cowper.

    7. Despite what some may say, Caz Heise does not have the personal financial backing of “billionaire Holmes-a-Court”, she has a degree of financial support from Climate 200 which is currently funded by more than 10,000 individual, normal voting, contributors. Holmes-a-Court is merely one of the administrators of Climate 200. Interestingly, he also used to be on the campaign team of Josh Frydenburg, a fact that one of the contributors to this discussion conveniently overlooked. Caz Heise is very well known in much of Cowper, particularly in the health system, and was a very popular health administrator. She will do very well in the election.

    8. i learned of a website last night called Very interesting to see how any particular MP has voted. Depending on one’s own ethics, beliefs, morals etc, this could be a helpful tool in deciding how to vote next month.

    9. If I want to vote for Liberal do I vote for the Liberal Democrat or the Nationals candidate?

    10. Susie, as there is no Liberal candidate if you do want to vote Liberal you are better off putting 1 for the Nationals candidate.

    11. What have the nationals done for the Mid North Coast? Gotten the Coffs bypass done / or even actually started? Nope. Protected Coffs airport from planning downgrades? Nope. Introduced new industry and education opportunities to build our economy to a more resilient base than retirees, tourists and timber, and provide opportunities for young people? Nope. Gotten the MidNorth any significant new investment out of the biggest govt. cash handout in living memory during Covid? Nope. A candidate that focussed on alternatives to the current lack of results in Canberra for our region would tap into local frustration. I don’t know whether “integrity, honour” etc. motherhood statements are going to be enough to swing it for Caz Heise, but if we get a hung parliament then independents would be in the hot seat for regional negotiations. And ultimately, representing the region is what being a regional representative is, and should be, about. We’ll see if the Nats think they’re in trouble if the PM visits the region during the campaign – there’s buckley’s chance of seeing him here anytime else.

    12. Another seat where the incumbent National MP could increase his primary vote and likely increase his margin solidly based on the fact this could again become the traditional NAT vs ALP it usually is.

      I doubt the incumbent will have much of a personal vote and these days as voters are becoming increasingly partisan and wary of the government of the day the impact of a sitting members personal vote may indeed be overstated. But whole I expect Oakeshott’s vote to go mostly to Labor and the other candidates, the incumbent should pick up some conservatives who didn’t back him last time.

      The Nationals may improve their primary vote in a few of their seats like this in expense of minor parties and independents losing support or not running.

      NAT hold with a 3-4% swing on the TCC basis (59-41\60-40)

    13. One thing few have mentioned is that the nationals will gain a great deal in this election in terms of their role in the coalition. If the seats fall as expected then rather than currently having 19/77 seats (24%) the nationals will probably hold all 19 but the Liberals could lose 14, so the Nationals share of MHR goes to 30%

    14. @maverick. I’m not sure the Nets can assume their candidates will get over the line in Cowper, Page and Nicholls. Let’s see how it goes, but those three seats look like tight-run contests to me.

    15. I’m too far away from Nicholls to say who is likely to prevail between Priestley and the two Coalition candidates. My point is that it looks like a contest and shouldn’t be taken for granted. In Page, momentum seems to be with the Teal Independent. She is from the northern part of the electorate, which might indicate she is less likely to gain ground in the southern part where the National vote is strongest. I’m told by a friend who lives in Cowper that the Teal Independent in Cowper has mounted a strong campaign. I’m not saying any of the incumbents will lose. Just making the point the outcomes might not be as straightforward as some might assume. A vigorous campaign has also been mounted by the independent in Wannon.

    16. Think hard before you vote in Cowper… The only candidate that I think has a chance to defeat the Nationals candidate is Carolyn Heise. The best chance Labor has of winning Federally is if Caz defeats Pat Conaghan. A vote for Labor in Cowper will not help Labor Federally as the Labor candidate has little chance of winning here.

    17. Alan .. The Outcome in Cowper has nothing to do with Labor’s overall chances … let’s face it, if virtually unknown Indies like Hesse win then the LNP will be hard pressed to get 50 seats. All Labor voters need to do is put Hesse above the Nationals despite the fact that Hesse wouldn’t allocate her preferences to Labor.

    18. Caz Heise was on Cathy McGowan’s episode of Australian Story the other night. Has she gotten enough publicity locally, because she hasn’t had much in the national coverage?

    19. National vote held up in Port Macquarie but got smashed in Coffs Harbour. Who even thought it was a good idea to put both those places in the same electorate in the first place?

    20. I mean now Cowper is an electorate with its population concentrated at the far northern and southern ends which leaves Lyne having no population centre. It’s quite a poorly drawn electorate.


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