Hunter – Australia 2022

ALP 3.0%

Incumbent MP
Joel Fitzgibbon, since 1996.

Geography
Hunter covers inland parts of the Hunter region, including western parts of the City of Lake Macquarie, a majority of Cessnock council area, as well as the entirety of the Muswellbrook and Singleton council areas. A majority of the seat’s population lies in the Lake Macquarie council area, with the bulk of the remainder in the Cessnock area.

History
Hunter is an original Federation seat, and has been held by Labor for most of its history. The seat was first won by Prime Minister Edmund Barton in 1901. Barton resigned as Prime Minister and Member for Hunter in 1903 to take a seat on the High Court, and Hunter was won at the following election by Free Trader Frank Liddell. Liddell held the seat at the 1906 election, but lost in 1910.

The seat was won in 1910 by the ALP’s Matthew Charlton. Charlton served as the ALP’s leader from 1922 to 1928, retiring at the 1928 election. He was succeeded by Rowley James, elected as a Labor candidate. James held the seat for thirty years, although he served as a member of Jack Lang’s breakaway party from 1931 to 1936, when he was readmitted to the ALP.

James retired in 1958, and was replaced by Labor leader HV Evatt. Evatt had previously held the Sydney seat of Barton, but judged it to be too marginal and moved to the safer Hunter.

Evatt resigned as Labor leader and Member for Hunter in 1960, and the by-election was won by Bert James, son of Rowley. The younger James held Hunter for twenty years, retiring in 1980.

He was succeeded by the ALP’s Bob Brown. Brown moved to the new seat of Charlton in 1984, and was succeeded in Hunter by former Mayor of Cessnock, Eric Fitzgibbon. Fitzgibbon held the seat for twelve years before retiring in 1996.

The seat was won in 1996 by Joel Fitzgibbon, son of the previous MP. Fitzgibbon junior has held Hunter since 1996. He served as Defence Minister from 2007 to 2009, and briefly served as a minister again in 2013.

The redistribution prior to the 2016 election effectively merged the seat of Hunter with the Lake Macquarie electorate of Charlton, which was another reasonably safe Labor seat. Hunter expanded into the Lake Macquarie area to take in most of Charlton, while losing rural areas to the north and west of the seat. A slight majority of the seat’s population was drawn from Charlton.

Fitzgibbon was re-elected in the redrawn seat, and won again in 2019. Charlton MP Pat Conroy, who had held the seat for one term, shifted to the neighbouring seat of Shortland.

Candidates
Sitting Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon is not running for re-election.

  • Janet Murray (Greens)
  • Dan Repacholi (Labor)
  • Victoria Davies (Animal Justice)
  • Stuart Bonds (Independent)
  • Cathy Townsend (Informed Medical Options)
  • Geoff Passfield (United Australia)
  • James Thomson (Nationals)
  • Dale McNamara (One Nation)
  • Scott Laruffa (Independent)
  • Assessment
    Hunter is a marginal seat after a large swing in 2019. The seat could well be in play, but there is also a long history of the seat being won by Labor. The big question is whether the swing in 2019 is the beginning of a trend, with Labor support collapsing in a seat where coal is a major factor, or if Hunter will continue it’s long trend of voting to the left of the state at every election since 1987.

    2019 result

    CandidatePartyVotes%Swing
    Joel Fitzgibbon Labor 38,33137.6-14.2
    Josh Angus Nationals 23,94223.5-2.9
    Stuart BondsOne Nation22,02921.6+21.6
    Janet Murray Greens 7,0076.9-0.2
    Paul DaviesUnited Australia Party4,4074.3+4.3
    James MurphyAnimal Justice3,2673.2+3.2
    Richard StrettonChristian Democratic Party2,3562.3-1.1
    Max BoddySocialist Equality Party6870.7+0.7
    Informal10,0499.0+1.1

    2019 two-party-preferred result

    CandidatePartyVotes%Swing
    Joel Fitzgibbon Labor 54,05053.0-9.5
    Josh Angus Nationals 47,97647.0+9.5

    Booth breakdown

    Booths have been divided into six parts. A majority of the seat’s population is contained within the City of Lake Macquarie, and these areas have been split into central, north and south. The remaining booths were grouped according to local government boundaries: Cessnock, Muswellbrook and Singleton.

    Labor won a majority of the election-day vote in all but one of the six areas, with a vote ranging from 50.2% in southern Lake Macquarie to 61.6% in northern Lake Macquarie. The Nationals won 52.2% in Singleton, and also won the pre-poll vote.

    One Nation polled strongly in Hunter, with a primary vote ranging from 17.2% in central Lake Macquarie to 25.5% in Muswellbrook.

    Voter groupON prim %ALP 2PP %Total votes% of votes
    Cessnock22.755.212,53712.3
    Lake Macquarie Central17.258.111,95311.7
    Lake Macquarie North21.561.610,65210.4
    Lake Macquarie South21.350.27,6147.5
    Singleton25.447.85,4395.3
    Muswellbrook25.551.13,8473.8
    Pre-poll22.349.540,99840.2
    Other votes19.055.28,9868.8

    Election results in Hunter at the 2019 federal election
    Toggle between two-party-preferred votes and primary votes for Labor, the Nationals and One Nation.

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    95 COMMENTS

    1. This seat will obviously have a lot of attention given to it during the campaign. Fitzgibbon’s main goal will be to try and keep the first preference votes he already has and not slide further.

      Regarding 2019, Stuart Bonds was seen as a good candidate for One Nation at the last election. However with his falling out from One Nation before the Upper Hunter by-election and recent One Nation performances at state elections – can One Nation hold onto its votes it got at the last election? If not, can Fitzgibbon hold the 30% of preferences he got from these voters last time or even get them to give him a first preference vote?

      If not, then the Nationals could collect the vast majority of these voters first preferences and sweep to victory. This has somewhat similar dynamics to the Hartlepool by-election where the Conservatives got practically all the 25% or so Brexit Party voters from the 2019 election – and an Independent center-left local candidate takes a chunk from Labour (Independent Sam Lee who took 9.7% at the by-election).

      The difference between the by-election and the Hunter contest at the next election is Fitzgibbon is an incumbent member and would have some level of local support. Certainly one to watch.

    2. Bit of a stretch to draw on Hartlepool for comparisons, and I’d question whether a slump in the ON vote works out better for the Coalition; at least at the Queensland state election it seemed to favor Labor if anything (although I guess you could say the NSW Hunter byelection might prove otherwise). It also wouldn’t surprise me if ALP party bosses just decide that there are too many marginal NSW seats already, and that Joel isn’t worth saving.

      What will be most interesting to learn is if Labor’s strategy of talking out of both sides of its mouth re: climate change really works or not.

    3. You’re probably right re: Hartlepool. Hunter will be there to test not only Labor’s climate messaging but whether Fitzgibbon acting as an almost rouge Independent is successful in improving his primary – or whether it just split the vote more on either side.

    4. Would be interesting if Fitzgibbon actually did stand as an Independent and not just as a rogue Labor loose cannon.

      He might well feel that’s a better option for him in a seat like this.

    5. Fitzgibbon isn’t really a “loose cannon”. His views represent a surprisingly large faction of Labor MPs including the current Shadow Resources Minister Madeleine King and Lilley MP Anika Wells. His interventions are sending signals that Labor is still pro coal and gas, while elsewhere Labor can tell inner city Green curious voters he’s just a rogue MP and/or trying to keep the LNP out of a marginal seat.

      I think he’ll run as a Labor candidate to try hang on, and if he does there’s every chance of him becoming a frontbencher again.

      But I can see Labor losing this even if they win the election (off gains in Victoria and WA). The “rusted off” traditional Labor voters that flirted with PHON last election are likely to vote Nat now they’re in right wing (social) media spheres. I think any marginal seat that had a swing against Labor in 2019 is a risk for them this time.

    6. . The reference to the Liberals in the narrative re 2019 needs to be
      replaced by The Nationals.

      . The Nationals have pre-selected James Thomson as the candidate for
      2021-22.

    7. I haven’t calculated the 2019 result based on the 2013 boundaries, but the pre-2016 redistribution increased the Labor margin by 2.0%. Take that away and the current margin drops to 1.0%. So it’s possible but more likely it would just be an even more marginal Labor seat.

    8. Nicholas Weston
      Possibly not due to maitland , & the strongest swings being in the south /lake macquarie this time So honestly can’t say, but interesting question.

    9. I think Adam Carr said in his guide that it would have been lost. That said, I don’t know whether that was just a guess or whether he crunched the numbers.

    10. ben, have you looked at any of victor klines merry men and woman challenging this seat? since it is a marginal and could fall to the liberal nats hands which they are targeting to make sure they hold the balance of power to make sure liberals do not get back in control of the parliament. with them targeting nsw mostly with 5 lower house seats i hear they may run someone in this seat.

    11. I think Labor are in a lot of trouble here, One Nation have a really chance of picking up this seat if they play there cards right.

    12. A lot depends on fences being mended between Stuart Bonds, & ON. If Bonds stands for ON it’s hard to see him failing. Who knows. Should i ask him (his intentions) on Facebook ?

    13. Stuart Bonds has it in his mind that he’s going to run as an Independent. Private polling by Labor people I’ve spoken to have his vote lower than 4% as an Independent, he’s more friendly with the SFF these days. It’ll be more interesting to see if the Shooters intend to run, as they give their preferences to Labor to annoy the Nats. In that case I don’t see this seat leaving Labor’s hands just yet, as the Shooters want to bend the Coalition to their cause as much as possible by splitting the vote.

    14. Muswellbrook shouldn’t be being ingored. Why should the people of Muswellbrook get a National MP when Muswellbrook swung 10% to Labor at the by-election. The state seat definitely needs to be redrawn.

    15. ^ If I’m interpreting it correctly, this is a very odd comment, Daniel. Almost every seat contains a mixture of people who vote different ways.

      It’s like saying why should the people of Keilor or Abbotsbury get a safe Labor MP when they vote Liberal? Nobody can magically draw the boundaries to please everyone.

    16. National aren’t winning this with Jorce. I’d give the Liberals my cents at a better chance of them winning this seat, one nation has a betier chance than National. Otherwise Labor hold. (They should run the same candidate they ran in Upper Hunter)

    17. Perhaps everyone is forgetting just how close this got ?. Stuart bonds was less than 1000 votes away from getting this.-even the Nats got close !. about a year ago JUST before Fitzy did his block at Albo in cabinet, complete C& F Bombs etc this was 50-50 on internal polling. Since then we have been treated to Fitzy making his problem, Albo’s problem !!. Hasn’t he done well !?

      Fitzy has made his points, so what does he have to gain by contesting?. OTH if he loses does that then compromise everything he has fought for this term?. LAbor’s chances are now diminished. The only question is who will come forward to take advantage of this new opportunity?

    18. James, not sure I agree Fitzgibbon retiring makes it better for Labor. His somewhat-maverick stance on coal and industry has probably helped Labor here.

      Also not sure what the logic behind KK running here is….if a seat is already feeling like they’re being ignored, parachuting an outsider in is probably not a smart move.

    19. The big swings against Joel Fitzgibbon last time were mainly in the ‘coal’ areas – Cessnock and Muswellbrook. The major parties will be in a real conundrum here – if the Nats go all ‘coal’ it will hurt the Libs elsewhere – if the ALP go ‘anti coal’ they could quite possibly lose the seat as they won’t have Fitzgibbon’s personal vote. In 2022, there can’t be any of Bill Shortens telling one story in part of the country and another story somewhere else – it didn’t wash then and won’t wash now. One Nation or the Shooters coming up the ‘middle’ solves some problems – unless they end up with the balance of power!! This could be the seat for the populist breakthrough.

    20. Part of Troy Bramston’s piece ON jOEL FITZGIBBON in todays OZ
      The views of the outgoing member

      In a parting message to the party he has served almost his entire adult life, Fitzgibbon says Labor must reposition itself in the centre ground of politics, not succumb to trendy progressive opinion and convince voters the party can be trusted to govern.

      “The party I joined in 1984 was full of blue-collar workers, trade unionists, with a laser-like focus on jobs and lifting people to a higher economic plane,” he says. “The typical party branch today is full of progressives who want to spend all of their time talking about climate change or gender equity rather than the things that really matter to people”.

      “We spend too much time laughing at our political opponents rather than strategising how we can beat them. The definition of madness is to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. We think that we are morally and intellectually superior to them and yet they seem to kick our arses at every election.”

      “The most important thing is winning because if you’re not on the government benches, then you can’t pursue your policy reform agenda,” Fitzgibbon says.

      “I’ve said a million times, you can have the best climate change policy in the world but it’s not much good if it sits in the top drawer of the office desk after every election campaign.

      “The reality is that we are not the natural party of government. The voters will only come to us if they believe that their economic security will be improved or maintained. We have to give them that confidence. That has to be our number one priority.”

    21. There seems to be more social media troubles for the Labor candidate in the Gurdain today. Important to note that screenshots were taken before the announcement of his candidacy, so these leaks seem to be internal factional hit rather than opposition research.

    22. As far as I can tell Albanese seems to have a genuine belief that this seat can only be won by a massive wanker. Bold strategy, Cotton

    23. Considering how fast Labor found a candidate after Fitzgibbons announcement it is clear to all of us he planned his retirement well before this month. Likely when he quit the frontbench last year.

      What is also clear to me is he isn’t quitting for the reasons he said, I believe he is quitting because he is unhappy with the direction his party is going and is leaving because he isn’t being listened to. He knows that Labor will lose again by repeating 2019. I hope it’s not the last we see of Joel because he is one of the decent members of the Labor party left and he isn’t a faceless man like many are.

    24. He made a point of how he had already, successfully pushed Albanese right when he announced his retirement, so a simpler and more likely explanation imo is that Fitzgibbon just doesn’t think he’ll win again.

    25. An honourable retirement is probably the best exit for Joel. He could win again and be nothing more than an irrelevant outlier or go down in defeat – fairly unlikely in my opinion as the Nats / Libs will be in a bind over coal.

    26. Does he not think gender equity is about “jobs and lifting people to a higher economic plane” for half the population? Or that climate change is about that for young people looking to their futures?

    27. This is the Coalition’s best chance of winning a seat in New South Wales. Will come down to how preferences flow.

    28. Ben, there is demographic change going on in this seat. It is mostly industrial and has a large coal mining base in the northern end around Singleton/Muswellbrook which is no longer a strongly Labor leaning voting bloc. Even the overlapping state seat of Upper Hunter is traditionally National held, and is only marginal due to exhausted preferences.

    29. Nationals have no chance with Joyce as leader. Cmon guys. The more people hear him on TV the more people are turned off by him

    30. Daniel
      You could not be more wrong about Barnaby. A lot of people like a pollie who doesn’t care what people think & just speaks his mind. He has been around for 20 years when have you noticed him softening the NAT vote ? Seriously !
      OTH James Thompson is such a hapless, & ubimpressive candidate it almost creates a conspiracy theory ! Maybe the Nats don’t want to win this seat, or don’t believe they can !? Are they “running dead”!? Do they really want PHON to win ?
      You have to wonder

    31. @WD – I often wonder if Daniel actually checks anything he posts before he clicks submit to see if anything he rights is cohesive. Like him or loathe him, Barnaby Joyce is one of the better retail politicians in the Australian Parliament and he does speak his mind. You may not like his policies but it is very clear where you stand with him.
      This is a fascinating seat. Joel Fitzgibbon, one of the leading lights within NSW Right, is pretty much quitting the party in disgust about where it is going. I don’t believe his issue is actually with Albanese (indeed, I think the pair get on quite well) but the greater party.
      Yoh An and WD are correct – This seat is driven by issues around job security within mining. Fitzgibbon was lucky to hold on last time and the Nats and PHON have a real chance to run the ALP out here on that strategy. The question will be how far Labor moves to the right in NSW to be able to defend this seat. Or do they sacrifice it, believing that their resources could be better spent elsewhere?

    32. Hawkeye_au
      iT is very easy to agree with your entire post. On one point i believe that there is now a considerable rift between Fitzy, & Albo. I just don’t think it is possible to disagree so entirely with a colleague & still say “we are mates”. Their private discussions were a lot more than “willing” by all accounts.

      I honestly believe that PHON are more than likely to take Hunter irrespective of what the overall result may be. As you so rightly point out Hunter is “ground zero” for the fossil fuel debate, & the voters in Hunter are acutely aware that the very survival of their entire community rests on the outcome. It is impossible to imagine that the swing(9.5 %2pp or +13% – alp in 2019 has no further momentum.

      The Labor candidate seems a goose, the Nat ineffectual .Staggeringly Labor seem to have learned nothing from 2019s near death experience. The evidence is in the jaunty proclamations of the labor candidate for Capricornia (Robbie Robertson ) as featured in the OZ yesterday. iN answer to your last question i sense that Labor still want blame the voters of Hunter for not seeing the sense of voting for the ALP. Therefore when Labor lose Hunter that it won’t be their fault ! In business it’s always such a winning strategy to “blame the customer”!!!!.
      cheers WD

    33. What the nation needs is at least two terms of a Labor majority government – with a comfortable majority – whatever that is – to get past this whole coal imbroglio. It will allow time for the Nats to explode and join in some sort of populist right rump with the hansonites and palmerites. Decent nats like McCormack and Chester can join the Libs. The only problem is that the first senate of a Labor government will not be pleasant …

    34. I wouldn’t say Joyce speaks his mind so much as he speaks without a filter, which is part of why he lies so much, but have to agree insofar as that not necessarily being a disqualifying or even off-putting characteristic. A lot of people like it when a politician shamelessly lies for their side.

      As for how far right Labor are willing to shift, if Beetaloo, Scarborough, Adani or the 12 Apostles are any indication, then the answer at both the state and federal level seems to be that they’ll rubber stamp almost any new fossil fuel project that flies across their desk. Fitzgibbon’s gotten pretty much everything he wanted out of Albo, regardless of his performative exasperation. The fact that no one seems to think this will save Hunter for them, let alone reclaim their old mining seats lost in 2019, would be a cause for concern to me if I was an ALP strategist. But the party absolutely doesn’t want to hear that and there’s no sign of their pandering letting up- again, evidence of the party’s trajectory.

    35. There is not a coal dust chance in hell that PHON will win Hunter. It will either be Labor or the slightly favoured Nationals. It won’t be decided on election night but many days later.
      Labor could still hold it, but it will depend on their campaign at the local level

    36. Redistributed
      Sorry that is just impossible . Who ever wins this election will lose the next one. The most likely result is a minority govt. Which is really to say that the country will be even more ungovernable than it already is.The party most likely to shatter is the ALP in the next term 2025 to 2027/28. too many conflicts of interest. OTH the NATS seem fairly united, although in NSW the Shooters are still a challenge. What is the “coal imbroglio” as you see it ?
      If we abolish fossil fuels as Furtive & the Greens insist how do we replace the lost revenue ($80 Billion) jobs etc? Some glib, & improbable reference to “Green industries” won’t cut it I’m afraid.
      cheers wd

    37. WD – I assume OTH means off the hook – so are the Nationals fairly united? The Nationals are the most un-united party in Canberra. You have everyone south of Sydney (except Senator McKenzie) v everyone else. When will the next leadership challenge occur.

    38. WRT revenue that figure is complete bullshit; taxes and royalties paid to the Commonwealth and states by the fossil fuel industry (roughly $8b, not 80) are massively dwarfed by the subsidies the states pay back, to the tune of billions (collectively at least $10b). But you’re right about glib promises about green industries. If Labor, or Greens, or whoever is serious about decarbonising the economy they need concrete policies for job creation in the renewable sector (and elsewhere, not every new job has to be in energy). Definitely expensive in the short term but then again, as I and others have repeatedly pointed out, Frydenberg dropped $40b to pay for yachts for the likes of Gerry Harvey this year like it was nothing, the government has the opportunity now to nationalise the profits of those new industries rather then sending them off-shore or to Gina Rinehart, and the price of inaction will eventually be incalculable.

      But this is a psephology website. My point is that atm, Labor not only can’t bring itself to not begin to do what’s necessary to get to net zero, it’s giving the greenlight for additional fossil fuel exploration and enabling the explosion of third tier emissions, and it’s *still* not good enough to keep coal country on side. The politics of fossil fuels has nothing to do with feasibility, and everything to do with culture wars and the special interests deeply invested in inertia.

    39. James
      Do you seriously think someone will challenge Barnaby ? On what possible basis ?
      Apart from Redistributed’s favourite (that vain dickhead Chester) The Nationals are completely united. As for the LEAST united party that depends entirely who loses in 2022…..
      As for the next leadership challenge that depends on whether Littleproud gets the job unchallenged after Barnaby departs. However Littleproud is not a fraction as good as he thinks he is, & eventually will fall.
      Andrew Gee is my pick (as the ultimate next leader) , if he survives the ministerial graveyard of Vet Affairs. That is a big if….!
      cheers wd

    40. Furtive Lawngnome
      I would never argue with you about “Bull’s excrement”, just that we have very different methodology. I tend to calculate things based on
      1/ who pays what (taxes) royalties, company tax, income taxes, GST etc.
      2 where the money comes from
      3/ flow on benefits & so on. Anxilaary, & connected businesses, & employment

      Perhaps our POV’s are also different as i tend to look at things from a business perspective, that i’d presume you would see as far too narrow, & limited . Anyway you can enlighten me to the contrary, if you so choose.

      Why would you think that Frydenberg’s $40 Billion went to billionaires. Most of their taxes are paid by their companies so they don’t pay that much personal tax.I presume that you have heard of franking credits ? Most of that $40 B will go to high wage earners like WD Jnr who btw is still determined to vote against Scomo, & is a member of the CFMMEU !. I’m only responding as you have brought this subject up previously, & it seems to trouble you somewhat.

      i am curious as to which industries that you feel would operate better in govt ownership ? Nationalisation is such a forgotten concept these days !!!

      Having said all that i always find your views provocative, interesting & thoughtful
      & revealingly your’s are the only posts that send me googling particular words
      cheers wd

    41. This is the short version. The vast majority of that $40b paid to ineligible businesses did not go to employee wages. https://www.afr.com/rear-window/jobkeeper-wasted-40-billion-not-27-billion-but-who-s-counting-20211012-p58zeq

      As for which industries are best nationalised: the best ones for candidates to take to the next election would be the utilities as they exist already – I don’t think anyone is still pretending that privatising them all wasn’t a disaster to begin with – as well as the manufacturing supply chain for the renewables that will replace them; infrastructure and public housing construction could also be largely state planned as opposed to privately contracted. As for more white collar jobs, bringing back something like the CSL would be a bold and ambitious headline policy that would be an easy sell to the public, and reestablishing publicly owned banking would also be ambitious yet relatively trivial. Any, all, and more could have jobs created in communities like the Hunter Valley to aid in a just transition if they were so designed.

    42. Furtive Lawngnome
      Sorry i can’t read it because of paywall. however assumed (wrongly)that you were talking about the tax cuts (again! ). I haven’t taken much interest in Jobkeeper because i wouldn’t have locked down in the first place. call me callous but i can accept people dying….!
      As for nationalisation i understand your view, & i don’t think it lacks credibility. However Australia is not a Scandinavian, Swiss, Dutch, or German country, & we are simply not willing to pay the far higher level of taxes that are required to fund such policies. We would be required to pay 20% VAT, inheritance tax, higher income tax, “levies” of ll description etc, etc. like in those countries. Regardless of whether you or i think such ideas are desirable (and i ‘d guess we ‘d disagree ! ) how would you sell this to australians ?
      My guess is that most Ausralians would take the view of “mate if it is so bad here hadn’t you better go find a country where you’d feel a little more at home ?” ie one of the country’s i mentioned. I’d miss you and all, our little chats & such but if your’e not happy….!!
      Or you could do what the French did & do a lot of that stuff WITHOUT collecting enough tax…..! That is an interesting outcome too….
      On a more particular view re banking, utilities, infrastructure . Yeah privatisation has many issues problems, but the fundamental issue was govt , simply not being prepared to fund the building upgrading, & replacement of all these assets, for whatever reasons.

      EVEN just driving around Sydney on Tollways at 8+ bucks a pop. Would govt have ever provided publicly funded roads let alone rail or new ferries ? NBN was our last effort at publicly funded infrastructure & how did that go ? You can blame Malcolm for perverting it & so on but it is ever so. Publicly funded & built The sydney Harbour Tunnel could have been 6 lanes for another $80 million or the M5 east 6 lanes for another 150 $ billion. We are now duplicating for 50- 500 times the cost
      endless stories..
      cheers wd

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