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

  • Stuart Bonds (Independent)
  • Dale McNamara (One Nation)
  • Daniel Repacholi (Labor)
  • James Thomson (Nationals)
  • Daniel Wallace (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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    30 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.

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