Electorate analysis: Charlestown covers the southern suburbs of Newcastle, from Kotara south to Bennetts Green and west to Lake Macquarie. The electorate was created in 1971 in place of the abolished Kahibah; the two have collectively been in Labor hands since the abolition of proportional representation in 1927, barring the brief reign of an “independent Labor” member in the early 1950s. The member from 1972 to 2003 was Richard Face, the former Gaming Minister who was convicted in December 2004 of making a false statement to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
Face’s retirement announcement less than four months before the March 2003 election was used as the pretext for a ballot under the party’s contentious N40 rule, which allows the Right-controlled administrative committee equal say along with the local branches. The preselection pitted the favoured candidate of the Right, former Newcastle Knights player Mark Sargent, against the Left-backed Matthew Morris. Bob Carr had called for the nomination to go to a woman – the presumed purpose of the N40 rule – having in mind Australian Meat Industry Employees Union secretary Kath Evans, but he was rebuffed by party powerbrokers. The administrative committee divided along factional lines 34-23 in Sargent’s favour, but in a rare example of head office failing to get its own way in an N40 ballot, Morris secured a narrow victory by decisively dominating the local branch vote.
Matthew Morris is the son and nephew of former federal MPs Peter and Allan Morris, who respectively held the seats of Shortland and Newcastle, and was a parks and gardens officer and Lake Macquarie councillor before entering parliament. His Liberal opponent is Andrew Cornwell, a veterinarian. Also said to be a serious prospect is independent candidate Barry Johnston, a Lake Macquarie councillor formerly aligned with Labor who retained his seat as an independent in 2008 after losing endorsement. Cornwell and Johnston are directing preferences to each other. Another Lake Macquarie councillor, Barry Johnston, ran second in 2007 with 24.6 per cent, finishing 9.3 per cent short after preferences.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.