Electorate analysis: The electorate of Cronulla occupies the southern Sydney peninsula enclosed by Botany Bay to the north and Port Hacking to the south. The seat was created in 1959 and has been won at each election by the Liberals, barring the two “Wranslides” of 1978 and 1981, when it fell to future Treasurer Michael Egan. Malcolm Kerr recovered the seat for the Liberals in 1984, and Michael Egan found refuge in the upper house two years later. Kerr was frequently mentioned over the years as a possible target of preselection challenges, with reports he was encouraged to retire ahead of both the 2003 and 2007 elections. He eventually announced in 2010 that the current term would be his last, initiating a preselection battle between Mark Speakman, a barrister, and Stephen Mutch, who had been an upper house MP from 1988 to 1996 before serving one term as federal member for Cook from 1996 to 1998. The candidates were respectively backed by the moderates and a hard Right faction which reportedly feared Speakman might emerge as a rival to Greg Smith for the position of Attorney-General. Interestingly, contest was a rematch of a stoush for Cook which saw Mutch elbowed aside in 1998, following an exercise of power by moderate backers of Speakman (who had been best man at Mutch’s wedding nine years earlier). The resulting dispute ended with the installation of another moderate faction identity, Bruce Baird, who had been a senior minister through the Greiner-Fahey NSW government from 1988 to 1995. Speakman narrowly prevailed over Mutch for the Cronulla preselection by 82 votes to 74.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.