Electorate analysis: Located 15 kilometres north of Sydney, the suburb of Davidson is at the centre of an electorate that extends north to St Ives Chase and Garigal National Park and south to Roseville. The seat has had an interesting history since its creation in 1971, despite being a reliably safe seat for the Liberals. The most recent round of excitement involved the preselection defeat before the 2007 election of front-bencher Andrew Humpherson, member since 1992, at the hands of insurance executive Jonathan O’Dea. Humpherson had cross-factional backing among central party delegates, but had lost support in local branches after reportedly instructing elderly party members to quit branches under O’Dea’s control, thereby reducing their voting power. Simon Benson of the Daily Telegraph quoted sources saying the federal member for Bradfield, Brendan Nelson, had been involved in efforts to remove Humpherson as a moderate faction payback against the recent activities of the Right, which included a number of preselection coups and a perceived role in the demise of John Brogden. Despite the urgings of Peter Debnam, O’Dea won the vote 54 to 52, and he effortlessly retained the seat for the Liberals at the election with a 24.6 per cent margin.
Humpherson’s own entry to parliament came at a May 1992 by-election brought on by the momentous departure of former Education Minister and Liberal-turned-independent member Terry Metherell, who resigned to take up a public service sinecure from the Greiner government. The Independent Commission Against Corruption concluded that this amounted to a corrupt attempt to have his seat return to the Liberal Party, which had lost its parliamentary majority at the 1991 election. The independents who held the balance of power subsequently forced Greiner’s resignation, and were perhaps embarrassed when ICAC’s findings were later overturned in the Supreme Court. Metherell’s departure nonetheless succeeded in its aim of returning the seat to the Liberals, with Humpherson winning the by-election ahead of 14 independent and minor party candidates despite a 16.1 per cent drop in the Liberal primary vote.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.