Electorate analysis: Covering the coast from Kiama itself south to Shoalhaven Heads, Kiama was created by the 1981 redistribution which gave effect to the abolition of rural vote weighting, and it has been held by Labor ever since. It was substantially redrawn in the redistribution before the 2007 election, which added rural territory around Bomaderry from South Coast and transferred the strongly Labor urban area of Shellharbour to the new seat of that name. Matt Brown came to the seat in 1999 after the retirement of Bob Harrison, defeating Right colleague Sandra McCarthy, then the local deputy mayor and now the mayor, together with two candidates from the Left: Sandra Herbert-Lowe, staffer to federal Throsby MP Colin Hollis (and wife of Neville Hilton, later imprisoned for child prostitution offences), and Sharon Bird, a Wollongong councillor who in time would defect to the Right and win the federal seat of Cunningham.
Brown became the youngest member of parliament upon his election, having just turned 27. He was promoted to parliamentary secretary to the Roads Minister and Transport Minister in September 2005, acquiring further responsibility for police one year later. After the 2007 he was elevated to the ministry as Housing Minister, before winning promotion to Police Minister in September 2008. Just three days later his ministerial career ended ignominiously when it emerged he had danced in his briefs during a late-night party in the office of Wollongong MP Noreen Hay, made lewd remarks to her daughter, and – it was claimed, though denied by both – simulated a sex act on Hay.
The Liberal candidate is Shoalhaven deputy mayor Gareth Ward, who won preselection ahead of former Kiama councillor and 2007 election candidate Ann Sudmalis and property developer Don Mason. Also in the field as an independent is Sandra McCarthy, who as mentioned previously was a rival of Brown’s for Labor preselection in 1999. An IRIS poll published in the Illawarra Mercury on March 4, which targeted 400 respondents in the electorate with a margin of error of about 4 per cent, had Ward on track for a comfortable win with 42 per cent of the primary vote against 27 per cent for Brown, 19 per cent for Sandra McCarthy and 9 per cent for the Greens, with the Liberals leading Labor 60-40 on two-party preferred.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.