Electorate analysis: Ku-ring-gai is an elongated south-to-north electorate bounded to the east by the North Shore Railway and Cowan Creek, and to the west by Lane Cove River. Suburbs in between include West Killara in the south, Pymble in the centre and Turramurra in the north. The seat has been safe for the Liberals since its creation in 1973. Barry O’Farrell became member in 1999 with the abolition of both his own seat of Northcott and the neighbouring seat of Gordon (which was famously held by DLP member Kevin Harrold from 1973 to 1976, after Liberal incumbent Harry Jago neglected to nominate because he was unaware the closing date had been changed). A preselection showdown between O’Farrell and Gordon MP Jeremy Kinross was averted by Kinross’s surprise decision to retire. The existing member for Ku-ring-gai, Stephen O’Doherty, was accommodated in Hornsby. O’Farrell enjoyed a swift rise through Liberal ranks, reaching the front bench during his first term and the deputy leadership immediately after the 1999 election. At that time he also had backing for a move against Kerry Chikarovski, including from her eventual successor John Brogden, but he declined to proceed.
Relations between O’Farrell and Brogden evidently soured thereafter, as O’Farrell vocally backed Chikarovski during Brogden’s successful March 2002 leadership challenge. He subsequently lost the deputy leadership to Gosford MP Chris Hartcher and was dumped from the front bench altogether. A reshuffle following the departure of former leader Peter Collins in September saw his return as Shadow Education Minister and Shadow Special Minister of State, and he recovered the deputy leadership after the 2003 election. O’Farrell was considered a front-runner to succeed John Brogden as leader in August 2005 but again declined to contest, claiming he could not count on the loyalty of the party and talking of a “whispering campaign” about his past. After another poor show for the Liberals at the 2007 election O’Farrell announced he would challenge Peter Debnam for the leadership. Debnam at first announced his intention to re-contest, but it became apparent he did not have the numbers and O’Farrell was elected unopposed.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.