Electorate analysis: The Lower Hunter town of Maitland is about 200 kilometres north of Sydney, and sits in the south-west of an electorate that stretches 30 kilometres east-to-west from the Pacific Highway to Hillsborough and Lochinvar. The electorate was in United Australia Party and then Liberal Party hands from the defeat of Jack Lang’s government in 1932 until the 1981 election, when Allan Walsh gained the seat for Labor. Walsh served as member until his retirement at the 1991 election, when a redistribution turned a 0.8 per cent Labor margin into a notional 7.4 per cent Liberal one. Liberal candidate Peter Blackmore gained the seat despite suffering a 6.3 per cent swing, before consolidating his hold in 1995. Another redistribution at the 1999 election severely dented Blackmore’s margin, and a 1.9 per cent swing was enough to deliver it to Labor’s John Price, who had held the abolished seat of Waratah since 1984. Blackmore blamed the defeat on the party’s refusal to allow preference deals with One Nation.
Price retired at the 2007 election and Blackmore, now the local mayor, returned to the fray by running as an independent. He performed very strongly with 26.6 per cent of the vote to the Liberal candidate’s 20.5 per cent, but ultimately fell 1.7 per cent short after the distribution of preferences. The new Labor member was Frank Terenzini, a Director of Public Prosecutions solicitor. Terenzini announced in early 2010 that he would not seek another term, but later had a change of heart and signed on for what appears the very difficult task of defending the seat. His Liberal opponent is Robyn Parker, an upper house MP who was squeezed out for preselection in her existing position. The way for her endorsement as the candidate for Maitland was reportedly smoothed by a deal in which members of her moderate faction supported Right warlord David Clarke in a challenge to his upper house preselection. Other aspirants who withdrew included Maitland councillors Bob Geoghegan (the candidate in 2007) and Stephen Mudd, and Newcastle councillor Brad Luke. Peter Blackmore floated the possibility of again running as an independent, but hasn’t followed through.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.