Electorate analysis: The electorate of Manly extends from Middle Harbour to the coast, taking in Seaforth, Balgowlah and Clontarf at the former end and Manly and Curl Curl at the latter. The entire area is strongly conservative, particularly the harbourside booths at Seaforth and Balgowlah Heights. The electorate was created with the abolition of proportional representation in 1927 and held from then until 1945 by Major Alfred Reid, who represented the seat both as an independent and under various conservative banners (including the Country Party) in the pre-Liberal Party era. His successor Douglas Darby held the seat for the Liberals from 1945 to 1978, barring a period from 1962 to 1965 when he sat as an independent. Darby retired in 1978 and the seat became one of Labor’s more remarkable victories at the 1978 and 1981 “Wranslides”, when it was won by Alan Stewart. David Hay recovered the seat for the Liberals in 1984, but its penchant for quirky behaviour returned in 1991 when independent Manly councillor Peter MacDonald overcame a 45.7 per cent to 34.9 per cent deficit on the primary vote to defeat Hay by 0.7 per cent after preferences. In 1995 the Liberals nominated David Oldfield, later to emerge as a key adviser to Pauline Hanson, an upper house One Nation MP and most recently as an inflammatory talk radio host. Oldfield came within 0.4 per cent of defeating MacDonald after preferences, having led 44.5 per cent to 38.0 per cent on the primary vote.
MacDonald retired at the 1999 election and ran unsuccessfully against Tony Abbott in Warringah in 2001, polling 27.8 per cent. The Liberals were naturally hopeful that the seat would return to the fold, but they were thwarted when MacDonald threw his weight behind a new independent candidate, deputy mayor David Barr. Liberal candidate and Warringah councillor Darren Jones outpolled Barr on the primary vote 38.7 per cent to 30.2 per cent, but lost by 1.3 per cent after preferences. In 2003 the Liberals nominated Jean Hay, popularly elected Manly mayor and wife of the member MacDonald defeated in 1991. Hay became the fourth successive Liberal candidate to lose by less than 2 per cent, scoring 41.0 per cent to Barr’s 33.4 per cent on the primary vote but falling 1.3 per cent short after preferences. The end for Barr finally came in 2007 when he was faced by Michael Baird, head of corporate banking with HSBC and the son of Bruce Baird, former Greiner/Fahey government minister and later federal member for Cook.
Baird had been favoured by the moderate faction ahead of arch right-winger and former army officer Michael Darby, who was reportedly set to benefit from the stacking of more than 100 members into the seat in 2005. He ultimately prevailed in the preselection vote by 75 votes to 63, after lobbying on Baird’s behalf by Peter Debnam, Alan Jones and John Howard. He went on to decisively lift the Liberal vote 4.2 per cent to 45.1 per cent, while David Barr fell 0.8 per cent to 31.2 per cent – enough to fuel a 4.5 per cent two-candidate preferred swing that left Baird with a winning margin of 3.3 per cent. Baird was already being tipped as a future leader before entering parliament, and was immediately elevated to the front bench in the finance and commerce portfolios, further gaining energy in May 2008. In December 2008 he was promoted to Shadow Treasurer, at the expense of upper house MP Greg Pearce.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.