Electorate analysis: Monaro covers an area to the east and south of the Australian Capital Territory, extending south to the Victorian border. The eastern area includes Queanbeyan, Bungendore and Braidwood; the south includes Thredbo, Jindabyne and Cooma. The strongest area for Labor is Queanbeyan, home to about 45 per cent of the electorate’s voters, where they generally polled solid primary vote majorities in 2003 and 2007. The smaller booths elsewhere feature both a traditional conservative rural base and a Greens-voting tree-changer element. Like the corresponding federal seat of Eden-Monaro, Monaro has a good record as a bellwether: it was won by Labor from the Country Party when the McKell government came to power in 1941; by the Liberals when Labor finally lost office in 1965; by Labor when Neville Wran came to power in 1976; and by the Nationals when the Greiner government was elected in 1988. The spell was broken when it stayed with the Nationals in 1995 and 1999.
Monaro was finally won for Labor in 2003 by Steve Whan, whose father Bob was the member for Eden-Monaro during the Whitlam government. Whan had earlier made himself familiar to locals through his unsuccessful attempts to win his father’s old seat in 1998 and 2001. His win came at the expense of Nationals member Peter Webb, who had succeeded Peter Cochran at the 1999 election. Cochran quit the Nationals in 1996 and ran unsuccessfully as an independent in Eden-Monaro in 1998. Webb only managed to hold the seat in 1999 by 128 votes, having been damaged by the entry of a Liberal candidate who polled 19.7 per cent to Webb’s 22.2 per cent. The mistake was not repeated in 2003 and 2007, but Whan was nonetheless able to pick up decisive swings of 3.5 per cent and 1.9 per cent. In September 2009 he was elevated to the ministry as Rural Affairs Minister. Whan’s local standing is such that his chances of retaining the seat against the overwhelming statewide trend are rated very highly.
Whan will be opposed by Nationals candidate John Barilaro, a Queanbeyan councillor and factory owner who won preselection ahead of Braidwood farmer Mark Horan.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.