Electorate analysis: The electorate of North Shore extends from Manns Point east to Middle Harbour, taking in North Sydney, Kirribilli and Mosman on the harbour, along with St Leonards and Balmoral to the north. It was created in place of safe Liberal Kirribilli at the 1981 election, when it produced a shock result with the defeat of Liberal leader Bruce McDonald (the second successive election where this occurred, Peter Coleman having lost Ryde as leader in 1978). The victor on that occasion was independent candidate Ted Mack, the mayor of North Sydney. Mack held the seat until he quit in 1988; two years later he won the federal seat of North Sydney from Liberal incumbent John Spender, holding it until his retirement in 1996. North Shore remained in independent hands for one term after Mack’s departure, being won at the 1988 election by North Sydney councillor Robyn Read. Read’s position was weakened at the 1991 election when the redistribution moved the seat into territory vacated by the abolition of Mosman, whose sitting member Phillip Smiles recovered the seat for the Liberals. Smiles was compelled to resign in 1994 after he was convicted on tax charges; Read stood again at the ensuing by-election, but former journalist Jillian Skinner had no difficulty retaining it for the Liberals with 54.7 per cent of the primary vote. The seat was one of two Liberal strongholds where Labor finished third to the Greens, along with Vaucluse.
An influential member of the moderate party faction known as “the Group”, Skinner was given the important health portfolio after the 1995 defeat of the Fahey government, but her position weakened under Kerry Chikarovski’s leadership and she lost her other portfolio of youth affairs in 1999. She subsequently emerged as a backer of John Brogden’s leadership ambitions, and recovered youth affairs when they were realised in 2002. After the 2003 election Skinner stood unsuccessfully for the deputy leadership, but lost to Barry O’Farrell. At this time she was reassigned to the education and arts portfolios, but the former role was downgraded in April 2005 when it was split into “school education” and “vocational education”, the latter going to Ballina MP Don Page. She returned to health the following September while retaining arts. After the 2007 election she succeeded in attaining the deputy leadership with help from a deal with the Right, which was offered to shore up Mike Gallacher’s position as upper house leader, then under threat from moderate Greg Pearce. Her responsibilities were pared back slightly in the December 2008 reshuffle, when she relinquished arts and science while retaining the all-important health portfolio.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.