Electorate analysis: The inlet of Port Stephens lies at the centre of an electorate that covers 50 kilometres of the central coast, from the outer Newcastle suburb of Mayfield West up to Bombah Broadwater. Labor’s hold on the seat has been maintained through strong support around Mayfield and Raymond Terrace in the south, outweighing Liberal majorities in booths at Nelson Bay in the north. The electorate was created with the enlargement of parliament at the 1988 election, when Labor candidate Robert Martin won by 90 votes. This was overturned when the Court of Disputed Returns ruled that unsolicited government cheques given by Martin to local community groups during the campaign were a form of bribery. Martin picked up a 12.9 per cent swing at the subsequent by-election and the seat remained in Labor hands thereafter, despite being made notionally Liberal in the redistribution that took effect in 1991. Martin was succeeded as member in 1999 by John Bartlett, who bowed out at the 2007 election due to ill health. With the loss of the Bartlett’s personal vote the seat fell to the Liberals in a cliffhanger result, with a 7.2 per cent swing pushing local mayor Craig Baumann to a 68-vote win over Labor candidate Jim Arneman, an ambulance officer who also unsuccessfully ran for Paterson at the 2010 federal election. As recently as 1999 the seat was not contested by the Liberals, who left the field vacant for the Nationals.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.