Electorate analysis: Willoughby covers the western bank of Middle Harbour from Cremorne north to Castle Cove, extending west through Willoughby to Chatswood West. Labor’s only wins were in 1894, 1913 and 1978, the last of which was assisted by sitting member Larry McGinty’s preselection defeat at the hands of future Premier Nick Greiner. McGinty ran as an independent, and his preferences helped deliver a 424-vote victory to Labor’s Eddie Britt. The seat was recovered in 1981 by future Opposition Leader Peter Collins, who was accommodated in the short-lived seat of Middle Harbour at the 1988 election. Collins did not contest the 2003 election and was succeeded by Gladys Berejiklian, a former Young Liberals president and Commonwealth Bank executive who won preselection over barrister Gary O’Gorman by 69 votes to 37. Also in the field was former North Sydney Council alderman Jonathan O’Dea, the current Liberal candidate for Davidson.
Berejiklian then had to survive a determined independent challenge from Willoughby mayor Pat Reilly, who reportedly spent $166,896 on his campaign. Reilly polled 24.9 per cent to Labor’s 21.1 per cent and fell 144 votes short of overtaking Berejiklian on preferences, after leading at the close of count on election night. Spared a strong independent rival in 2007 the seat returned to its safe Liberal ways, with Berejiklian winning a majority on the primary vote. She enjoyed a rapid rise after entering parliament, winning promotion to the front bench in February 2005 and serving in the politically significant transport portfolio since November 2006. Summarising the shadow cabinet’s pros and cons, Imre Salusinszky of The Australian – no doubt speaking from bitter personal experiences – deemed that while Berejiklian was “smart, ambitious and organised”, her “hard-to-spell name” was “a turn-off for many voters”.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.