The announcement by Malcolm Turnbull that he will retire from Parliament at the next election has understandably gained a lot of attention. With a margin of under 4% – and the only seat in the country that swung to the Liberals at the last federal election – no doubt there will be some speculation that the seat is vulnerable, although Antony Green suggests it isn’t as vulnerable as the margin might suggest.
The announcement later the same day by Kay Hull, the Nationals MP for the seat of Riverina, that she would call a day on her 12 years in Parliament received far less attention. Whilst this seat is the 3rd safest Coalition seat in the country, with a margin of 14.6% (down from 16.2% following a redistribution), Hull’s retirement could well generate a distracting contest between the Liberals and Nationals.
The cities of Wagga Wagga (where Hull also served on the City Council) and Griffith are the biggest centres on the electorate. It may seem like Nationals heartland, but the Liberals have shown a capacity to pick up such seats in the past – such as in Tim Fischer’s old seat of Farrer.
The Nationals have just started a television advertising campaign in regional NSW trying to differentiate themselves from the Liberals, and are making no secret of their desire to knock off Liberals such as Wilson Tuckey and Barry Haase in WA, (although personally I’d be surprised if they come very close in the west). But apart from having to defend the marginal seats of Hinkler and Cowper against Labor, in the absence of a non-aggression pact with the Liberals, the Nationals will now also need to keep an eye on Riverina.