Electoral Form Guide: Brand
Margin: Labor 6.1%
Location: Outer Southern Perth, Western Australia
In a nutshell: The scale of Western Australia’s hostility to the proposed mining tax, at least in its initial form, was demonstrated by Labor’s grave concerns over its hold on the outer southern Perth seat of Brand, which was home to Kim Beazley through the life of the Howard government. Ironically, it’s been held for Labor since 2007 by Gary Gray, a former executive with resources industry behemoth Woodside.
Two-party vote map
Swing % map
Electorate analysis: Brand covers the coastal strip south of Perth taking in the industrial zone around Kwinana, the outer metropolitan centre of Rockingham and the northern outskirts of Mandurah. Labor’s vote is very strong in Rockingham and especially Kwinana, but there are sources of Liberal strength in the semi-rural areas between Rockingham and Mandurah. Prior to the redistribution Brand extended into the heart of Mandurah, the boundary at the southern coastal end being the Peel Inlet, but rapid growth in the coastal corridor has required it to shed 11,000 voters to Canning. The loss of this relatively conservative area has boosted the Labor margin from 5.6 per cent to 6.1 per cent.
Labor has held Brand since its creation with the expansion of parliament in 1984, and it provided an escape hatch for Kim Beazley in 1996 after he had endured one close scrape too many as member for Swan. Beazley’s troubles did not end there, as his debut in Brand saw him hold on by just 387 votes, with Labor spending the week after its shattering election defeat unsure if he would be available to assume the leadership. When Pauline Hanson reached her zenith in the lead-up to the 1998 election, some had the idea that the seat could fall to One Nation on account of its unusually articulate candidate, Lee Dawson. Dawson polled 11.9 per cent and directed his preferences to the Liberals, but couldn’t prevent Beazley from riding an 11.1 per cent swing to his first comfortable win since 1987.
Beazley announced he would not contest the 2007 election after when Kevin toppled him as leader the previous December, and assumed the position of ambassador to the United States in February 2010. His was succeeded as Labor candidate by Gary Gray, Labor’s national president at the 1996 and 1998 elections and later an executive with mining company Woodside. Despite the loss of Beazley’s personal vote Gray picked up a 1.0 per cent swing broadly in line with the statewide result, which was fairly evenly distributed through the electorate. He was immediately appointed parliamentary secretary for western and northern Australia. The Liberals have nominated Donna Gordin, owner of a Rockingham real estate business.
The advent of the resource profits super tax raised fears in the local Labor camp that the party might not only lose marginal Hasluck, but even the notionally safe seats of Brand and Perth. The West Australian chose to test the waters in late May by commissioning Patterson Market Research/Westpoll to conduct a poll of the electorate, which had two-party support at 50-50 – though this was hard to square this with primary vote figures of 43 per cent for Labor (3.2 per cent below their result in 2007) and 42 per cent (up 3.4 per cent) for the Liberals. On 2007 preferences it would have been approaching 52-48, pointing to a swing against Labor of 4 per cent. The poll had a typical Westpoll sample of 406, giving it a high margin-of-error of a bit below 5 per cent. Morgan has published two even smaller samples from the seat since, both more favourable to Labor: a 200-sample survey immediately after the leadership change and a 300-sample survey in the second last week of the campaign, which respectively showed Liberal swings of 1.6 per cent and 3.1 per cent. The JWS Research-Telereach poll conducted on the final weekend of the campaign, covering 400 respondents with a margin of error of about 5 per cent, had Labor leading 56-44 in Brand.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.