Margin: Nationals 1.2%
Location: North Coast, New South Wales
In a nutshell: Cowper has only been held by Labor for one term in a history going back to federation, but growing urbanisation along the New South Wales north coast has underwritten a long-term trend in their favour. Paul Sefky fell 1.2 per cent short of winning the seat for Labor from Nationals member Luke Hartsuyker in 2007, and is hoping to go one better this time.
Electorate analysis: Cowper covered most of the length of the New South Wales north coast when it was created at federation, but it has shrunk over time into the area around Coffs Harbour. It currently extends north to Brooms Head and Maclean and south to Kempsey, and has undergone only neglible change with the redistribution.
The seat was held for an epic 42 years by Earle Page, who was elected as candidate of the Farmers and Settlers Party in 1918, became a founding father of the Country Party in 1920, and served for three weeks as Prime Minister in 1939 after the death of Joseph Lyons. Page contested the 1961 election despite being 81 and suffering from lung cancer, from which he died 11 days later without knowing he had finally lost his seat. The successful Labor candidate was Frank McGuren, who had achieved consecutive double digit swings as candidate in 1958 and 1961. McGuren was unable to repeat his feat in 1963 and the seat soon returned to its safe Country Party ways, despite close calls in 1972 (2.5 per cent) and 1983 (2.1 per cent).
Current member Luke Hartsuyker came to the seat when Garry Nehl retired at the 2001 election, at which he outpolled a Liberal candidate 29.9 per cent to 15.9 per cent. In 2004 he picked up a 1.7 per cent swing, leaving him enough fat to survive a 5.5 per cent swing to Labor in 2007. After the election defeat he was promoted to the junior shadow ministry in the consumer affairs portfolio. His Labor opponent at the coming election is training consultant Paul Sefky, making his third tilt at the seat after falling short in 1998 and 2007.
The JWS Research-Telereach poll conducted during the final weekend of the campaign, covering 400 respondents in the electorate with a margin of error of about 5 per cent, showed a counter-intuitive 54-46 lead to Labor.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.