Electoral Form Guide: Dobell
Margin: Labor 3.9%
Location: Central Coast, New South Wales
In a nutshell: Dobell behaved unusually in sticking with Labor in 1996, but falling to the Liberals in 2001. Current member Craig Thomson secured the seat for Labor at the expense of Ken Ticehurst in 2007 , consistent with a strong swing on the central coast.
Two-party vote map
Swing % map
Electorate analysis: The central coast seat of Dobell was one of seven New South Wales seats gained by Labor at the 2007 election, returning to the fold after two terms in Liberal hands. It was created with the enlargement of parliament in 1984, taking in an area just beyond the outer north of Sydney: the urban sprawl around Tuggerah Lake, from the coastal retirement haven of The Entrance to lower income Wyong on the interior side, the tourist area from Bateau Bay south to Wamberal, the demographically unremarkable Gosford suburbs of Lisarow and Wyoming, and state forests further inland. The redistribution has effectively left the electorate untouched, ceding only the undeveloped area around the Mangrove Creek dam to Robertson.
Terrigal and its immediate surrounds are strong for the Liberals, forming the basis of a fairly safe seat at state level, while the centre and north of the electorate, as well as Wyoming and Narara inland of Terrigal, are naturally marginal. Michael Lee held the seat fairly safely for Labor during the Hawke-Keating years by Michael Lee, before a 6.7 per cent swing brought him to within 117 votes of defeat in 1996. Demographic trends continued to run against Lee over the next few years, and in 2001 he was defeated by Liberal candidate Ken Ticehurst by 560 votes. Ticehurst consolidated his hold at the 2004 election with a further 5.5 per cent swing, the second biggest in the state, before an 8.7 per cent swing to Labor unseated him in 2007.
Labor’s successful candidate was Craig Thomson, former national secretary of the Right faction Health Services Union, who won preselection unopposed. Much of Thomson’s publicity in his first term came in the form of allegations of credit card abuse from his days as a Health Services Union official, which were raised against a backdrop of internal warfare in the Victorian branch of the HSU. The new Liberal candidate is John McNamara, a Wyong councillor.
Thomson’s credit card troubles encouraged a preselection challenge from David Mehan, a local union official who contested the seat unsuccessfully in 2004. Thomson had little trouble seeing off the challenge, winning the local preselection vote 66 votes to 21. The Liberals originally endorsed Wyong businessman Garry Lee, whose involvement in a company set up to take advantage of the government’s insulation scheme threatened to make life complicated for them. Lee won the local vote ahead of school teacher Kristy Knox; according to a VexNews contributor, the two candidates respectively had links to the warring Alex Hawke and David Clarke factions of the Right. Lee announced in June that he was withdrawing for personal reasons, and the factionally unaligned John McNamara agreed to step into the breach.
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, had Labor leading 53.3-46.7.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.