Electoral Form Guide: Durack
Margin: Liberal 7.0%
Location: Northern Regional, Western Australia
In a nutshell: Sadly, the redistribution has put the federation seat of Kalgoorlie – famously “the largest electorate in the world” – out of commission. In its place is the new seat of Durack, where Kalgoorlie MP Barry Haase will face a former state Labor MP and, more threateningly, a resurgent Nationals.
Electorate analysis: The substantial change to result from the Western Australian redistribution has been the abolition of the federation seat of Kalgoorlie – renowned as the largest electoral district of the world – and the division of the state’s interior land mass between O’Connor and the new seat of Durack, which takes its name from a family of pioneers whose descendants included artist Elizabeth Durack and Fraser government Attorney-General Peter Durack. Durack takes 37,809 voters from O’Connor, from the northern wheatbelt around Merredin and a stretch of coast from Cervantes north to Geraldton. The remaining 50,368 account for 62 per cent of the enrolment of the old Kalgoorlie, in an area covering the entirety of the state’s coastline north of Geraldton (including Carnarvon, Port Hedland and Broome), the Pilbara mining towns of Newman and Meekatharra, and the far northern Kimberley region. The mining towns and Aboriginal settlements are sources of strength for Labor, but they are overwhelmed by the heavily conservative wheatbelt. The original proposal was for the northern electorate to assume the name O’Connor while the southern would continue to be called Kalgoorlie, being the home to the city of that name, but it was felt the name Kalgoorlie caused confusion with the state electorate, and that the association of colonial engineer C.Y. O’Connor with the city made it a more appropriate inheritor of his name.
Durack will be contested for the Liberals by Kalgoorlie MP Barry Haase, who won the seat in 1998 by defeating independent member Graeme Campbell. Campbell was elected as a Labor member in 1980, and emerged as a loose cannon with views that presaged those of Pauline Hanson. This led to his expulsion from the party prior to the 1996 election, but he retained the seat as an independent ahead of Labor candidate Ian Taylor, a former member for the state seat who had an unproductive spell as Opposition Leader in 1994. Haase consolidated his hold on the seat in 2001 and 2004, and easily survived a 3.7 per cent swing in 2007. Haase was promoted to parliamentary secretary after the election defeat, serving initially in infrastructure, roads and transport before losing infrastructure when Malcolm Turnbull became leader in September 2008. His most widely noted action during the current term was being suspended from parliament after taking umbrage at government efforts to claim credit for the Gorgon liquefied natural gas project, which led to a walkout by six of his fellow Western Australian Liberals.
The strength of the Nationals’ performance at the state election suggests Haase might face a significant challenge from the Nationals, who have endorsed East Pilbara Shire President Lynne Craigie. Labor’s candidate is Shane Hill, who held the state seat of Geraldton from 2001 until his defeat in 2008.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.