Electoral Form Guide: Forrest
Margin: Liberal 5.4%
Location: South West, Western Australia
In a nutshell: Forrest combines agricultural territory with the tourist attractions around Margaret River in Western Australia’s south-west. Long-term residents of the sea- and tree-changer varieties are pushing demographic change, but not in a way that makes the seat any less secure for the Liberals.
Electorate analysis: Forrest covers the south-western corner of Western Australia, taking in Bunbury, Busselton, Collie and Margaret River. Population growth has prompted the loss of the shires of Bridgetown-Greenbushes and Manjimup in the electorate’s south-east, transferring over 9000 voters to O’Connor and reducing the Liberal margin by 0.4 per cent. The electorate was created in 1922 from territory that had previously been covered by Swan, and has since covered a shifting area of the south-west. It was held by the Country Party for the first 21 years of its existence, switching with the landmark elections of 1943 (to Labor) and 1949 (to Liberal). The Liberal Party’s reign has since been interrupted only with the 1969 election, when External Affairs Minister Gordon Freeth lost the seat after incurring the wrath of the Democratic Labor Party for downplaying the Soviet threat in the Indian Ocean. It returned to the Liberal fold against the trend of the 1972 election (as did another Western Australian seat, Stirling), subsequently being held by Peter Drummond until 1987 and Geoff Prosser until 2007.
When Prosser announced his retirement ahead of the 2007 election, the Liberals initially endorsed Busselton Shire deputy president Philippa Reid, but she was forced to withdraw when details emerged of her personal and professional relationship with unofficial party powerbroker Noel Crichton-Browne. She was replaced by Nola Marino, a Harvey dairy farmer. There were reports before the election of dissatisfaction in the Liberal camp with Marino’s performance on the campaign trail, with Prosser reportedly being asked to reconsider his decision to retire. There was some concern about the prospects of independent candidate Noel Brunning, a local television news reader, but in the event he polled an underwhelming 11.6 per cent and Marino easily survived a two-party swing to Labor of 4.6 per cent.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.