Electorate form guide 2010: Fremantle
Margin: Labor 9.1%
Location: Perth Southern Suburbs, Western Australia
In a nutshell: The port city itself has taken on enough counter-cultural flavour to have delivered the state seat to the Greens at a by-election in March 2009, but the federal seat is leavened by blue-collar “old Labor” suburbs to the south. Labor was last defeated here when John Curtin was voted out for a term in 1931, and it was the only seat in Western Australia to stand by the party in 1975 and 1977.
Electorate analysis: The port city of Fremantle is located at the southern mouth of the Swan River 20 kilometres south-west of Perth. From here the electorate extends only a short distance upriver to Bicton, so that it does not cover the strong Liberal waterfront territory further east, instead stretching southwards through Spearwood and Coogee to Henderson, south-eastwards to Jandakot and Banjup, and northwards across the river into North Fremantle. It has not been affected by the redistribution.
The electorate of Fremantle has existed since federation but was a very different beast in the early days, when the entire metropolitan area was divided between Fremantle and Perth. John Curtin came to the seat in 1928 after unseating independent William Watson, who recovered it in 1931 as the United Australia Party candidate. Curtin was back for good in 1934, although he survived by only 641 votes in 1940. In July 1945 he became the second Prime Minister to die in office, and was succeeded at a by-election by Kim Beazley Senior. The seat has remained a home for high-profile Labor figures since, passing to future Keating government Treasurer John Dawkins when Beazley retired in 1977, and to former Premier Carmen Lawrence when Dawkins quit in 1994. The margin has mostly been in double figures since the 1975 and 1977 disasters reduced it to less than 2 per cent, although it fell to 4.3 per cent in 1996.
Lawrence retired at the 2007 election and was succeeded by United Nations human rights lawyer Melissa Parke. Parke has widely been rated a promising performer in her first term, but has so far been overlooked for promotion.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.