Margin: Liberal 5.4%
Location: South-Eastern Regional, New South Wales
In a nutshell: Hume participated in a long-established trend by falling to the Liberals in 1998 upon the retirement of a sitting member, in this case first-term Howard government minister John Sharp. New member Alby Schultz, formerly a state MP, has since maintained notably rocky relations with the party he unseated.
Electorate analysis: Hume covers the Hume Highway from Yanderra west through Goulburn to Jugiong and Yass, and an area of the Southern Highlands in the north. A federation seat, it originally extended south to Albury on the Victorian border, which it lost when Farrer was created in 1949. The seat changed hands between the Country Party and Labor with great regularity between 1919 and 1974, which marked the start of a long-term Labor decline. The next change of hands came when Wal Fife won the seat for the Liberals from sitting member Stephen Lusher in 1984. Fife had previously been the member for Farrer, opting to run in Hume when a redistribution transferred Wagga Wagga, which he had earlier represented in state parliament. The seat returned to the Nationals fold when Fife’s retirement in 1993 coincided with another significant redistribution, which added Goulburn from Gilmore. This prompted the Nationals member for Gilmore, John Sharp, to successfully contest Hume, while Gilmore fell to Labor. A travel rorts scandal cost Sharp his job as Transport Minister during the first term of the Howard government, and he retired in 1998.
In a stunning turn-around on the previous three-cornered contest in 1993, the seat was won for the Liberals by Alby Schultz, who had held the local state seat of Burrinjuck since 1988. When the next redistribution cost Finance Minister and former NSW Premier John Fahey his margin in the neighbouring seat of Macarthur, Schultz bluntly refused to stand aside for his former state party leader. Michelle Grattan reported in the Sydney Morning Herald that the Prime Minister was reluctant to throw his weight behind Fahey in the dispute because “little would be gained by him further aggravating the volatile Schultz”, and “some Liberal strategists believe he would have a chance of defeating Fahey” if he carried out his threat of running as an independent. The preselection showdown was averted when Fahey quit politics after losing a lung to cancer.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.