Electoral Form Guide: Mackellar
Margin: Liberal 12.5%
Location: Sydney North Shore, New South Wales
In a nutshell: Located in Sydney’s wealthy north shore, Mackellar is a reliably uninteresting prospect each election night. Previously a Senator, Bronwyn Bishop performed relatively poorly when she won the seat at a 1994 by-election, but her hold on the seat has never been in doubt.
Electorate analysis: Mackellar covers Sydney’s northern beaches from Collaroy north to Palm Beach, extending inland to Duffys Forest and Frenchs Forest. The redistribution has added 3500 voters at Forrestville on the eastern bank of Middle Harbour Creek, previously in Warringah, with little impact on the margin. Mackellar has been extremely safe for the Liberals at all times since its creation in 1949, Labor’s best performance being a 5.2 per cent defeat in 1972. The honour board for the seat reads: William Wentworth (1949-77), Jim Carlton (1977-94) and Bronwyn Bishop (1994-present).
Bishop was elected to the Senate in 1987 and rose to fame by roasting tax department officials at committee hearings, and it was with an eye to the prime ministership that she moved to Mackellar at a by-election in March 1994. Her performance at the by-election proved surprisingly poor, with pro-Labor writer and commentator polling 23.1 per cent as an independent and Bishop losing 4.4 per cent of the Liberal vote. She was given the junior defence industry portfolio when the Howard government was collected, winning promotion to aged care after the 1998 election. Her tenure in the portfolio is best remembered for the kerosene baths affair, so named for a treatment used in a Melbourne nursing home for scabies, which undoubtedly caused her demotion after the 2001 election.
Eight years later, and long since having been written off as a political has-been despite her angling for the Speaker’s position, Bishop won a shock promotion to Shadow Minister for Seniors when Tony Abbott became leader in December 2009. This was despite occasional talk of a preselection challenge, of which nothing came in the current term.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.