Margin: Nationals 13.7%
Location: North-Western Regional, New South Wales
In a nutshell: Parkes covers a vast area of Nationals heartland in the north and west of New South Wales. Mark Coulton succeeded retiring former leader John Anderson as member in 2007.
The changes made to Parkes by the redistribution ahead of the 2007 election were so dramatic it could more accurately have been described as a new seat replacing abolished Gwydir. Only the Shire of Dubbo itself, home to about 25,000 voters, had been retained from the existing Parkes, the remainder of which was divided between Calare (including Bourke, Lachlan and Cobar) and Farrer (Broken Hill and the big empty “unincorporated area” in the state’s north-east). Parkes was compensated with the more populous eastern end of Gywdir, from Dunedoo and Gilgandra north through Coonabarabran, Gunnedah, Narrabri and Moree to the Queensland border, and Wellington and Mudgee from Calare to the south-east. The more recent redistribution has seen it recover much of the vast but thinly populated territory it previously lost to Calare, while losing north-eastern territories to New England and Hunter.
Gwydir had existed since federation and was contested between the Country Party and Labor until 1949, after which the National/Country Party slowly consolidated its hold. John Anderson came to the seat in 1989, serving as party leader from Tim Fischer’s departure in 1999 until he announced his own retirement plans in 2005. Parkes was created in 1984 and was held at all times by the Nationals, although Labor cut the margin to 0.5 per cent following a 6.4 per cent boost from the addition of Broken Hill and a 3.8 per cent swing. Successive changes of personnel in 1998 (when Michael Cobb retired) and 2001 (when Tony Lawler quit after one term) failed to produce a substantial challenge from the Liberals or a significant swing to Labor, and new member John Cobb consolidated with a 3.5 per cent swing in 2004. With Cobb moving to Calare at the 2007 election, the Nationals found a new member in Gwydir Shire mayor Mark Coulton.
Serious attention has been given to the prospects of independent candidate John Clements, who announced he was running shortly before the closure of nominations. Clements is a former staffer to New England independent Tony Windsor, who has been talking up his chances.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.