Margin: Liberal 16.1% versus Greens
Region: Eastern Sydney
Outgoing member: Peter Debnam (Liberal)
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Electorate analysis: Vaucluse is based around the South Head of Port Jackson, extending west along the harbour to Rushcutter Bay and south along the coast to Bondi Beach. It has existed since proportional representation was abolished in 1927, and has been in conservative hands at all times (here and in North Shore, support for Labor in 2007 was so weak they finished behind the Greens, who in this case outpolled them 20.4 per cent to 19.6 per cent). The previous member was Michael Yabsley, who was elected unopposed in 1988 after the death of Ray Aston, having lost Bligh to independent Clover Moore at the election earlier in the year. When Yabsley resigned mid-term in 1994, the preselection to replace him was won by Peter Debnam from a field that also included John Brogden. Debnam rose through the opposition ranks following the defeat of the Fahey government in 1995, and assumed the leadership in the wake of Brogden’s implosion in August 2005, main rival Barry O’Farrell having darkly hinted that he believed the Right faction’s antics. After leading his party to a poor performance in the 2007 election, Debnam retired to the back bench and became a conspicuously low-key figure, surprisingly nobody when he announced he would not seek another term.
The ensuing Liberal preselection for the prize blue-ribbon seat was inevitably keenly contested, and at times complicated by concurrent jockeying for the federal seat of Wentworth in the period when Malcolm Turnbull’s declared intention was to bow out of politics. In the mix at various times were restaurateur Peter Doyle, Woollahra mayor Andrew Petrie, public relations consultant Mary Lou Jarvis, Sydney gymnasium business figure Peter Cavanagh, former Malcolm Turnbull staffer Anthony Orkin. The ultimate winner, reportedly by a narrow margin, was Gabrielle Upton, pro-chancellor of the University of NSW. According to Sean Nicholls of the Sydney Morning Herald, the result caused Peter Doyle to storm out of the preselection, while Petrie quit the party in a fit of pique.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.