Bishop’s Curtin: In play despite 15.5% margin


The West Australian’s cover on Feb 22, when Bishop announced that she would not stand again.

Since its establishment, Julie Bishop’s seat of Curtin, that encompasses Perth’s wealthy Western suburbs, has been held by the Liberals (except for a brief spell when it was held by a Liberal Independent), but ironically it was named after a Labor-man.

The division of Curtin was established in 1949 and named after the former Australian Prime Minister John Curtin, who served as the PM between 1941 and 1945. He was the leader of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) from 1935 and 1945 and was the party’s longest-serving leader until Gough Whitlam.

Liberal MP Paul Hasluck was Curtin’s first member. He was a minister for the Menzies, Holt, McEwan and Gorton Governments and held the seat of Curtin between 1949 and 1969. He then resigned in order to become the Governor-General of Australia.

Victor Garland was the next Liberal Curtin MP and he served in the McMahon and Fraser Governments. He held this seat between 1969 and 1981 and resigned in order to become the High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

Garland was followed by Allan Rocher, a Liberal Senator, who held the seat from 1981 to 1995. He didn’t get pre-selected by the Liberals for the 1996 election and so he ran for Curtin as an independent and won He served until the 1998 election when he lost the seat to current Curtin Liberal MP Julie Bishop.

Julie Bishop has served as the Minister for Foreign Affairs and was the first female deputy leader of the Liberal Party from 2007 to 2018. Bishop has also served as a minister under the Howard, Abbott, Turnbull and current Morrison governments.

One of the early bombshells in the current election buildup was Julie Bishop’s announcement that she would not recontest the seat, and would therefore be leaving Parliament after this election.

While Bishop won in 2016 with a comfortable 15.5% margin, much of that may have been to do with her role in Canberra. Without her, and with concerns about climate change on the rise, it will be very interesting to see who wins Curtin’s votes this time.

The candidates running to win the seat of Curtin are:

Labor’s Rob Meecham, attended Applecross Senior High School and the University of Western Australia, graduating with a degree in economics.

Meecham started in the Commonwealth Public Service )CPS) and became active in the association, representing CPS staff, before standing for election to a full-time position in the union.

While serving as a branch secretary, he was elected as assistant secretary and secretary for the Trades and Labor Council, which today is known as UnionsWA. Meecham then worked at Curtin University promoting an Indian Ocean region organisation, the likes of APEC.

He then worked in Christmas Island Phosphates, following that he worked in TAFE colleges and the Department of Training and Workforce Development.

According to his profile on Labor’s website, “Rob’s driving values are fairness and equity, which have drawn him to the Labor movement and public service. He is now the Secretary of Floreat Branch of the ALP.”

Liberal candidate Celia Hammond was the Vice Chancellor of the University of Notre Dame. In 1998, Hammond became one of the founding staff members at the University’s Fremantle Law School.

According to her profile on the Liberal website, “Celia believes in individual freedom, enterprise, reward for effort and the family unit – as proven means to secure high living standards and strong communities.”

Greens candidate Cameron Pidgeon is a teacher, activist and has been a stay-at-home dad for the past four years. He has helped run the Mosman Park playgroup as a volunteer.

According to his profile on Greens website, if we “back corporate profit over a future for all of us, inequality will grow, our green spaces will disappear and corporate giants will continue to come first. As your Greens MP I will ensure we invest in education, protect our precious places and fight for a future that gives equal opportunity to all.”

Independent liberal candidate Louise Stewart is a school mum, member of the local community and a businesswoman. Stewart has previously worked as an advocate, securing payment protection reform for Medicare funding for nurse practitioners and subcontractors in the construction industry.

According to her website, Stewart says, “businesses of any size need the support and assistance of governments and governing bodies to grow and thrive, and to offer job opportunities and fair conditions.”

In an exclusive interview with NewsVineWA Peter Kennedy, one of WA’s most respected political journalists, said: “there was a suggestion that independent candidate Louise Stewart was going to be a strong opponent, but she struck trouble in a couple of areas. There was one about an opinion poll, suggesting that she has a good chance of perhaps running Celia Hammond very hard. But there were some problems associated with the opinion poll, as to who commissioned it and just what the story was. This didn’t do her credibility any good, so I think that is a major set back for her.”

Joan Anne Lever is the candidate for the United Australia Party;

Bill Edgar is the candidate for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation;

Deonne Kingsford is the candidate for Australian Christians;

and Andrew Mangano is the candidate for Western Australian Party.

The division of Curtin stretches over 98 sq km, making it one of the biggest divisions in Perth, and it includes the following suburbs:

Churchlands, City Beach, Claremont, Cottesloe, Crawley, Daglish, Dalkeith, Doubleview, Floreat, Glendalough, Herdsman, Innaloo, Jolimont, Karrakatta, part of Karrinyup, Mount Claremont, Mosman Park, part of Osborne Park, Nedlands, Peppermint Grove, park of Scarborough, Shenton Park, Swanbourne, Subiaco, West Leederville, Wembley, Wembley Downs and Woodlands, bordered by the Indian Ocean in the west and the Swan River in the south.

According to the 2016 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Census, “the median weekly personal income for people aged 15 years and over in Curtin was $939.”

In comparison to $724 for WA and $662 in Australia.

For households in Curtin, the median weekly income was $2,052, for WA it was $1,590 and for Australia $1,438.

This suggests that the Curtin constituents are on higher incomes compared with the rest of the state, which could influence the way they vote.

However, Bishop’s departure and the instability within the party things might shake up for Curtin this election.

The current Liberal candidate in comparison to the previous candidates doesn’t come close to the same experience and high-profile politically.

While Labor is saying its candidate is the most experienced and the best fit for the electorate, Kennedy  suggested otherwise, saying: “the retirement of Julie Bishop creates a certain degree of uncertainty about who might replace her, but Celia Hammond is the Liberal candidate. She is a former Vice Chancellor of Notre Dame University, so she would start as the favourite because almost without exception it has been a Liberal seat, it was held by an independent for just a short time for a couple of years, but it is considered a safe Liberal seat, and Celia Hammond would start as the favourite.”