June 22, 2004 | Jeff Wall

Could Mark Vaile’s career be prematurely terminated?

THE national media spends too much time looking at broad opinion poll figures and not enough time looking at what is happening in individual seats, and regions, right around Australia.
For as long as I can remember, uniform swings have not been the order of the day in federal elections.
I can remember the 1972 defeat of the McMahon Government when our spirits were cheered up late on polling night when the news came through that the Government had actually won seats from Labor – in an election which saw the election of the first federal Labor Government in 23 years.
If one looks at individual seats today, especially in regional Australia, then it is possible to come up with a scenario under which the Howard-Anderson Government could lose its absolute majority without a general swing nationwide, or even in a majority of states.
In the coming weeks I am going to have a look at a few seats that might be surprise packets on election night – and make a difference when it comes to forming the next Government.
Potentially one of the most fascinating is the seat of Lyne, currently held by the Trade Minister and Deputy National Party Leader, Mark Vaile.
The most distinguished Member for Lyne was The Rev Phillip Ernest Lucock, Deputy Speaker in the Menzies, Holt, Gorton, McMahon and Fraser Governments. As Jim Killen reminds me, Phil Lucock always recited the Lords Prayer better than anyone else!
The seat has always been held by the National Party. In the 2001 elections the two party preferred vote was National 61.24%, Labor 38.76%.
On that basis, Mark Vaile should be in no danger.
But located within the seat of Lyne is the state seat of Port Macquarie. The seat is held by the Independent MP, Rob Oakeshott – who was a National Party MP from 1996 until he fell out with his Party prior to the 2003 State Election.
Even though Country Labor effectively ran “dead” in 2003, (Premier Bob Carr all but formally endorsed Mr Oakeshott) the result achieved by Mr Oakeshott was outstanding. His primary vote was 69.7%. His National Party opponent scored just 14%. After the notional preference count the result was Oakeshott 82.83%, National Party 17.17%.
There are reports that Mr Oakeshott is seriously considering standing for Lyne as an Independent candidate in the forthcoming Federal Election.
The seat of Lyne is not that far away from the seat of Calare, comfortably held by the Independent, Peter Andren. It adjoins the seat of New England, easily held by the Independent, Tony Windsor.
So the people of regional NSW have got quite used to voting Independent. Given the high profile role Mark Vaile has played as Trade Minister in negotiating the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement, and his frequent overseas Ministerial visits, he might well be very vulnerable to a popular local candidate – and Rob Oakeshott has the runs on the board to prove that.
The one saviour for Mark Vaile might be that Labor will certainly do better in the Federal seat of Lyne than it did in the State seat of Port Macquarie. But it still might be an interesting contest if the State MP for Port Macquarie gives up the safety of the NSW Legislative Assembly for the uncertainty of federal politics.
Lyne will have to be put on the “seats to watch” list if he does.

Posted by Jeff Wall at 10:50 am | Comments Off on Could Mark Vaile’s career be prematurely terminated? |
Filed under: Australian Politics

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