Cowper could be an all-important NSW seat on Saturday, May 18.
Cowper could be an all-important NSW seat on Saturday, May 18. Melanie Keyte

POLL: Who's getting your vote to become the next Cowper MP?

NORMALLY a safe Nationals seat, Cowper is set to feature prominently in the 2019 Federal Election as a crucial poll that may decide where the balance of power rests in Canberra.

First-time Nationals candidate Patrick Conaghan is looking to continue the party's 56-year hold on the seat.

 

national party candidate for Federal seat of Cowper,   Patrick Conaghan.. 25 JAN 2019
Nationals candidate for Cowper Patrick Conaghan. TREVOR VEALE

The Port Macquarie-based father-of-two, who has had a successful career in law and as a former Kempsey-based police officer, was pre-selected after incumbent Luke Hartsuyker announced his retirement from politics.

 

Coffs Stadium rebuild opens.Deputy PM. Michael McCormack MP, Patrick Conaghan nat candidate for Cowper, Luke Hartsuyker sitting member for Cowper. 11 MAR  2018
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack with Nationals candidate Patrick Conaghan and retiring MP Luke Hartsuyker. TREVOR VEALE

Mr Conaghan faces a tough challenge on at least two fronts with seasoned independent and former Member for Lyne Rob Oakeshott standing in Cowper for a second time and Labor's Andrew Woodward also running.

After a whirlwind three-week campaign for the Federal seat in Cowper in 2016, Mr Oakeshott went to the polls, with the electorate virtually split on whether to elect him or reinstate incumbent and now retiring Nationals MP Luke Hartsuyker.

 

Rob Oakeshott, independent candidate for Cowper in Coffs Harbour. 23 JAN 2019
Independent candidate for Cowper Rob Oakeshott. TREVOR VEALE

While Mr Hartsuyker retained the seat, Mr Oakeshott reduced the Nationals majority from a comfortably safe 13.1 percent to a marginal 4.5 percent.

Even though Cowper is still a comfortably safe Nationals seat on a "traditional" two-party basis, Mr Oakeshott came as close as anyone in more than half a century to breaking the Nationals' hold.

Since 1919 the Nationals/Country party has held the seat for all but one term.

 

TRUTH BYPASS: Labor Bellinger River Branch president Andrew Woodward said Cowper MP Luke Hartsuyker was bypassing the issue of the Coffs Harbour bypass.
Labor candidate for Cowper Andrew Woodward. Rachel Vercoe

Labor candidate Andrew Woodward contests Cowper having opposed former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in the seat of Warringah for the ALP in 2016.

Mr Woodward first moved to the mid north coast to Taree over 30 years ago and made a 'tree change' to Bellingen in 2015.

Mr Woodward has had careers in the media and in State and Federal parliaments, also working in marketing and corporate affairs.

 

Palmer party candidate for cowper Lex Stewart. 13  MAR  2018
United Australia candidate for Cowper Lex Stewart. TREVOR VEALE

Clive Palmer's United Australia Party is also fielding a candidate in Cowper with engineer Alexander (Lex) Stewart standing for election.

Mr Stewart is campaigning to give voters a change from the major parties.

Mylestom resident Allan Green, who holds an extensive farming background, is also standing as an independent.

 

The Greens candidate for Cowper Lauren Edwards.
The Greens candidate for Cowper Lauren Edwards. .

Allied health professional Lauren Edwards is standing for The Greens campaigning on climate change and the need for government to focus on matters of social equality.

The Christian Democratic Party will be represented by Ruth Meades and the Animal Justice Party has nominated a candidate in Kellie Pearce.

- COWPER 2019 -

NAT 4.6% vs IND

Incumbent MP

Luke Hartsuyker (retiring held for the Nationals) since 2001.

The candidates as they will appear on the ballot paper

1. Ruth Meads, Christian Democratic Party

2. Pat Conaghan, The Nationals

3. Alexander Stewart, United Australia Party

4. Andrew Woodward, Labor

5. Robert Oakeshott, Independent

6. Lauren Edwards, The Greens

7. Kellie Pearce, Animal Justice Party

8. Allan Green, Independent

 

So who's got your vote in the Federal seat of Cowper?

This poll ended on 18 May 2019.

Current Results

Ruth Meades, Christian Democratic Party

1%

Pat Conaghan, The Nationals

28%

Alexander Stewart, United Australia Party

2%

Andrew Woodward, Labor

7%

Robert Oakeshott, Independent

49%

Lauren Edwards, The Greens

4%

Kellie Pearce, Animal Justice Party

4%

Allan Green, Independent

2%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

The history

Cowper is named in honour of Sir Charles Cowper CMG KCMG, 1807-75.

Cowper was a statesman who served as Premier of New South Wales on five occasions.

The electorate covers 7,296sqkm from Port Macquarie in the south to Coffs Harbour in the north. The main towns include Bellingen, Bowraville, Coffs Harbour, Crescent Head, Dorrigo, Gladstone, Hat Head, Kempsey, Macksville, Nambucca Heads, Sawtell, South West Rocks, Port Macquarie, Ulong and Urunga.

Geography

Cowper lies on the mid-north coast of New South Wales, stretching from Port Macquarie to Coffs Harbour. The seat covers the towns of Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, South West Rocks, Nambucca Heads, Bellingen and Kempsey.

The timeline

Cowper was an original federation seat, and has almost always been held by conservative parties, with the Country/National Party holding it for all but two years since 1919.

The seat was first held by Francis Clarke of the Protectionist Party, who was defeated by Free Trader Henry Lee in 1903.

Lee was defeated by John Thomson in 1906.

Thomson first held the seat for the Protectionist Party and held the seat for successive non-Labor parties for the next 13 years.

In 1919, Thomson, then representing the Nationalists, was defeated by Earle Page, who joined the Country Party the next year. Page held the seat for over 40 years.

Page became Country Party leader in 1921 and led the party into government for the first time in 1922, forcing the senior Nationalists to drop Billy Hughes as Prime Minister.

He served as Treasurer in the Bruce government until 1929.

He also served as a minister in the second and third terms of the Lyons government, and served as acting Prime Minister for three weeks upon Lyons' death.

Page refused to serve in a government led by Lyons' deputy Robert Menzies, but the Country Party rebelled and replaced Page with a new leader.

Page returned to government in 1940 as a minister, and again served as a minister from 1949 to 1956. Page continued to serve in Parliament until the 1961 election.

At that election, he was too ill to campaign and fell into a coma before the election. In a surprise upset, Page was defeat by the ALP's Frank McGuren, and he died days later.

McGuren only held the seat for one term, which was the only term the ALP has ever held Cowper. He was defeated in 1963 by the Country Party's Ian Robinson.

Robinson transferred to the new seat of Page in 1984, and Garry Nehl won Cowper for the Nationals.

Nehl retired in 2001, and was succeeded by Luke Hartsuyker.

Hartsuyker has held the seat ever since.

A redistribution shifted the seat south at the 2016 election, and former independent MP Rob Oakeshott, who previously represented Lyne to the south, contested Cowper and came within 5% of defeating Hartsuyker.

Members:

Hartsuyker, L (NP) 2001-

Nehl, G (NP) 1984-2001

Robinson, I L (CP/NCP) 1963-1984

McGuren, F W (ALP) 1961-1963

Page, E C G (FSU/CP) 1919-1961

Thomson, J (PROT/LIB/NAT) 1906-1919

Lee, H W (FT) 1903-1906

Clarke, F (PROT) 1901-1903