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Gilmore’s fate may not be as clear cut as it seems

Karyn Starmer5 May 2022
Andrew Constance and Fiona Phillips

Gilmore is shaping up to be a battle between the major parties with Liberal Andrew Constance (left) hoping to win the seat from the incumbent, Labor’s Fiona Phillips (right). Photo: File.

The federal seat of Gilmore, stretching along the South Coast from Kiama to Tuross Head, has slipped off the national election radar, written off by the election commentators as a likely win to Liberal candidate and previous NSW member for Bega Andrew Constance.

This is despite Labor’s Fiona Phillips taking the seat with a swing of 3.34 per cent in 2019 to deliver her a winning margin of 2.7 per cent.

The theory behind the projected Liberal win is twofold. First, that Constance was a popular state member. Second, that Phillips only won in the aftermath of Morrison’s decision to parachute outsider Warren Mundine in over popular local Liberal candidate Grant Schultz, who then stood as an independent splitting the conservative vote.

“There were other things going on in Gilmore last election that have now quietened down a little bit,” ANU emeritus professor John Warhurst says.

“Warren Mundine was a negative factor when he was parachuted in very late.

“This time, the Liberals seem to have it more together in Gilmore than in Eden-Monaro and comparing the two from my vantage point, Gilmore is where the race is tighter.”

Tuross Head aerial shot

Housing affordability, health and climate resilience are amongst the major issues for the voters in the South Coast seat of Gilmore. Photo: Brett Norman.

Writing off hard-working Phillips’ win as an anomaly ignores many electorate-specific issues at play in this seat – much has happened since the last federal election.

The 2019/20 bushfires devastated the electorate with the fires roaring for 72 days straight, affecting more than 80 per cent of the land area.

Traumatised communities had little time to recover or rebuild before the world shut down only a couple of months later with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Floods followed the fires and continued disrupting lives and livelihoods throughout 2021 and 2022 as La Nina settled in.

Dissatisfaction with the response to the bushfires is likely to be at play. Some residents are still living in temporary accommodation and many businesses are yet to recover from a triple whammy of bushfires, the pandemic and flooding.


READ ALSO: Has the Eden-Monaro bellwether seat lost its ear tags this election?


Affordable housing is an issue for residents and employers. The loss of hundreds of homes due to the bushfires, combined with migration from the cities to the regions during the pandemic has meant the crisis in regional housing across the country is gripping the South Coast hard.

House prices in the Shoalhaven rose 21 per cent in the year to September 2021 and in the Eurobodalla almost 28 per cent.

Many locals, priced out of the market in favour of sea changers and investors, now fear their children will not be able to afford to live where they grew up.

Campgrounds are filled with people unable to find affordable rental accommodation and businesses, desperate to get back on their feet, are unable to attract new workers with nowhere for them to live.

Health is a continued high priority. Long time campaigner for improved regional health services, Moruya obstetrician Michael Holland recently won the by-election for Labor in the seat held by Liberal’s Constance for 21 years.

Gilmore has an older median age of 47.5 years compared to a state median of 38, and 17.2 per cent are on age pensions compared to 10.7 per cent in the state.

Mogo after bushfires

Parts of Gilmore were devastated by the fires and businesses have since struggled through floods and the pandemic. Photo: Alex Rea.

There are seven candidates on the house of representatives ballot paper for Gilmore.

The sitting member, Labor’s Phillips has proven herself a tireless federal member since her win in 2019, priding herself as a grassroots politician.

The former TAFE lecturer grew up on a dairy farm near Nowra, with family farming roots in the region dating back to 1856. She first became involved in politics in 2009 when she led a six-year campaign to save Nowra’s community pool.

She says disaster mitigation, housing and health will be the key focus of her campaign.


READ ALSO: Fight to improve Eurobodalla’s communication infrastructure ramps up ahead of federal election


Liberal Constance, a former Young Liberal president, has long considered a move to the Federal sphere.

He initially announced his intention to run for the federal seat of Eden-Monaro before quickly pulling out of the race amid an internal spat with Deputy Premier John Barilaro.

He finally resigned from the NSW Government in October 2022.

Constance is well-known in the southern end of the electorate up to Ulladulla, a legacy from when the state seat of Bega extended further north, and was a popular state member.

His mixed record as NSW transport minister may be an issue for voters further north where he is personally less well-known and questions remain as to how well his climate change views will stand up in a Liberal party room.

Constance takes the much-coveted place at the top of the ballot paper and lists roads, housing and climate change as priorities.

Greens candidate Carmel McCallum, a qualified pharmacist with more than 40 years experience, is also the former owner of a Nowra pharmacy.

This will be her fifth federal campaign for the Greens securing around 10 per cent of votes in both the 2016 and 2019 federal elections for Gilmore.

McCallum said her main decision to run was to steer action on climate change and push for green jobs. She said she would focus on fixing Gilmore’s housing crisis, bringing more mental health services to the area and backing local road projects including a Nowra bypass.

Other candidates for the seat are Independent Nina Digiglio, Jordan Maloney for the United Australia Party, Jeremy Eid for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and Adrian Fadini for the Liberal Democrats.

Unlike some other elections, in the ballot for the Federal House of Representatives, voters are required to number every box in the order of their choice.

The order of the candidates for Gilmore as they will appear on the ballot paper are:

  • Andrew Constance, Liberal
  • Nina Digiglio, Independent
  • Carmel McCallum, Greens
  • Jordan Maloney, United Australia Party
  • Jeremy Eid, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation
  • Adrian Fadini, Liberal Democrats
  • Fiona Phillips, Labor

What's Your Opinion?

28 Responses to Gilmore’s fate may not be as clear cut as it seems

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Bruce White Bruce White 6:06 pm 18 May 22

Viva Fiona Phillips.

Anti Conspiracy Theorist Anti Conspiracy Theorist 12:02 pm 18 May 22

Unfortunately Nina Digiglio believes that HER Freedoms/personal choice/rights to NOT be vaccinated is more important than the rights of the elderly, immunocompromised, disabled and other vulnerable groups to have their lives protected and minimise risk to complications of Covid Infection.
Nina has now been de-registered as a Nurse so she can no longer legally work as a Nurse because of championing her Freedoms that potentially endanger you. This was because of her refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19, not wear masks near vulnerable patients and bringing the Nursing Profession into disrepute because of her current beliefs that Covid is not real, which she describes as a Plandemic. She and her group of conspiracy theorists believe the Covid virus is not real and that vaccinations are a poison meant to control the population. She and her friends call
themselves that are not vaccinated “pure bloods” and ‘Awake” to their ‘truth’ that it a global conspiracy pushed by Bill Gates !!! (among others !).
Please don’t put your faith OR vOTE in an ex-Nurse who prefers bizarre conspiracy theories to actual Science.

Laurence Browne Laurence Browne 8:51 pm 17 May 22

The pandemics not gone. Nina may understand health and wellbeing better because of her training. The others are attached to proven problems. If she’s got the right support she’ll be better than the “same old same old”.

    Anti Conspiracy Theorist Anti Conspiracy Theorist 11:47 am 18 May 22

    YES Totally agree the pandemic is NOT OVER, another 14 deaths recorded in NSW today.
    Unfortunately Nina Digiglio believes that HER Freedoms/personal choice/rights to NOT be vaccinated is more important than the rights of the elderly, immunocompromised, disabled and other vulnerable groups to have their lives protected and minimise risk to complications of Covid Infection.
    Nina has now been de-registered as a Nurse so she can no longer legally work as a Nurse because of championing her Freedoms that potentially endanger you. This was because of her refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19, not wear masks near vulnerable patients and bringing the Nursing Profession into disrepute because of her current beliefs that Covid is not real, which she describes as a Plandemic. She and her group of conspiracy theorists believe the Covid virus is not real and that vaccinations are a poison meant to control the population. She and her friends call
    themselves that are not vaccinated “pure bloods” and ‘Awake” to their ‘truth’ that it a global conspiracy pushed by Bill Gates !!! (among others !).
    Please don’t put your faith OR vOTE in an ex-Nurse who prefers bizarre conspiracy theories to actual Science.

Peter E Peter E 8:01 am 16 May 22

Gilmore voters- one more reason not to vote LNP. The LNP hands over Darwin Port to China in 2015. Failed NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance gives infrastructure contracts to overseas companies, also hands over the Port of Newcastle to a Chinese consortium in 2016 as NSW Treasurer.

“NSW Premier Mike Baird and Treasurer Andrew Constance today announced the successful lease of the Port of Newcastle, delivering a great result for the people of NSW and securing the funds needed for the revitalisation of Newcastle.

“The NSW Government has agreed to lease the Port for 98 years to Port of Newcastle Investments, a consortium which comprises Hastings Funds Management and China Merchants.”
Source – Media Release 4 Oct 2016 NSW Gov website

Brian Castle Brian Castle 8:23 am 15 May 22

What most electoral commentators miss about Fiona Phillips is that in every election that she has participatec in she has reduced the margin of her opponent.

In the 2019 election she would probably have won the seat by a very slim margin against Grant Schultz, she also has a very dedicated enthusiatic innovative group of supporters.

Alison Alison 12:49 pm 13 May 22

Fiona has a bad habit of jumping bandwagons and making out that she has secured funding etc., when it wasn’t her or her party at all. Does lots of photo shoots but nothing concrete has come from her term so far.

Norm Hanslow Norm Hanslow 1:00 pm 12 May 22

Labour will win approx 80 seats ( my research and assessment) consequewntly Fiona Phillips (Labour)
has more than an equal opportunity, if not better, to retain Gilmore from a failed NSW Polly Remember
Trains, build overseas, to big for tunnels, Ferry complete stuff up etc he’s had his time in the sun
She wil also get the majority of the green preferences too whch may be sufficient to carry the day
Did litle in Bushfire for residents, only for himself, which was left to the Kirsty McBean (Bega Council now Eden Monaro member) to provide any assistance Not forgetting Morrison complete ignorance and attitude He deserved the abuse he got in Cabargo and Nelligan. We wont see him this area We haven’t forgotten and never will
Discussion with many local residents Morrison has to go Will be tight but Pillips will win

Peter Lacey Peter Lacey 9:02 pm 09 May 22

Being active in the Bega electorate and having an extensive market research background, I get the very distinct impression from talking to many people in the electorate that Andrew Constance was NOT a popular Member. So, suggesting he was is a myth, probably perpetuated by the Liberal Party. In reality, he delivered very little to the electorate, left the electorate with many enormous problems, and was more preoccupied with ministerial work – his track record (sorry about the pun) there being similarly less than stellar.

Wanda Wanda 4:21 pm 09 May 22

It is time to change the balance of power and vote for independents – no independent or minor party will have the full power to bring in their yes, sometimes marginal ideas but they will have the power to modulate the unchecked power of the current major parties by lessening their margin in the house. While we might think we are voting for the policies of a person/ minor party that will be swept into being as soon as they are elected, this is not the case, their job – the job we want them to do is to put the brakes on the power of the major parties to railroad through any policy they wish. When we are at the voting booth we each need to remember that power corrupts and if there is no one to regulate that power it becomes absolute and it will corrupt absolutely and we must vote accordingly. Voting is our time to ensure that no power or party gets all of the power.

    Evan Elpus Evan Elpus 10:32 am 17 May 22

    The problem is, Wanda, that we don’t have a decent independent to vote for. Hence, voting Green (with 2nd preference going to Fiona) is our only viable option

Mel Mel 3:38 pm 09 May 22

I’m liking the look of Nina. A local registered nurse who is well and truly passionate about the Shoalhaven. She cares about the people, she cares about the land and she cares about our First Nations having a voice in council. COVID showed me that labour and liberal cannot be trusted and I really just want to see a government shake up. One Nation and UAP will be my vote to follow, they all want to see an end to lockdowns, mandates and do not support the World Economic Forums great reset. Lib and labour also want to implement critical race theory and gender identity into the PRIMARY SCHOOL curriculum. I’m doing this for the kids.

    Alison Alison 12:46 pm 13 May 22

    Forgot to put the paper work in so her ‘party’ could be voted into council. Not a good look.

    Anti conspiracy theorist Anti conspiracy theorist 12:14 am 17 May 22

    And cannot legally work as a Nurse anymore as not Registered

    Annie B Annie B 8:56 pm 16 May 22

    I always liked Nina when She was a Greens Councillor and I shared many of her values but I am shocked that she has preferenced Clive Palmer, One Nation and Liberals. Nina strongly objected to Covid vaccination – hence her support for Clive Palmer, and this seems to have completely overridden everything she previously stood for eg Action on Climate Change.

Kylie Kylie 5:57 pm 08 May 22

Clive Palmer doesn’t care about you. How do you think he made all his money? Ripping off employees and raping the earth. Anyway, if we don’t address climate change, nothing else matters. We have a few short years to turn this around. Vote 1 Greens. You can always put Fiona as your second preference, which will count if Carmel does not get in. Thanks to our preferential voting system, you get 2 votes for the price of 1 😉

Allan Allan 8:38 pm 06 May 22

The only hope of change is to put the majors last.

Nina, One Nation, Liberal democrats and UAP should all be placed before the majors.

Liberal, Labor, Greens if elected will give us more lcokdowns, more forced jabs, and more of the same coruptions we are used to. It is time to put the majors last and take this country back.

    Kylie Kylie 5:54 pm 08 May 22

    Why do you put the Greens in this bucket?

    Mel Mel 3:31 pm 09 May 22

    Allan is correct. The greens are also corrupt, their vote go to Labour.

    Anti Conspiracy theorist Anti Conspiracy theorist 12:11 am 17 May 22

    Clive’s UAP and Pauline One Nation’s and LDP, as well as so-called Independent Nina a now Deregistered nurse (tin hatters 5G chemtrail Illuminati shape shifting lizard people !!! “plandemic” proponent (aka conspiracy theorist nutjobs) preferences all end up going to Liberal

Isabel Robinson Isabel Robinson 1:04 pm 06 May 22

“Constance, a former Young Liberal president, has long considered a move to the Federal sphere.” That is likely why the focus of big spending on the Princes Hwy (bridges) during Constance’s run as Minister for Transport mostly centred on the section that also falls in Gilmore. The majority of the Princes Hwy south of Nowra is a goat track, with the surface becoming so deteriorated it’s a real hazard.
Constance only seemed to appear in the far south when taking credit for infrastructure created by funding acquired by former Labor member for Eden-Monaro, Mike Kelly.
He’s stuffed up Sydney transport infrastructure by purchasing inferior vehicles and ferries. He was often rude when being interviewed about such.
I think voters of Gilmore would be best served by filling their forms from the bottom up.

Megan Jobson Megan Jobson 8:57 am 06 May 22

Fiona Phillips has proven her worth as the candidate for Gilmore. Talking to the people of Lake Conjola it has been Phillips and Mayor Findlay who have been a consistence presence supporting community. Phillips has lived and worked in this community all her life. Mr Constance doesn’t have a great record from his time in the NSW Government, described as a small “l” liberal yet preferences PHON and UAP (have you read their policies?) What’s that all about? It’s time to reward the sitting member with another term.

    Aaron C Aaron C 3:21 am 09 May 22

    Sitting member is apt. That’s all she does, sit in parliament and just nod.

Peter Peter 9:06 pm 05 May 22

Constance as my former state member, I always found lazy and only engaged with a very “Liberal” set of constituents. They loved him, but in reality he was quite useless and more interested in stuffing up Sydney transport and making up fake ferry names.

Constance does not deserve to win Gilmore.

Matt Ford Matt Ford 2:57 pm 05 May 22

Dear Editor

I’m really surprised to hear opinions from anyone suggesting Fiona Phillips would do anything but increase her margin.

She has had a full term to cement her place as an experienced parliamentarian and is likely to be a member of the winning team.

Andrew on the other hand has had trouble finding his feet since the bush fires highlighted the poor performance of his side of politics on climate change.

As well the LNP in NSW have been rightly criticised for unfairly distributing funds to Sydney, Newcastle and Woolongong, sacrificing the bush, and it would seem counter intuitive to vote for Constance.

Phil Phil 2:33 pm 05 May 22

Constance looks, tired, disinterested and dishevelled.
Much like his work ethic when he was a State Member.
Andrew thinks he is entitled to the Seat, but that is no reason to vote for him.

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