Having picked the Liberal Party dead zone of Northern Metropolitan to open the batting for my upper house summaries, I shall tackle the rest in ascending order of Coalition strength. Next cab off the rank is Western Metropolitan, which differs significantly from Northern Metropolitan in that it lacks its strong inner-city component and accompanying new-left Greens-voting element. On 2002 figures (as calculated by Antony Green), this area gave Labor 62.2 per cent of the vote (3.73 quotas) compared with 25.6 per cent (1.54) for the Liberals and 9.6 per cent (0.58) for the Greens. The respective figures for Northern Metropolitan are 57.4 per cent (3.45), 23.0 per cent (1.38) and 16.8 per cent (1.01). As such, the region is by no means a sure thing for the Greens, although they would have won a seat in 2002 by getting ahead of Labor’s fourth candidate on Democrats preferences and picking up the Labor surplus. This would have been a close-run thing, and it is quite possible that Labor could have won a fourth seat instead.
It remains all but certain that of the first four seats, Labor will win three and the Liberals will win one. The final seat is very much up for grabs, and the result will depend as much on preference deals as votes. For the Greens to win, they will need to stay ahead of the fourth Labor candidate: this will be made easier by the likely decline in the Labor vote, but harder by the drying up of preferences from the declining Democrats. If this hurdle is cleared, it is likely that Labor’s surplus will give them enough preferences to win them the seat. Talk that the Liberals might put the Greens last is very unlikely to matter here: if the Liberals do not win the seat themselves, their second candidate seems sure to be the last man standing and his preferences will not be distributed. Alternatively, the Greens could fail to overtake the fourth Labor candidate, who would then receive their preferences and thus win the seat. The other most likely scenario is that the Liberal primary vote will increase by enough to either win them a second quota in their own right, or come close enough that minor and micro-party preferences will do the rest. There is also a fourth possibility: that a minor or even micro-party candidate will harvest enough preferences to get ahead of the fourth Labor, second Liberal or first Greens candidate, and thus to snowball their way to a quota. Indeed, the arithmetic is such that this region seems to offer the best prospects for an upset win by Family First, People Power or some other independent force yet to appear on the radar.
Labor thus had three safe seats to play with during preselections and as in Northern Metropolitan, this left them with too many pegs and not enough holes. Western Metropolitan covers: a) the entire area of two abolished provinces represented by two Labor members, Doutta Galla (Justin Madden and Monica Gould) and Melbourne West (Kaye Darveniza and Sang Ngyuen); b) half the area of one other, Melbourne North (Marsha Thomson and Candy Broad); and c) a quarter of the area of a fourth, Melbourne (Glenyys Romanes and Gavin Jennings). Monica Gould, who was a minister in the Bracks government’s first term and Legislative Council president in its second, has done her party a favour by retiring, despite being only 49. Candy Broad and Kaye Darveniza has been accommodated in Northern Victoria, while Marsha Thomson will move to the safe lower house seat of Footscray. The big loser is Sang Nguyen, who in 1996 became Australia’s first Vietnamese-born parliamentarian. Nguyen will exit politics after being dumped by his Labor Unity faction; he complained at the time that "everyone in the Labor Unity leadership group promised me if I looked after Bill Shorten, they would look after me".
As in Northern Metropolitan, the first and third positions have gone to the Right and the second to the Left. Top of the ticket is Sports Minister Justin Madden, known far beyond Victoria as the towering ruckman who played 332 VFL/AFL games for Carlton and Essendon between 1980 and 1995. Madden came to politics via his role as president of the AFL Players Association, and was recruited for the safe upper house seat of Douta Galla within two years of his last AFL game. He was immediately made Sports Minister in the Bracks government, a position which was expanded during the current term with responsibility for the Commonwealth Games. Doubts were initially raised over the security of his position in parliament resulting from the cut in upper house numbers, but these were settled by Steve Bracks’ edict that seats be found for all ministers. It was originally planned that Madden would move to the lower house by replacing the retiring Sherryl Garbutt in Bundoora, an arrangement that froze out long-term aspirant Colin Brooks. However, the late announcement of Northcote MP Mary Delahunty’s retirement led Bracks to insist on a new arrangement to accommodate Brooks. This was done by switching Madden to Western Metropolitan in place of Right faction convenor Fiona Richardson, who was instead preselected for Northcote, while Brooks took Bundoora.
The Left originally wished for the second position to go to Hume councillor Mohamad Abbouche, following a deal in which Abbouche defected from the Right and delivered his numbers to federal MP Maria Vamvakinou in the Calwell preselection. However, this was vetoed by Steve Bracks, presumably due to controversies surrounding Abbouche involving allegations of branch stacking and failure to declare a donation. His replacement was another figure in the Arab community, Khalil Eideh, millionaire manager of family-owned transport company Blue Star Logistics and president of the Alawi Islamic Association. Mark Davis of the Financial Review described the latter organisation as "strongly pro-Syrian in the complex world of Lebanese politics", and said Eideh was "known inside the Labor Party for definite pro-Syrian views on Middle East affairs". This point was sharply underscored in June with the emergence of a letter from Eideh to the Syrian government, in which Eideh promised "absolute loyalty" to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and warned that "the threat from the colonial and Zionist is increasing on our Arabic world". Soon afterwards, Ellen Whinnett of the Herald-Sun reported that the Left and Right were considering a deal in which the former would dump Eideh and the latter would dispose of controversial Keilor MP George Seitz. Eideh secured his position in August after meeting with Jewish leaders and convincing them of his contrition.
Third on the ticket is National Union of Workers state secretary Martin Pakula, who emerged as the influential union’s leading figure after the departure of Greg Sword in 2004. Pakula is associated in the public mind not with the seat he will soon be assuming, but with his unsuccessful preselection challenge against Simon Crean in Hotham. Factional alignments and the support of influential Cambodian community figurehead and Clayton MP Hong Lim led to a general expectation that Pakula had the numbers, so there was great surprise when Crean decisively won the local ballot 190 votes to 88. Weeks later, Pakula declared his interest in a state upper house seat and had his nomination accepted by the national executive a month after the official deadline. Pakula’s preselection froze out Sam Nguyen and another hopeful, Geelong MLC Elaine Carbines, who has had to settle for the undesirable third place on the Northern Victoria ticket.
The theoretically winnable fourth position has gone to another member of the Right, Henry Barlow, a former Wyndham mayor and current adviser to Energy Industries and Resources Minister Theo Theophanous. Barlow ruffled factional feathers by nominating against Steve Bracks’s chief-of-staff Tim Pallas for the Tarneit preselection, but he was persuaded to withdraw.
Pole position on the Liberal ticket is occupied by Bernie Finn, who has been rewarded for his persistence after a failed attempt to return to parliament in Macedon at the 2002 election. Finn had earlier been the member for Tullamarine from his surprise victory at the 1992 election until his defeat in the successor seat of Yuroke in 1999. Finn is also known for his other career as an outspoken radio announcer (he recently volunteered to personally execute the Bali nine), having worked over the years for 3AW and the now-defunct 3AK. He is now listed as "a ministerial adviser to a federal parliamentarian". Paul Austin of The Age reported that Finn secured support from the Kroger-Costello camp to win last October’s preselection ballot over Kennett camp rival Jenny Matic by 25 votes to 18. His wife, Catherine Finn, has been nominated as the party’s candidate in her husband’s old stamping ground of Yuroke. The potentially winnable second position is occupied by Stephen Reynolds, a former police officer and current public service compliance officer.
The Greens have nominated Colleen Hartland, a Footscray public housing support worker, former Maribyrnong councillor and party spokesperson on drugs policy. Hartland once stood as an independent in Footscray way back in 1992, but did not much trouble the tally board operators. In yesterday’s Sunday Herald-Sun, Channel Seven political reporter Brendan Donohoe showed what they pay him for with this line about her old gig on the Parliament House catering staff: "she may have served tea and scones to the politicians sometimes through gritted teeth, but in a few weeks she could be back to serve them all some political curry a green curry that Bracks and others may find hard to digest".