Victoria and Albert (Park)

A black swan day in Victorian politics, with the wholly unheralded news that Premier Steve Bracks and Deputy Premier John Thwaites are calling it a day. Whither the Victorian government? Not my concern (not until 2010, anyway). What matters here is that two by-elections will soon be upon us. The Liberals could be forgiven for taking a pass in Bracks’s seat of Williamstown, as they did in the happier times of 1994 when Bracks replaced Joan Kirner. Thwaites’s seat of Albert Park is quite a different matter. Labor recorded some fairly modest margins in the seat last decade – 5.8 per cent in 1992, 6.4 per cent in 1999. The margin was back inside 10 per cent at last November’s election, which surely counts as striking distance for a by-election involving a third-term government. With the government continuing to travel reasonably well, the reality is that the Liberals will not be at all confident, but shirking this contest is simply not an option.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

41 comments on “Victoria and Albert (Park)”

  1. Albert Park could potentially be an interesting fight, given the demographic change in the area. The Greens could be in with a show, given it takes in some of the St Kilda area. Perhaps we’ll see the Libs and Greens exchange preferences??

    Williamstown might also be good for the Greens as it is the sort of gentrifying former working-class seat in which they tend to do well.

    It will be very interesting to see when the by-elections are held. I assume the government will want to get in before the Federal election to maximise any anti-Howard sentiment.

  2. Peter, I suspect Steve had just reached the point of wanting out, Thwaites knew he would never be Premier and with the free travel to Ski resort he has jumped.

    I wouldn’t expect the Liberals to run in Williamstown, Albert Park may be a different story, the only thing which may scare the Liberals away is do the Liberals want to get a wrack in a seat which sits right bang in the middle of Melbourne Ports.

    Yes Melbourne Ports is a Marginal, but if the Voters of Albert Park were to give a big swing to the ALP, what message will this send the Liberals, also would the local Liberals want to commit resources to a campaign when they a facing a Federal election within a few short months.

    While Albert Park is a safe ALP seat, but as a feel of a Liberal seat the Greens are very strong around St Kilda although their strongest booths are in the neighbouring seat of Prahran.

  3. Both interesting seats.

    Calling Williamstown ‘gentrified’ is getting to be a bit of an understatement. Whilst some of the working-class old-school remain there, it’s probably the only part of Melbourne’s Northern or Western suburbs that has multi-million dollar beachside properties.

    Albert Park is also a predomantly wealthy area, though it includes some students, and well-heeled hippies. The result may be quite different to Melbourne Ports, since this latter seat incorporates some different neighbourhoods, and should be less marginal come the next election. I wouldn’t be surpised if Albert Park swung slightly to the Libs.

  4. As far as I am concerned, I would hope the LIberals field their
    old candidates at least. It might save on money in terms of corflutes etc.
    But I think it is unlikely, given the party tends not to bother with them.
    Maybe this might heighten the contest between Bailleu and Brumby and make State politics a bit more interesting.

    Just a final note, did anyone else find it interesting about the timing of the departure? Just a couple of days, Bracks was on top of his game about water policy and now he is gone for good. Interesting times ahead???

  5. Very convenient timing just a few weeks before the federal election. I suspect the ALP would love both the Greens and Liberals to throw everything at both seats – it will burn campaign funds and the ALP appears to have more in the kitty than the Libs (and obviously the Greens).

    For that reason, I suspect that in Williamstown at least the Liberals will skip the by-election.

    Incidentally, when’s the earliest they can be?

  6. I think labor should win both By Elections and i think labor candidates will be Henry Barlow in Williantown and Alex Hicks in Albert Park both from the right

  7. The Libs won’t run in either. Would be a waste of resources and an unnecessary distraction with the federal election coming up later in the year.

  8. Pre-selection for Williamstown will be interesting as the local rising stars were probably not going to be ready for at least another couple of elections to take over. I know there were a few hopefulls out there that were eyeing it off for 2014. However, the by-election will be a cake walk.

    Albert Park is going to be a slightly different story. If Liberals play dead, the Greens might have a crack, but I doubt they can take it by themselves. If Liberals play live and they go backwards there could be trouble at the top of party. But if they come close or win, then it will make Teddy Boy look stronger as leader.

  9. Their is a also the possibility that John Lenders may move down from the Upper House into one of these seats if he gets the Treasurer portifolio. Bracks will only be remembered for one day thing a calm approach to politics without any fanfare..and defeating Jeff Kennett and that is all. John Cain was a far better priemer and did a great deal even without a majority in the Upper House. Bracks

  10. Lenders was MLA for Dandeong North 1999-2002, switched to the upper house seat of Waverley Province in 2002, and since last year has sat for South Metropolitan Region. If he was appointed Treasurer and needed to move to the lower house (although this is not essential), Albert Park is within his current upper house region.

    Under Westminster convention money bills must originate in the lower house, so it is convenient that the Treasurer be there to move them. But it is not a requirement – Michael Egan was NSW Treasurer while in the upper house.

  11. Two State by-elections. Should be interesting to see what people do in terms of extrapolating from these 2 by-elections implications regarding the Federal Election. What is it, four weeks warning required ?

  12. marky marky says (July 28th, 2007 at 4:25 pm),

    I think Steve Bracks will be remembered for a lot more than being calm and defeating Jeff Kennett. We have had the steady rebuilding of public services, the reform of the Legislative Council, a far-reaching and long-lasting reform which will affect the Victorian political landscape for generations and which is constitutionally entrenched and thus immune from future partisan fiddling, the fiscal responsibility, which is a rusted-on feature of twenty-first century Labor, and the quiet gradualism in his approach, which made progress but did so without high drama. Most of all, we have the modern Labor Party, which is light years away from the unelectable mob of the post-Split ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s and which has solidified as the natural party of government in the state.

    John Cain was pushed out – perhaps unfairly – by his own party and was unable to leave it strong enough to win in 1992, whereas Steve Bracks chose his own time to leave and left the party in a good position to win the next election.

    John Lenders may be a good choice for Treasurer, but I fear that education might suffer from losing his enthusiasm and energy. He is the third minister in eight years, and there is a massive building program to deliver. My choice for deputy would be Lynne Kosky, who could then take Treasury, but tonight’s news says Rob Hulls is the likely winner.

  13. Both Williamstown and Albert Park could give the ALP a fright.

    Remember Lyn Allison came to prominance when she contested the Willy by-election and the Democrats polled 23 per cent against Steve Bracks; and that’s before Footscray and Yarraville emerged strongly as smart addresses for professionals and hospitality workers.

    Contrary to an earlier comment, the Greens do poll well in Albert Park. especially in St. Kilda and Elwood which record amongst their highest vote in Victoria, after only Fitzroy and East Brunswick. In addition, John Thwaites has enjoyed a strong, atlhough waning, personal following, based on his local background and that of his partner, and his appearance !

    Many in these electorates are bitterly disappointed with the frenzy of freeway building and neglect of public transport, They’re dissatisfied with mental health and dental services. They reject the ‘development at all costs’ town planning mentality under Minister Madden.

    Many in these two bayside seats feel cheated by the Bay Channel Deepening charade. State school education is dominant even in the wealthy parts of these very mixed seats, and some of the local schools are in dsrepair. The local renovation boom reminds professionals of the abysmal state of technical education in Victoria.

    Human Rights, civil liberties and social policies are important to the lawyers, activitists and educators in these suburbs and the State Government is increasingly seen as compliant with the Federal Government’s agenda.

    While the Premiers and Dep. Premier were dignified in their resignations, I think voters may punish the ALP for its self-interest in forcing voters back to the polls so soon after seeking support for a four year term.

    Independants and Greens may poll well in Albert Park and Williamstown.

  14. The problem for the Greens in Albert Park is that – unlike Melbourne or Richmond – the Liberals do pretty well there. Only if the Libs sit it out would the Greens stand a chance. (Which is what happened in Cunningham.)

    Not that I am advocating that the Liberals forgo Albert Park. They probably stand at least as good a chance as the Greens of defeating Labor. (This is where the similarity with Cunningham ends.)

    As for Williamstown – classic suburban Labor territory. Only a Phil Cleary type would worry them here.

  15. Perhaps this time the Liberals will have success finding a candidate willing to contest Albert Park. While they may well preference the Greens (after the Democrats and Family First, but before the ALP), surely the Greens will not preference the Liberals, bespite the relentless and ugly ALP campaign against the Greens at State level.

  16. Paul, Its true the Greens poll well in Elwood and St Kilda, but the problem for the Greens is this

    The Greens strongest booths in St Kilda are in the seat of Praharn where I believe they finished Second, the thing about St Kilda is when the Liberals are more Liberal than Conservative they are very competitive.

  17. Paul,

    Why wouldn’t the Greens preference the Libs? It’s a by-election, so there’s no chance of actually electing a Liberal government. They could sell it to their faithful as “send Labor a message”, rather than an explicit endorsement of Liberal policy.

  18. Marcus.
    The Greens wont preference the libs because of the lies being told by the ALP. The Alp have been saying that the Greens preferenced the Libs at the state election (they didn’t although there were some open and split tickets). If the Greens do so now, the ALP will be able to say that the Greens did it in Albert Park so whats to say they wont do it again.
    Myself, I agree with you, but until the ALP acknowledge that split tickets are different from preferencing the Libs, I don’t think the Greens will do it.

    The other reason is that there are whole sections of the party who wont pref the Libs on principle.

  19. The Greens will never preference the Liberals. They stupidly did it in the Queensland election in 1995, and it elected the wingnut Borbidge government. I personally would have advocated it at the 2006 Victorian election, because Baillieu was both more progressive and more competent than the Labor alternative, and it wasn’t like the ALP wasn’t going to lie and allege that they did either way. If they didn’t then, I can’t see it happening any time soon.

    As for split tickets, however, I think that should become standard Green practice until the ALP gets their act together. If the ALP wants Green preferences, they should stop running blatant smear campaigns against them.

  20. The Libs problem in Victoria is that they are in danger of becoming a disappearing brand.

    Whether they win or lose they need to fight the fight. You would think that Albert Park which is fairly upper middle class affluent etc is precisely the sort of seat they need to be electable as a government.

    They are in danger of strategising themselves out of existence.

  21. So the Libs aren’t contesting either seat, it appears.

    I can understand them bypassing Williamstown, but Albert Park? It’s hard to believe they wouldn’t contest a seat where they have a theoretical chance of winning, especially against a third-term government.

  22. Albert Park is moving demographically towards the Liberals, and the next redistribution may also see the boundaries shift as well. In other words it will soon be one of the seats they are going to need to win if they are to gain government. To fail to contest is cowardice of the most astonishing proportions. If it is true they are not running it effectively says they are not interested in winning government at state level.

  23. According to today’s Herald Sun, the Libs will not be contesting Albert park. While it pleases this lefty, as the Greens are likely to stand a better chance, I can’t help but think it is a stupid move by the Victorian Liberals. By fighting hard in the seat, they would have had a good chance of winning it, as well as putting pressure on sitting federal Melbourne Ports member Micheal Danby, who holds the seat by only 3.5%.

  24. I don’t really think the Liberals stood a chance in Albert Park. I’m just not seeing the levels of discontent with the government that would be necessary to see a seat like that swing. As such, I think the Liberals probably decided that it was better to pool their resources for a defence of Corangamite (where they are definitely worried, as the Liberal incumbent is really going out and campaigning for the first time in his career) and LaTrobe and a direct attack on Melbourne Ports at the federal election.

    This said, it will make the Albert Park by-election a pretty dull affair. I’m not buying talk of the Greens presenting a challenge – Albert Park is one of those seats where the Greens do well, but will not have a serious prospect of victory unless Melbourne goes first, thus giving the Greens a footing in the Assembly.

  25. I think that Albert Park is in comparision more winnable for the Greens at this by-election because of the higher non-Labor vote. (I`m not commenting on the actual winnablity)

  26. I also think they’d be very unwise to actually direct resources into this campaign and risk distracting themselves from the di Natale Senate campaign.

  27. The demographics of Albert Park have changed a lot over the last 15 years, but as it’s taken the form of working-class lefties being replaced by professional-class lefties its political impact is modest (other than to increase the Green vote). The demographic mix that now exists there probably would have produced a Liberal seat in the 1970s or 1980s, but not now. Nor is the Jewish vote a major factor in the way it is in Melbourne Ports, as the suburbs with large Jewish populations are beyond the state seat’s boundaries (mostly in Caulfield). It’s a seat that the Liberals might pinch in a once-a-generation landslide, but I can’t see it being a bellwether seat in the foreseeable future.

  28. Would it be possible to hold these elections on the same day as the federal election or is that a strain on resources or something?

  29. Molotov Says:
    August 19th, 2007 at 10:49 pm
    Would it be possible to hold these elections on the same day as the federal election or is that a strain on resources or something?

    Unfortunately under the Electorate, the States aren’t allowed to hold a poll in conjuction with a Federal Poll. Hence as discussed in another thread, Beattie can’t hold a state run plebicite in conjucnction with a federal one that the AEC run.

  30. Amongst those voters in Albert Parkwho know that the Democrats are contesting, I sense solid support.

    However many voters don’t know that the Democrats are standing, as the Democrats are virtually ignored by the “serious media”.

    I’ve been attending pre-polling every day, been interviewed on community radio, been assessed by numerous community groups, and have a team of helpers letterboxing the whole electorate with a terrific leaftlet – including one young Sydney Democrat who came down to help.

    Over two weeks I’ve been meeting/ greeting people in Armstrong St, Brighton Rd, Southbank, Clarendon St, Glenhuntly Rd, Barkly St and elsewhere – tomorrow morning Senator Lyn Allison and I are meeting shoppers at South Melbourne Market.

    Despite this effort and considerable expense, the Age and the Hun have ignored me and given enormous coverage to the Liberals who aren’t even standing, while ignoring candidates who are working their guts out.

    Despite everything I’m doing, I still get the recuring comment “Oh, I didn’t know the Democrats are standing”. APEC has not helped.

    Without the media presenting voters with information about candidates, the effectivesneess of democracy is impaired and decision making remains embedded in a cosy clique.

    Paul Kavanagh
    Democrats candidate, Albert Park

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