The eastern suburban Melbourne seat of Deakin was created in 1937, when it extended far beyond the city limits to Seymour and Mansfield. It gained its wholly urban orientation in 1969, and since losing Box Hill in 1977 has been centred on Blackburn and Nunawading (currently extending east down the Maroondah Highway to Ringwood and Croydon). Despite its middle suburban location, Deakin does not fit the mortgate belt mould: census figures show an average number of dwellings being purchased, a high level of full ownership and few renters. As my electorate maps at Crikey demonstrate, there is a clear trend of increasing support for the Liberals as the electorate extends eastward. This does not correlate with income levels, which are in fact slightly higher in the west, and might instead be explained by a notable lack of ethnic diversity in the east.
For a seat that has been marginal for most of its history, Deakin has brought Labor remarkably little joy. Their only win was when the Hawke government came to power in 1983, and it was lost again when Hawke went to the polls early in December 1984. The seat presented a picture of electoral stability from 1984 to 2001, when Liberal margins ranged only from 0.7 per cent to 2.5 per cent (although the 1990 redistribution muffled the impact of a 4.3 per cent Liberal swing). The 2004 election gave the Liberals their first comfortable win since 1977, with a 3.4 per cent swing that was evenly distributed from one of the electorate to the other. The 5.0 per cent shift required by Labor at the coming election would be the seat’s biggest since a 5.1 per cent swing in 1980, which came off the back of Labor’s twin disasters of 1975 and 1977. Phillip Barresi (right) has maintained an uncomfortable hold on the seat since the 1996 election, after he defeated incumbent Ken Aldred for preselection. Aldred in turn became member in 1990 after his predecessor, Julian Beale, defeated him for preselection in his existing seat of Bruce. He has since made more than one attempt at a comeback, most recently when he won preselection for the Labor-held seat of Holt for this year’s election. This was overturned by the state party’s Kroger-Costello dominated administration committee, which was concerned over his past history of eccentric pronouncements. Barresi’s preselection does not appear to have been challenged in his 11 years as member, despite his failure to win promotion.
Labor’s candidate is Electrical Trades Union official Mike Symon (left), who had a three-vote preselection win in March over local GP Peter Lynch, the candidate from 2004. A plebiscite of local party members reportedly gave Lynch 64.8 per cent support, but this was overwhelmed by the 50 per cent of the vote determined by the state partyâ€™s tightly factionalised Public Office Selection Committee. Lynch complained of irregularities, but his appeal was rebuffed by the national executive. In an email to party members published on Andrew Landeryou’s The Other Cheek, Lynch (who claimed support from the Left, Pledge and Independents factions) spoke of a deal between the Right and the Left sub-faction centred on Dean Mighell and the Electrical Trades Union, in which the former would support Symon and the latter would back Peter McMullin in Corangamite. Also on The Other Cheek was a letter from Kathy Jackson, a senior figure in the Health Services Union, which accused her own Right faction’s leadership of misleading Lynch into thinking he had their backing, while they instead marshalled support for Symon. Symonâ€™s ETU links became a target of Coalition barbs following the controversies surrounding state secretary Dean Mighell and ousted Franklin candidate Kevin Harkins.