Seat du jour: Deakin

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 party’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. Symon’s ETU links became a target of Coalition barbs following the controversies surrounding state secretary Dean Mighell and ousted Franklin candidate Kevin Harkins.

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.

64 comments on “Seat du jour: Deakin”

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  1. Glen: the ALP candidate for Herbert owns the McDonalds franchise in Townsville/Nth QLD.
    Based on the most recent Newspoll figures for Victoria(60-40 lead for Labor), Deakin would be won easily.

  2. Some Labor candidates

    George Colbran (Herbert) owns nine McDonalds outlets in the Townsville area – and opposes AWAs for his staff. Sam Miszkowski (Moncrieff) is a leading Gold Coast businessman. I’m told he will spend $100,000 of his own money on his campaign. Eddy Sarroff (McPherson next door), is also a businessman. Tony Zappia (Makin) is a businessman. Garry Parr (Hinkler) is a real estate agent. Julia Mason (Goldstein) has an MBA and is Group Manager of Corporate Strategy with Sensis. Geraldine Burgess (Moore) also has an MBA and runs an employment services company. Gary Gray (Brand) has just resigned a senior executive position with Woodside. And if you want doctors, Dr Ken Harvey (Kooyong) is one of the most highly regarded specialists in Melbourne.

  3. Glen, Tony Zappia is a very successful businessman and he’s been a brilliant mayor of Salisbury, under his guidance Salisbury has world class wetlands thats been held up as a role model for other councils, even though hes a friend i dont think i’m biased when i say he’s a great candidate– he’ll work his heart out for his constituants.

  4. On business people, I don’t recall Howard or Costello ever running a Business, and while Turnbull is a lawyer and a banker has he ever run a company, this debate is old hat.

  5. Two things:
    1. Class is alive and well in Australia, but when people start looking for a “working class” they have trouble identifying it. However, when you turn that around and identify a ruling class it becomes much easier. It is quite obvious that Howard has been a conscious player in class politics in Australia, and Adam is quite right in arguing this a class-polarised election. One thing to note – wage is not a good qualifyer of class, but profession, and attitude to profession is. A plumber might earn more than the businessman, but is still “lower” on the class scale, and seen as such, irrespective of the time they spend at TAFE. And just because you go to uni doesn’t mean you’ve moved up the class ladder either – ask any teacher or nurse. The whole APEC show (whether you agree with it or not) did demonstrate a “we have the money and make the decisions” attitude – the fence divided the Sydney, clearways emptied the roads, just so the rich and powerful could traipse all over the city.
    2. The internal workings of parties may seem undemocratic to external viewers, but to cast them as “undemocratic” belies the question of what is democratic? The 50% rule may appear to be overused by the ALP at times, but maybe its better than having a very poor choice foisted on the party at an election by one-eyed (or branch-stacked) locals. There does need to be a balance reached, and although I’m a green I sometimes think people get too caught up in the “act local” part and forget the “think global” bit. So again I agree with Adam.

  6. Symon is a local (a proper local) and has been working hard in the electorate for some time- where Baressi has gone missing baring some predictably ugly ads in the local papers.

    Symon is an impressive candidate – union backing or not – and would be an excellent local member, and hopefully come election time he´s heading to Canberra.

  7. Although class is itself a complex phenomenon and is also part of the larger and more complex phenomenon of social stratification generally, the most important feature of it is still the same as it has always been: the distinction between employers and employees (and not income levels, status of occupation, or postcode, although all these do also factor in one way or another). It is still the case that, in general, Labor gets a lower vote in seats where the population includes relatively higher numbers of employers and relatively lower numbers of employees, and contrariwise.

    Obviously class is not the only relevant factor: if all the employees always voted Labor and all the employers always voted Coalition, Labor would win every election in a landslide. But it’s still the most important one.

    Given this, Adam is absolutely right to point to the significance of WorkChoices. The significance to any individual of WorkChoices hinges most of all not on income level, not on occupational status, not on postcode (although all of those may make some difference), but on whether you are an employer or an employee.

    And anybody who says that they prefer small businesspeople as parliamentary candidates to union officials is effectively saying that they prefer the employers’ side to the employees’ side. That’s your democratic choice, but if you’re surprised or offended that there are people who take the other side, you need to get over yourselves.

  8. Re 39, Thanks for the response bmwofoz. Just got back from a week in the Victorian Alps where the Bright Brewery is well worth a visit and the country is so lush they are on stage 1a water restrictions (don’t know what that means but the cattle are lowing and the lambs are baaing… good on them.)

    The notable thing coming back into Deakin is that Symon’s signs are out in full force, so much so that I thought Howard must have gone to the GG (I’ve been out of touch).

    A lot of work has clearly been done on the Labour side in the past week and whatever ‘Rowdy’ Phil does his campaign photo isn’t his strong point, so mark 1 to Symon.

    Re 57, I accept your comment that Symon is a local. I still use my ETU shopping bag I got at their sausage sizzle, but until today I hadn’t seen much more evidence of a local campaign. As for being a ‘true’ local, it was me telling Phil his government was a total ****ing disgrace when I saw him at Blackburn station just after the Tampa in 2001, not you, but I restrained my rage when we were both picking up our kids at the Indra Rd Kindergarten (how many Federal MP’s ever pick up their kids?).

    BTW, these ‘seat de jour’ threads seem to be the site for off topic philosophising, but forget about Eden Monaro, Deakin is a crucial seat, and I’ll give updates on the posters and leaflets (and my yelling or otherwise at Phil) as they arise.

  9. Some of the discussion on this thread seems to exhibit a certain schizophrenic logic reflective of the Liberal’s desperate attempts to slander the whole union movement as thugs and parasites on the body politic.

    Your Rights at Work is a wonderful campaign which has exposed the lies and inequities of WorkChoices, and is acknowledged as one of the reasons that the Howard government is about to be thrown ignomiously out of office!

    Yet some seem to be arguing that the people who ran this campaign, and are in touch with the sentiments of Australian voters are inappropriate representatives and bad candidates.

    I am very happy that people who spend their lives talking to working people and representing their interests are standing for election. I certainly prefer Mike Symon to Phil Baressi who chaired a backbench taskforce to sell WorkChoices!

  10. I have been visited by someone asking about ‘burning issues’ wearing a “You rights at work” T shirt. Very pleasant, but obviously fishing for a negative view on WorkChoices. The ACTU has conducted a relentless campaign against WorkChoices in Deakin. So far the debate seems to have been won with rhetoric. WorkChoices has been misrepresentad as destroying a system that was working well rather than formalizing a trend and seeking to provide uniform protection for the first time. Undue emphasis has been placed on the unfair dismissal concern, since most grounds conceivably considered unfair are protected under illegal dismissal. Though the ALP denounces WorkChoices, they seem to have stepped back to a policy which allows for much of what the current legislation provides.

    They have had 11 years to come up with an Industrial Relations Policy, yet they appear to be largely in step with the Coalition

  11. The ALP need to get a good candidate for this seat. Peter Lynch at the last election was about as charismatic as roadkill. This ETU guy doesn’t seem to turn up anywhere. The ALP seem to rely on Kevin to get them elected around here, which is a pity. They could win this seat is they pulled their finger out.

  12. Funny, I have seen Mike Symon, the ALP candidate, at Eastlands and Forest Chase over the past couple of weekends. There was also a bit of a splash in the local rag when Rudd visited the elctorate a couple of weekends ago.

  13. Ross misunderstands the law. Unlawful dismissal is just that. Unfair is about fairness in the mechanism of dismissal. Fairness is a fundamental aussie expectation – it is unfair to sack for no reason, not unlawful.

    I’ve always found Symons to be likable, smart and hard working. Hope he gets up.

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