In Melbourne as elsewhere, the November 24 election produced a pattern of strong swings in outer suburbs and weak ones nearer the city, which cut across the partisan divide. The swing against veteran Liberal moderate Petro Georgiou in blue-ribbon Kooyong was just 0.05 per cent, while Peter Costello faced a similarly mild 1.7 per cent shift in neighbouring Higgins. This pattern carried over to the conservative dead zone of Melbourne, which swung only 1.1 per cent in Labor-versus-Liberal terms. However, the real story here was Greens candidate Adam Bandt’s success in edging out the Liberal candidate to take second place. The Greens’ primary vote was up 3.8 per cent to 22.8 per cent, 0.7 per cent behind the Liberals. This gap was bridged after distribution of minor party preferences, with Bandt leading the Liberal candidate 21,996 (25.1 per cent) to 21,405 (24.4 per cent) at the second last exclusion. Liberal preferences then took Bandt to within 4.7 per cent of victory, producing the first ever Labor versus Greens two-party result in a federal seat at a general election. This is the first time Melbourne has met the AEC’s definition of a marginal seat (6 per cent or less) since 1904.
Beyond the swing-resistant inner core of Melbourne, Kooyong and Higgins lay a band of seats separating it from the volatile outer suburbs. Batman followed the broader pattern of mild swings of around 4 per cent in inner suburban Northcote, and heavier ones of 6 per cent to 7 per cent at Preston and Reservoir further to the north. The Greens’ vote was up 3.2 per cent to 17.2 per cent, a potentially bridgeable 3.4 per cent behind the Liberals. Jagajaga, Chisholm and Menzies produced near identical swings of 4.6 per cent to 4.7 per cent, respectively staying safe for Labor’s Jenny Macklin and Anna Burke and the Liberals’ Kevin Andrews. On the bayside, Melbourne Ports produced a relatively gentle 3.4 per cent swing which was nonetheless the biggest movement in the electorate since 1993, while its safe Liberal neighbour Goldstein swung 4.0 per cent.
The two biggest swings were in the Melbourne area were in the outer suburban suburbs of Calwell in the north and Holt in the south-east. Calwell topped the table at 11.1 per cent, with swings topping 15 per cent at Craigieburn on the outermost urban fringe. The 10.1 per cent swing in Holt was most pronounced in the south, peaking with a mighty 17.5 per cent swing at the electorate’s largest booth of Narre Warren South. Swings in the north were in the range of 5 per cent to 9 per cent. In what might be regarded as the defining booth result of the election, a 10.96 per cent swing to Labor was recorded at Kath and Kim’s home of Fountain Gate.
Labor added some fat to a number of margins in traditionally safe south-eastern seats that were cut uncomfortably fine in 2004. After previous member Ann Corcoran suffered an unexpectedly close shave in 2004, newcomer Mark Dreyfus boosted the Labor margin from 1.5 per cent to 7.7 per cent in Isaacs, which produced heavier swings in the inland suburbs of Keysborough and Carrum Downs than along the coast. Immediately to the north, Simon Crean increased his margin from 7.4 per cent to 13.0 per cent in Hotham, with particularly strong swings recorded in Springvale. In Bruce the swing to Labor was an evenly distributed 4.8 per cent, increasing Alan Griffin’s margin to 8.3 per cent.
Liberal seats in the eastern suburbs mostly followed the trend of their Labor-held neighbours. Only in the case of Deakin was the swing enough for a seat to change hands, Labor winning the seat for only the second time since its creation in 1937. Their candidate Mike Symon picked up 5.7 per cent on the primary vote and 6.4 per cent on two-party preferred to prevail with a margin of 1.4 per cent, ending the 11-year parliamentary career of Liberal member Phil Barresi. Labor achieved an identical swing further afield in McEwen, which was famously 12 votes short of what was needed to unseat Fran Bailey. The swing peaked at South Morang (10.6 per cent) and Wallan Wallan (9.1 per cent), but there was no clearly discernible pattern to its distribution. Labor’s other disappointment was a 5.3 per cent swing in La Trobe that fell 0.5 per cent short of delivering them the seat. The Dandenong Ranges formed a rough dividing line between suburbs on the city side where the swing was in the order of what Labor required, and the hill suburbs and surrounding small towns where it fell just short at around 4 per cent.
On safer ground for the Liberals, Bruce Billson’s seat of Dunkley returned to the marginal zone with a swing of 4.2 per cent that was felt more heavily in Frankston than Mornington and Mount Eliza. In outer suburban and semi-rural Casey, Tony Smith suffered a 5.4 per cent swing that was higher in suburban Croydon and Kilsyth than in the satellite towns of Monbulk and Woori Yallock. It is interesting to note a particularly sharp 8.1 per cent swing in Aston, which memorably gave the Liberals a bigger margin in 2004 than Kooyong. Any thoughts that this might have marked a long-term realignment can now be laid to rest, as the respective margins are now 5.0 per cent and 9.5 per cent.
Labor’s safe seats in the west and north of Melbourne produced remarkably consistent swings of between 5.5 per cent to 6.7 per cent, excepting the aforementioned Calwell. Wills followed the pattern of neighbouring Batman in producing smaller swings of around 4 per cent at Brunswick at the southern end nearer the city, increasing to around 7 per cent at Glenroy in the north. Bill Shorten’s candidacy appeared not to make much difference one way or the other in Maribyrnong, which swung to Labor by a locally typical 5.8 per cent which was evenly distributed through the electorate. There was similarly consistency in the swings in Gellibrand (6.5 per cent), Gorton (6.3 per cent) and Lalor (6.7 per cent).