Post-match report: country Victoria

For the most part, the November 24 federal election saw Labor pick up swings of similar magnitude in Victoria across city and country seats, notwithstanding the unusually small swings in the inner-city. However, one intriguing variation with respect to country Victoria was a relatively weak Labor performance east of Melbourne, particularly in the West Gippsland electorate of McMillan.

McMillan MP Russell Broadbent enjoyed one of the best evenings of his chequered electoral career by suffering a swing of just 0.2 per cent, a result which echoed the surprise Coalition wins in the local seats of Narracan and Morwell at the November 2006 state election, following respective swings of 9.5 per cent and 7.0 per cent (the defeated Labor member for Narracan, Ian Maxfield, is the husband of Labor’s unsuccessful McMillan candidate, Christine Maxfield). These electorates correspond with the rural areas of McMillan which gave Broadbent his best results: the small booths here gave early indications on election night of a swing in Broadbent’s favour, providing the Liberals an unwarranted early morale boost. However, the three large Pakenham booths which came in later followed the outer suburban script, swinging to Labor by around 7 per cent. There were also relatively strong performances for the Coalition in the neighbouring electorates of Flinders and Gippsland. Flinders followed the pattern of McMillan in that the biggest swings were recorded in the urban fringe centre of Somerville. Peter McGauran defied occasional talk about the long-term security of his hold on Gippsland by holding on to all but 0.4 per cent of his primary vote, suffering an evenly distributed 1.8 per cent two-party swing.

Labor enjoyed stronger performances to the west and north of Melbourne, the most significant result being the party’s first win in Corangamite since 1929. Darren Cheeseman built his win on especially solid swings from the Geelong booths and the large country centre of Colac, giving him enough fat to survive a surprisingly strong Liberal performance on postal votes.

Gavan O’Connor failed to make much of an impression in his bid to hold Corio as an independent, although his 12.7 per cent share of the vote earned him a handy $22,115 in public funding. His candidacy was probably responsible for a relatively mild 3.3 per cent swing to Labor. Interestingly, booths in Geelong’s industrial northern suburbs produced above-average votes for O’Connor and, in a number of cases, two-party swings to the Liberals. To the north of Melbourne, Labor achieved an evenly spread swing across Bendigo (5.2 per cent), Ballarat (5.9 per cent) and McEwen (6.4 per cent). This moved the first two from marginal to technically safe Labor status, but famously fell 12 votes short of delivering them Fran Bailey’s seat of McEwen. The swing against Bailey 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.

With one exception, electorates in the west and north of Victoria saw big swings to Labor in regional cities and little movement in rural and small town booths. Sophie Mirabella suffered an especially strong 7.1 per cent swing in Indi, which peaked at over 10 per cent in Wangaratta and was only slightly smaller in Wodonga. Swings were considerably more modest at Mansfield, Euroa and Nagambie in the south of the electorate. Similarly, two large booths in Mildura produced double-digit swings to Labor that were not reflected elsewhere in Mallee, which swung 3.5 per cent overall. In Wannon, Liberal veteran David Hawker also suffered double-digit swings in a number of booths in the large coastal towns of Warrnambool and Portland, whereas there was little movement from most rural booths. However, this trend was bucked in Murray: booths in the dominant town of Shepparton produced swings consistent with the divisional total of 5.8 per cent, although there were some interesting exceptions in the city’s outskirts and its satellite town of Mooropna.

UPDATE: Great fun to be had in retrospectively comparing assessments of Gavan O’Connor’s prospects from Glenn Milne of The Australian and Jason Koutsoukis of The Age.

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.

14 comments on “Post-match report: country Victoria”

  1. Sophie was on the radio the day after the election pronouncing that the results across the state ahd nothing to do with the candidates.
    Yeah, right.
    And now she is in real trouble as she won’t have access to a slush fund as she always has had in the past pre-elections.
    (And I have to add that I am proud of the bit the Greens did to help give her a whack!)

  2. the Union Your Rights at Work campaign is almost entirely responsible for delivering the electorate of Corangamite to Labor. Others may have seen the Labor campaign from a different angle, but from my vantage point in Corio, it would seem unlikely to suggest anything else… Happy to debate, if anyone has a different view…

  3. Plus the AEC is still investigating the “friends of Indi” matter. And since the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters will now probably have a Labor chair, she might find herself in a spot of bother come February.

  4. The larger swings in the country towns are consistent with the hypothesis of a strong pro-Labor trend among former conservative working class voters, in Wannon the vote in the towns resembled 1993.

  5. William you really need to look ate the magnitude of the swing in the previous election. This will tell you if the swing in this elections Isa rebound or continuation of the previous swing. What might be a small swing in 2007 may have been offset by a bigger swing in 2004.

  6. The swing back to Labor in Bendigo was no thanks to the sitting Labor time-server, Steve Gibbons, who does buggerall and hardly campaigned. The Liberal candidate, Peter Kennedy, worked very hard, despite little support from head office.

    A good piece of pork for Bendigo, particularly related to water, and a visit or two by Howard, could have seen the libs win Bendigo – it only needed a one per cent swing, and had a tradition of going against the national trend.

    But it’s good to see Catherine King re-elected in Ballarat. She is a potential minister, and works hard.

    It seems demographic change is gradually pushing Bendigo and Ballarat towards safe Labor territory, both Federally and State, after they’ve both been marginal for many years. The tree-changers are helping. The Green vote is increasing too, in places like Daylesford and Castlemaine.

    The swing against Sophie Mirabella in Indi is interesting. It’s not out of the question that the seat could gradually move closer to Labor in coming years, because of tree-changers, and commuters at the southern end.

  7. I have read both articles, Glen Milne and the other no-name from The Age.

    Its a great shame that these two broadsheets run with such twaddle.

    In Glen’s case, he appears to have had a few before submitting to the editor, although obviously acting without reference to any electoral machine seeking votes.

    In the case of Jason Kantsuethis, he has obviosly had his vebal spew signed off by Moscow before submitting. I couldn’t ask for better indication of The Age is hostage to the left.

    I’d rather read the comments on this blog site for informed comment

  8. I think at least part of the swings in the east can be explained by resistance to various state government projects such as the desalination plant. However, anyone who has had much to do with the Maxfield family would not be too surprised at the Broadbent’s impressive result.

  9. it appears labor has ongoing problems with it’s vote in the latrobe valley
    this i think explains the relatively poor vote in Mcmillan & Gippsland
    also I think Mr Broadbent may have a personal vote
    On current boundaries both seats are still marginal

  10. Milne’s article shows that he misunderstands the myth of the power of a local member. The local members who are able to boost the vote in a seat are generally either Ministers or Shadow Ministers or members that have stood against the party on ethical or local issues. This gives them a “name” that people know.
    How Milne ever thought that O’Connor was going to get in front of either the ALP or Liberal Candidate is beyond me. The party machines have television ads, election workers, media coverage etc where as a local member no longer in the party only has their name which in O’Connors case was not much (shadow minister for Pacific Islands is not that higher profile role).

  11. Squiggle with all respect I think Jason has some very good contacts around the place. I have known Glen since he was a cadet on the “valley Voice” and I think his award winning display or attack on Crikey (Although justified in many circumstances” really should have been his retirement speech. Likewise IO have also known Jason since Early 1990s.

    The other factor that needs to be taken into consideration is that labor was a bit on the nose in Geelong following a serious of “corruption” scandals in the Geelong City Council dating as far back as early 1996 involving successive CEO’s, Mayors and if the City. Some of most definitely did wash off.

    Your can read more on google and Andrew Landeryou’s web site.

  12. I think the reasons behind Broadbent’s swing resistance were similar to Petro Georgio’s ability to withstand the Labour deluge – their humanitarian stand re refugee issues. I believe it’s too much of a coincidence to suggest otherwise.

  13. I was so disgusted by the actions of detestable Hakki Suleyman, an employee of Victorian Minister Justin Madden in his latest act that WILL cost the ALP votes at the next election.
    This nasty piece of work with a history in the media for all the wrong reasons, was leading the calls to have Marcos Bagdatis removed from the Australian Tennis Open simply for espousing United Nations policy
    That is that Turkey should get out of Cyprus. Period.
    (SNIP: Possibly defamatory comment deleted – PB) he was then supported by Premier Brumbles who was also negative towards Bagdatis – amazing given what Bagdatis actually stated So theer are already rumbles within the Greek populatioon of Melbourne to cost Labor a seat or two and given how few Greek MPs there are on the Labor side, it will be easy for them to convince teh Libs to give them a crack at marginals that CAN be won.

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