Seat of the week: La Trobe

This week’s better-late-than-never installment of Seat of the Week brings us to La Trobe, one of two crucial gains for Labor in Victoria at the 2010 election which helped redressed losses in New South Wales and especially Queensland. The defeated Liberal member, Jason Wood, will attempt to recover the seat from Labor’s Laura Smyth at the next election after winning a preselection ballot earlier this week.

La Trobe has covered Melbourne’s eastern fringe since its creation with the enlargement of parliament in 1949, drifting south-eastwards over time from its starting point of Dandenong and Croydon. It now consists of two rapidly growing outer Melbourne areas separated by the Dandenong Ranges – Boronia and Ferntree Gully in the north, and the Berwick area in the south – and extends eastwards through Belgrave to Emerald, Cockatoo and Gembrook. Labor’s strength around Belgrave is countered by Liberal dominance around Berwick. The redistribution that will take effect at the next election has effected a swap of about 16,000 voters around Bayswater, who have been transferred to Aston, for a similar number in Narre Warren, who were previously in Holt. Another 3000 voters around Pakenham have been transferred to McMillan. Antony Green calculates that the changes have boosted Labor’s margin from 0.9% to 1.7%.

Along with other seats in Melbourne’s outer suburban “sandbelt”, La Trobe played a decisive role in the election of the Whitlam government in 1972, falling to Labor for the first time with a 10.2% swing. It swung almost as heavily the other way when the Liberals recovered it in 1975, but returned to the Labor fold in 1980 when Peter Milton defeated Liberal member Marshall Baillieu (part of the clan that includes the current Premier). An unfavourable redistribution in 1990 combined with the statewide anti-Labor tsunami at that year’s election to deliver a 1.4% victory to Liberal candidate Bob Charles. The seat had a remarkably stable time of it on Charles’s watch, staying with the Liberals by 2.4% in 1993, 1.4% in 1996, 1.0% in 1998 and 3.7% in 2001.

With Charles’s retirement at the 2004 election, La Trobe emerged as a contest between Liberal candidate Jason Wood, a police officer who had worked in counter-terrorism and organised crime units, and Labor’s Susan Davies, who held the since-abolished state seat of Gippsland West as an independent from 1997 to 2002. The result was an easy win for Wood, who overcame the loss of Charles’s personal vote to pick up a 2.1% swing that was concentrated in the heavily mortgaged suburbs nearer the city. Wood had won preselection with the backing of the Kennett faction after cutting his teeth as candidate for Holt in 2001. It was noted at the time he had “been a member of Greenpeace for longer than he has been a member of the Liberal Party”, and he went on to embarrass his party ahead of the 2007 election by issuing a brochure that failed to sing from its song sheet on nuclear power.

Wood went into the 2007 election with a 5.8% margin, of which only 0.5% was left after a swing that was most conspicuous in the areas that had moved to the Liberals in 2004. He was promoted to parliamentary secretary for justice and public security when Malcolm Turnbull assumed the Liberal leadership in September 2008, despite the embarrassment he had recently suffered after stammering his way through a parliamentary speech on genetically modified organisms (which repeatedly came out as “orgasms”). The 1.4% swing that unseated him at the 2010 election was fairly typical for Victoria, which collectively swung to Labor by 1.0%. The successful Labor candidate was Laura Smyth, a lawyer for Holding Redlich whom VexNews linked to the “Andrew Giles/Alan Griffin sub-faction of the Socialist Left”.

VexNews reports that Jason Wood’s victory in this week’s preselection ballot was achieved with 61 votes in the first round out of 140, against 38 for Mark Verschuur, managing director of Fairmont Medical Products (and, apparently, a former ALP member); 17 for “IT uber-nerd” and “chick magnet” Martin Spratt; 14 for local councillor and former mayor Sue McMillan; and 12 for Michael Keane, an anaesthetist and former member of the Liberal Democratic Party.

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.

2,980 comments on “Seat of the week: La Trobe”

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  1. Astrobleme

    [Skilled employment is, boiler makers, truck drivers, surveyors, cooks, cleaners. People with skills to do a task. ]

    So not exactly post graduate stuff is it….how long would it take to train up to be one of these…they earn more than I do from what I’m hearing

  2. [guytaur
    Posted Monday, June 11, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Where is runaway Abbott? Run Rabbot Run.]

    he is reviewing Lib policy 🙂

  3. The best part of the PM’s performance was that she never once resorted to the standard “ät least we are better than the opposition” type answers.

    Damn! Storm damage means we have no TV antenna and the power only came on in time for me to get the last few minutes of QANDA. I’ll have to get it on iview later. She certainly looked unruffled and quite comfy at the end though.

    Getting away from “we are better than Howard was” responses is good to hear though. I did catch the laughs at the end when Jones commented on :monkey: lack of enthusiasm for the QANDA format. I’d say its not a question of if for Abbott, its when he gets rolled and the polls will be determining that. Will the Fibs be able to do it fast, neat and with minimal collateral damage, or will the incipient Teabaggers in their ranks drag things out??

  4. Troy Ruivenkamp and 6 others retweeted you 23m: re gaybo’s ghetting married JG said it is a conscience vote TA dont


    Halo Efekti and 4 others retweeted you 20m: Remember 90% of the workforce earns less than $80k #qanda

  5. GhostWhoVotes ‏@GhostWhoVotes
    #Newspoll 2 Party Preferred: ALP 46 (0) L/NP 54 (0) #auspol
    Reply Retweet Favorite

  6. GhostWhoVotes ‏@GhostWhoVotes
    #Newspoll 2 Party Preferred: ALP 46 (0) L/NP 54 (0) #auspol
    Reply Retweet Favorite

  7. Astrobleme Posted Monday, June 11, 2012 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    Oh yeah, and nothing wrong with using 457 visas to get enough workers, about 1/3 of my company is on them as we can’t get enough hydrogeologists from Australia. There is a huge advantage employing Australians for jobs in Australia, so even though I am not a fan of Gina Rheinhardtbleme, her use of

    Well said,, Asrob
    And agree
    Rossmore Posted Monday, June 11, 2012 at 17 pm | Permalink

    Not a good day for Murdoch – Brown saying he lied to Levenson.

    Not a good day for Abbott – completely ignor

  8. may have missed others mentioning it, but well done our own Space Kidette on a very good tweet shown on Q&A

    loved the PM slapping down Tony Jones on who was more secure in their job

  9. [GhostWhoVotes ‏@GhostWhoVotes
    #Newspoll 2 Party Preferred: ALP 46 (0) L/NP 54 (0) #auspol

    1m GhostWhoVotes GhostWhoVotes ‏@GhostWhoVotes
    #Newspoll Primary Votes: ALP 31 (-1) L/NP 44 (-2) GRN 14 (+2) #auspol]

  10. GhostWhoVotes ‏@GhostWhoVotes
    #Newspoll Preferred PM: Gillard 42 (+2) Abbott 38 (+1) #auspol
    Reply Retweet Favorite

  11. GhostWhoVotes @GhostWhoVotes 36s
    #Newspoll Preferred PM: Gillard 42 (+2) Abbott 38 (+1) #auspol
    View details ·
    GhostWhoVotes @GhostWhoVotes 1m
    #Newspoll 2 Party Preferred: ALP 46 (0) L/NP 54 (0) #auspol
    View details ·
    GhostWhoVotes @GhostWhoVotes 2m
    #Newspoll Primary Votes: ALP 31 (-1) L/NP 44 (-2) GRN 14 (+2) #auspol
    View details ·

  12. Brilliant effort by the PM.

    Working families becomes working people. Still a little restrictive, need to include the retired. But a good move.

    Not one mention of Abbott, just as it should be, the man contributes nothing to the debate, ignore the clown in the corner; he isn’t that funny.

    After that effort I will be looking to see her strolling across the lake tomorrow.

  13. Jones’ body language was interesting – at times he was leaning away from the PM, and looked away as she was answering questions.

  14. [Well I think Gillard did reasonably well, but she was still too simplistic with her answers to some questions ]

    Do you think that might be because she is dealing with simple people who demand simple answers to complex problems? Not saying some of the questioners are simple but why should that guy whining about his gay son (and wtf does his going to Vietnam have to do with anything?) get to demand that the PM agree with his particular POV? She said she was willing to have a conscience vote, which is not what Rudd or Abbott would ever agree to. But that wasn’t good enough. Got valuable national air time to vent against the country’s PM for daring not to agree with him. I suppose that is in line with the disgusting self interest that pervades this program. Anyway, he looked like someone who, if he didn’t have a gay son, would in the front line with the Juliar/Ditch the Bitch mob at the first sign of a conscience vote. They all are once they get away from their own narrow interest.

  15. Excellent performance by the Prime Minister tonight:

    (1) did not mention Mr Abbott or the Opposition
    (2) used her sense of humour effectively (if you want to be a prime minister consider the sort of jacket you wear was a very nice put down of the hypocritical Ms Greer)
    (3) politely did not allow Mr Jones to set the agenda
    (4) politely ignored some very snarly comments of Mr Jones, eg, his ‘knitting needle in the back’.
    (5) is preferred to turn up and face the music on Q&A. Mr Abbott is not.
    (6) mostly spoke good sense on the policy side.
    (7) engaged directly, with grace and respect with the questioners.
    (8) was positive
    (9) was inclusive.

    Perfect? No. Excellent nevertheless? Yes.

  16. I was worried ALP would go backwards TPP, and last fortnight was an overshoot, so a bit of consolidation/confirmation is OK by me.

    Waiting until late 2012 to see how we go then…

  17. With the exception of the response on gay marriage where she was always on a hiding to nothing, Gillard did pretty well or better, IMO. On gay marriage, the might have asked why the Libs weren’t doing a conscience vote as a piece of deflection.

    That chap who asked the question though was pretty damned good — he had a kind of Tom Uren thing going. It would have worked well with the middle-aged demographic, and the pitch as a labor traditionalist is one which was going to be hard for Gillard to bat away.

  18. The journos should ask Abbott at every presser why he won’t go on.

    Wouldn’t work. He’ll have a line prepared for that. Something about getting into the community to speak to real people who are hurting, offering community thingos like the one he had prior to the 2010 election, that sort of thing.

    It’s much more fun to just put the insinuation out there. If he wants to deal with it he’ll have to come and meet it half-way.

  19. [Marrickville Mauler
    Posted Monday, June 11, 2012 at 10:53 pm | Permalink


    loved the PM slapping down Tony Jones on who was more secure in their job]

    It was good wasn’t it, shut him up real quick.

  20. 2PP stays the same. But PM Gillard is slowly but surely pulling away from Abbott Preferred PM: Gillard 42 (+2) Abbott 38 (+1) #auspol

  21. Astrobleme 2823

    Thank you for your informed observation.

    A niece drives one of those monsters, near Kunnunara.

    And seeing as she has lived there for a long time, she did not have to relocate.

    And yep, indigenous opportunity..Best of all.

    But not slaves…though slavery or it’s little bro, working for FA, will always be striven for, perhaps with the energy invested in depriving one’s inheritors of their ill gotten mining gains.

    Poor little billionaires.

  22. Squiggle

    There are many companies here in WA that do exactly that. There’s a lot of little training courses people need to do to get involved. Most of the training is online.

    People who really want to work on the mines generally can. Those you see on Today Tonight or whatever must have dones something very wrong if they can’t. I have met people on many minesites and they don’t have that many special skills… They just want to work there.

    What do you do Squiggle? You need things like a ‘White Card’, Senior First Aid etc.

    I was just up on the Solomon Rail line and the water truck drivers up there were earning over $3000 per week…. Just driving a big truck around spraying water on the ground…

  23. nice consolidation in the poll numbers – hopefully building a new floor for the numbers

    Greens in the mid teens and climbing – sensational 🙂

  24. Gus,

    I’m not going the truces anymore. I’ve sworn off them. They don’t work. I’m a renegade. Fight to the death I say.

  25. I was worried ALP would go backwards TPP, and last fortnight was an overshoot, so a bit of consolidation/confirmation is OK by me.

    I’m cool with this on that basis as well. Yup, the Govt had a good couple of weeks but it will take a while to filter through, and really, we are looking at an optimum where they slowly get back to parity by the end of the year so as not to scare :monkey: and the wabble into a screamingly dysfunctional leadership frenzy.

  26. gusface

    I did not expect the polls to improve. The carbon price is still not in effect. People are not going to be positive until they see how the carbon price affects them

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