Seat of the week: Corangamite

Corangamite has covered a shifting area around Colac 150 kilometres west of Melbourne since its creation at federation, its complexion changing somewhat with the absorption of the Geelong suburbs of South Barwon and Belmont in 1955. It was one of Labor’s two gains in Victoria when Kevin Rudd came to power in 2007, giving Labor its first win in the seat since the Great Depression. In its current form the electorate includes the Geelong suburbs south-west of the Barwon River and the Great Ocean Road as far as Apollo Bay, together with rural areas to the west and north. The Geelong suburbs, which include Liberal-leaning Highton and marginal Belmont and Grovedale, contain a little over a third of the electorate’s voters, and are distinguished (along with Torquay) by a younger demographic profile and a preponderance of mortgage payers. Growth in Geelong, Torquay and the Bellarine Peninsula left the seat over quota at the redistribution to take effect at the next election, resulting in the transfer of most of the Bellarine Peninsula (accounting for about 5700 voters) to Corio. This has had a negligible impact on the Labor margin, which on Antony Green’s calculation goes from 0.4% to 0.3%.

Labor’s only wins in Corangamite prior to 2007 were in 1910, when future Prime Minister Jim Scullin became member for a term (he would return as member for the inner Melbourne seat of Yarra in 1922), and at the 1929 election when Scullin’s short-lived government came to power. The Country Party held the seat for one term from 1931, after which it was held by the United Australia Party and then the Liberal Party. The enlargement of parliament in 1984 cost the electorate its most conservative rural territory in the west, but it took another 23 years before Labor was able to realise its hopes of gaining the seat. It was assisted to this end by the “sea change” phenomenon, the ABC TV series of that name having been set in the electorate at Barwon Heads. This has drained about 10% from the Liberal primary vote in the Great Ocean Road towns since the early 1990s, with the Greens vote there burgeoning to 17% at the 2010 election.

Corangamite was held from 1984 to 2007 by Stewart McArthur, who to the dismay of some in the Liberal Party sought another term in 2007 at the age of 70. His Labor challenger was 31-year-old Darren Cheeseman, an official with the Left faction Community and Public Sector Union who won a hotly contested preselection over Peter McMullin, the Right-backed mayor of Geelong and candidate from 2004. Cheeseman went on to overwhelm McArthur’s 5.3% margin with a 6.2% swing that was evenly distributed throughout the electorate. Faced at the 2010 election by a fresh Liberal candidate in Sarah Henderson, a former state host of The 7.30 Report and daughter of former state MP Ann Henderson, Cheeseman was brought within 771 votes of defeat by a 0.4% swing that went slightly against the trend of a 1.0% statewide swing to Labor. Cheeseman went on to receive substantial publicity in February 2012 when he declared Labor would be “decimated” if Julia Gillard led it to the election, which set the ball rolling on Kevin Rudd’s unsuccessful leadership challenge a week later.

Sarah Henderson will again represent the Liberals at the next election after winning a fiercely contested struggle for Liberal preselection against Rod Nockles, an internet security expert and former Peter Costello staffer who also sought preselection in 2010. Henderson’s backers reportedly included Tony Abbott and Michael Kroger, with Nockles having support from Peter Costello, Andrew Robb, Senators Arthur Sinodinos and Scott Ryan and Higgins MP Kelly O’Dwyer. In the event, Henderson won a surprisingly easy victory with an absolute majority on the first round.

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.

2,255 comments on “Seat of the week: Corangamite”

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  1. Imagine the situation if Julia Gillard had spoken as follows in February 2011 when introducing the concept of carbon pricing:

    [People will recall that the Labor Party has been a strong supporter of the idea of explicitly pricing carbon pollution since 2007. Anthropogenic Global Warming, often described simply as “climate change” has been described as the greatest market failure in human history, bigger by far even than the GFC, which shook the world’s financial markets and put the jobs of people in every country of the world under pressure. Those who followed this story will note that the big problem here was that the financial market failed to put a price on risk, and as a result, hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of people, suffered. In Australia, the Labor Party government led by Kevin Rudd acted decisively to shield Australia from the worst effects of this market failure, using sensible spending policies to support employment. Employment was protected. The banks remained strong. People’s homes were secured. Inflation stayed low and interest rates fell. The government today stands ready to do what is necessary to protect Australia from the economic turbulence overseas and to work with our partners for a stable world economic system that prices risk properly.

    The threat of climate change is much the same. The best science tells us that if the world does not move swiftly to a low carbon economy then the biosphere on which every human depends will be harmed, not for a short time, as we may hope with the world economy, but for centuries. In the first instance, the bulk of that harm will fall upon the poorest and most disadvantaged of the world and we in Australia may well be the worst affected of the advanced economies. No Australian government led by me will turn its back on those in other countries seeking to deal with this problem. We decided long ago that Australia should play its part in cutting carbon pollution.

    Like the Howard government in 2007, we rejected the idea of a carbon tax as the best way to price this pollution risk and like the Liberals of that time, we favoured pricing carbon pollution by using a cap and trade system sometimes called an “ETS” or “emissions trading system”. Sadly, the Liberals turned their back on their own policy in 2009 when they voted down the CPRS introduced by Kevin Rudd. They abandoned that their belief in the ability of the market to price risk and instead began to say that paying off polluters with public money — your money — would be entirely sufficient to combat climate change. They produced no modelling to support this and one must assume they would never do this. Effectively, the Opposition has turned its back both on the rest of the world and all of future humanity. This is something my government will never do.

    People will recall that in August 2010, shortly before the election, I promised to introduce a carbon price, possibly in the next term of government. I said at the time:

    I don’t rule out the possibility of legislating a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, a market-based mechanism. I rule out a carbon tax.

    In short, I was at the time merely restating my government’s commitment to finish the work that the Rudd Government had started and the Howard government had proposed but which was blocked by the Opposition in 2009. The Opposition pretends that this is a “Great Big New Tax” but as late as October of 2009, in one of his many changes of position on this vital issue, Mr Abbott himself proposed that instead of an emissions trading scheme, which he alone saw as “a speculator’s picnic” there should be “a simple carbon tax”.

    Let me say that unlike the Opposition, I mean to deliver on my promise. When I make a promise, I make it my business to honour it. The only alternative to explicitly pricing carbon pollution is for people now and in the future to accept the risks of doing nothing and allow the costs of this pollution to harm humanity now and forever more. That is something no government I lead will ever do.

    Accordingly I have agreed to join with those who agree that we must adopt this policy to investigate how best to implement this policy in a way that honours our commitment to the welfare of humanity and doesn’t create a burden of climate debt for future generation that is efficient and fair. If the opposition comes to its senses and decides to accept its responsibility to the interests of Australians and the world it can join us but however that may be, we will deliver on our promise. No, there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead, but we will be playing our part in correcting this market failure and protecting the environment on which every human depends.]

  2. There’s not a vote in the Governments tax cuts and compensation.
    The old first rule of politics: the punters will never thank you for what you’ve given them – they just want to know what you are going to do next. In pure political terms the promise of a tax cut is far more potent than the cut delivered.
    Only one thing will save Gillard – events.
    It happened to Thatcher ( invasion), Bush (9/11) and Howard (9/11 and Tampa). Ordinary-day-to-day politics is forgotten.

  3. Has Mod Lib apologised for spreading the lie that no one drowned after the Pacific Non-Solution was implemented?

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