Seat of the week: Deakin

Update (3/9/12): Essential Research. The weekly Essential Research report has fallen into line with other pollsters in giving Labor its best result since March – up two on the primary vote to 34% and one on two-party preferred to 55-45. The Coalition is down a point to 48%, a result it last recorded in April. The poll has 52% thinking female politicians receive more criticism than men against only 4% less and 40% the same, and very similar results (51%, 6% and 38%) when the subject is narrowed to Julia Gillard specifically. A question on which groups would be better off under Labor or Liberal governments find traditional attitudes to the parties are as strong as ever, with wide gaps according to whether the group could be perceived as disadvantaged (pensioners, unemployed, disabled) or advantaged (high incomes, large corporations, families of private school children). Respondents continue to think it likely that a Coalition government would bring back laws similar to WorkChoices (51% likely against 25% unlikely).

Deakin is centred on the eastern Melbourne suburbs of Blackburn and Nunawading, extending eastwards along the Maroondah Highway to Ringwood and Croydon. At the time of its creation in 1937, it extended far beyond the city limits to Seymour and Mansfield, before gaining its wholly urban orientation in 1969 and assuming roughly its current dimensions when it lost Box Hill in 1977. A trend of increasing Liberal support as the electorate extends eastwards is better explained by diminishing ethnic diversity than by income: in its totality, the electorate is demographically unexceptional on all measures. The redistribution has cut the Labor margin from 2.4% to 0.6% by transferring 18,000 voters in the electorate’s south-western corner, at Blackburn South, Burwood East and Forest Hill, to Chisholm; adding 8000 voters immediately to the east of the aforementioned area, around Vermont South, from Aston; and adding another 10,000 voters around Croydon in the north-east, mostly from Casey but partly from Menzies.

For a seat that has been marginal for most of its history, Deakin has brought Labor remarkably little joy: prior to 2007 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% to 2.5% (although the 1990 redistribution muffled the impact of a 4.3% Liberal swing). Julian Beale held the seat from 1984 until the 1990 election, when he successfully challenged controversial Bruce MP Ken Aldred for preselection after redistribution turned the 1.5% margin into a notional 1.9% margin for Labor. Aldred accepted the consolation prize of Deakin and was able to retain the seat on the back of a sweeping statewide swing to the Liberals. He was in turn unseated for preselection in 1996 by Phillip Barresi, who held the seat throughout the Howard years.

Barresi emerged from the 2004 election with a margin of 5.0%, the biggest the Liberals had known in the seat since 1977. The substantial swing required of Labor at the 2007 election was duly achieved with 1.4% to spare by Mike Symon, whose background as an official with the Left faction Electrical Trades Union had made him a target of Coalition barbs amid controversies surrounding union colleagues Dean Mighell and Kevin Harkins. Symon’s preselection had been achieved through a three-vote win over local general practitioner Peter Lynch, the candidate from 2004, who reportedly won the 50% local vote component before being rebuffed by the state party’s tightly factionalised Public Office Selection Committee. Andrew Crook of Crikey reported that Symon had backing from the Bill Shorten-Stephen Conroy Right as a quid pro quo for Left support for Peter McMullin’s unsuccessful bid for preselection in Corangamite. Symon was re-elected in 2010 with a 1.0% swing in the face of an attempt by Phillip Barresi to recover his old seat, which was perfectly in line with the statewide result. He was rated by one source as undecided as Kevin Rudd’s challenge to Julia Gillard’s leadership unfolded in February 2012, but soon fell in behind Gillard.

The Liberal candidate at the next election will be Michael Sukkar, a 30-year-old tax specialist with Ashurt, the law firm previously known as Blake Dawson. Sukkar emerged a surprise preselection winner over John Pesutto, a lawyer and Victorian government adviser said to be closely associated with Ted Baillieu. VexNews reported that also-ran candidates Phillip Fusco, Terry Barnes and Andrew Munroe were eliminated in that order, at which point Pesutto was in first place, state government staffer Michelle Frazer was second, and Sukkar and former Melbourne candidate Simon Olsen were tied for third. After winning a run-off against Olsen, Sukkar crucially managed to sneak ahead of Frazer, who unlike Sukkar would not have prevailed against Pesutto in the final round due to a view among Sukkar’s backers that she “wasn’t up to it”.

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.

1,969 comments on “Seat of the week: Deakin”

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  1. In the US fact checking was started by blogger media groups.

    Similar to how Finns records the BISONS. This has grown to the point where CNN, Washinton Post et al do it as well. Fact checking is citizen initiated media behaviour.

  2. [ Boerwar
    Posted Saturday, September 1, 2012 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    In terms of currency valuation, neither China nor the US can have it both ways. As the GFC demonstrated, no nation in the world can every have its cake and eat it too. ]

    China is manipulating its currency as has the US – because they can. China has pursued mercantilist policies whilst the US are past and current masters of currency manipulators.

    But currency debasement doesn’t make a country rich, eg Zimbabwe.

  3. My letter to Shaun Carney:

    [To: Shaun Carney
    Subject: Congratulations Shaun!


    Congratulations on taking the package.

    But I wonder whether you’ve ever stopped to consider that writing off the political hopes and allegiances of half your readership might have had something to do with the situation Fairfax now finds itself in?

    If you continually tell your potential readers that they’re hopes are nil and their preferred candidate is hopeless, then why would they read your stuff? Except for wonks like me, of course, but I haven’t bought a newspaper for years and years.

    You (and others at Fairfax) have been relentlessly anti-Gillard, virtually from the start. In today’s column you finally admit your disdain for her, covering it up by saying you once thought she was OK. You do this a lot: write something positive and then, seemingly more in sorrow than in anger, coming reluctantly to the opposite conclusion by the end of the column. But it’s always the same conclusion. Did you think your readers didn’t notice?

    You omit to mention that there has been a hung parliament with a viciously aggressive and relentlessly negative Opposition, gumming up the works with sabotage tactics, from pointless points of order and useless stringing out of votes they know they are going to lose, to outright lying about the effects of major policy platforms.

    You dismiss this as regrettable, even a bad portent for the future, but nothing much more than that. Then you write off the 350-plus pieces of legislation passed in this toxic environment as “Not enough”. Perhaps you should try being an MP, or even a PM (female, of course!) in a minority government yourself sometime?

    You mention the petrol and grocery watch programs. The petrol scheme was blocked in the Senate. It wasn’t given up. It was blocked. Same for Grocery Watch. Regulations for forcing the supermarket chains to reveal their data would have be disallowed, absent the co-operation of the chains themselves.

    I’ve worked for and with Woolworths as a project manager in construction several times over the years. I know the culture. They were going to have to be forced to reveal their pricing, and the Opposition was never going to help the government do that. The passive voice of “failure” that you use to outline this situation doesn’t seem to accurately describe it.

    It amuses me to see the free-to-air television stations now running their own private Fuel Watch segments, at the end of their bulletins and on their web sites, initiatives similar the program these very same organizations gleefully reported “would never work”. It didn’t work because the Opposition never let the government try.

    While Abbott goes around the country chanting slogans, virtually a one-man band (unless you count Scott Morrison’s bleating about The Boats, and Hockey’s preposterous “Everything will be better under a Coalition government” campaign), Gillard and her ministers don’t have that luxury.

    They have to run a country, while Abbott has set himself the task of ruining it, talking it down, telling us we’re badly off and badly governed (he says the opposite to overseas audiences).

    We in Australia are not, of course, a basket case. We are virtually the No. 1 economy in the OECD, with low unemployment, low interest rates and ultra low inflation. So much for “cost of living”. Most of the gloom and doom is cant, and I think you know that. Taxes as a proportion of GDP too are lower than they ever were under Howard, and I think you know that too, or should.

    Yet, if you ever report these facts, you do so usually in the context of how the Gillard government has failed to “sell” its message, despite what should be “good news”.

    The dubious thesis that success in spin is somehow a prerequisite for political achievement aside (would a leaf falling in a forest still fall without a PR campaign?), what is the appropriate conduit for the sales pitch? The media? Writers like yourself who have made up their minds, and therefore assume that the rest of their readership has too?

    You often write about “The Media” as if you’re not a part of it. But you are, and you haven’t helped. More accurately, you’ve hindered while pretending to be objective.

    Unless a government has the media at least prepared to give them a chance, it’s very difficult to get the message out, except by direct advertising, which “the Media” will pounce on too. You have said many times in the past couple of years that the public is “not listening” to the Gillard government, implying that this absolves you from your responsibility to write about it in a balanced way.

    In answer to your inevitable counter that you are an opinion writer, not a reporter, I suggest that today’s column should have been written two years ago, setting out your inclinations and leanings. Not as a swan song upon retirement. At least then we would have known where you were coming from for certain. It would have saved so much time!

    You seem, from my reading of today’s article, to have made up your mind a long time ago about Gillard. I could have guessed, too.

    Why would you report her, or her government’s message in a positive, or even balanced way? I can’t think of a reason. Literally thousands of others can’t either. As I suggested at the start, perhaps this is why so many have left the ranks of your organization’s readership. They don’t want read you, and others, telling them they’re mugs.

    Sure, Gillard has disappointed at times with her overly cautious style, but I suggest that a lot of this is down to a media out to find “gotchas” in every word she utters. It is a vicious circle that the media claims they are not part of, but they are.

    Your own specialty is “The Nuance”. You seem to be able to find a chink of light at first, but then discover some negative flaw in almost everything the government does and, while lamenting the antics and sideshow stunts of the Opposition, you give them virtually a free pass. Very “patrician” of you: to accept as a necessity, but simultaneously disdain the need for bread and circuses.

    Even today, your column ended with a regretful sounding prediction that Abbott would find himself in trouble because he has no policies except The Stunt. But this was underlined by the near inevitability of his accession to power: something I think you heartily endorse, in your heart of hearts, with a quibble around the tactics used to get there.

    My prediction is that the chance of the government being re-elected is more than just – as you put it – an “intellectual” one. I’ve been right before, too, as you will remember. If the recent Olympics taught us anything at all, they taught us that the leader at the half-way mark doesn’t always win the gold medal. A touch of the hand on the finish block a hundreth of a second before the other guy is as good as leading the race from the start. In life and politics, there are no certainties. That’s why elections decide government, not polls.

    Anyway, regard this as a final critique of a body of work from one of your remaining, relatively faithful readers.

    Good luck out there in the big wide world.

    What with the way it’s being talked down so comprehensively by the side of politics you have today (if belatedly and unsurprisingly) declared you favour, you’re going to need it!

    Very best,

    …. ]

  4. outside left

    [SK, love it! Boerwar, can I come with you?]

    Yeah but we have an awful lot of work to do: unemployment is sky high, interest rates are through the roof, the growth rate is tawdry… All that wymyn wreckage and so little time to fix it.

  5. @MarkBillingham: Everyone who cares about honesty and integrity among writers needs to follow @jeremyduns now. Look at timeline and be amazed and horrified.

  6. So The Age is letting Carney go? The msm is badly in need of fresh perspective, but I can’t see Carney being replaced with a genuinely good writer.

  7. Tweet from PVO

    [Tomorrow on #AustralianAgenda the foreign minister Bob Carr joins Paul Kelly, Greg Sheridan & myself. On Sky News LIVE @8:30am.

  8. This was a comment I found on Huffington post in response to Clint Eastwood’s appearance at the RNC

    [Betty White should appear at the DNC and have a conversation with a box of Grecian Formula]

    I thought it was a brilliant idea!!!

  9. Christopher Pearson says Gillard is gearing up for an early election to cut Rudd off at the pass.

    I very much doubt it as she has a deal with the indies to go full term, and the polls aren’t nearly good enough yet.

  10. victoria:

    I haven’t been able to stomach the usual hyper cheesiness of the conventions the US election this time around. This year it seems even worse than in the past for some reason.

  11. Diogs,

    Gillard would only go early if she thought she could win.

    The Budget next year will be critical to Labor’s re election plans.

  12. victoria:

    When I heard he was going to address the convention my immediate thought was that he’d deliver some kind of NRA rah-rah speech. 😆

  13. hi vic
    i have been visiting family in the land of the free…. aunt’s 90th – cousins and relatives wall to wall – a huge celebration….
    and… i can tell you they are amazed at what is happening here – one of the biggest talking points was plain packaging…. how did we do it they wanted to know.. naturally i filled them in on everything.
    good to be back and especially good to see that the worm has turned – only way is up from here!

  14. LL

    Sounds like you had a great time. My daughter is heading off to the land of the free in January.

    On Monday Australian Story was about Nicola Roxon and her challenge to get to this point. NY Mayor, Bloomberg was interviewed about it. If you have not seen it yet, it is on ABCiview.

  15. [BB

    Beautiful last serve by you to Carney.]

    Thanks for that, Victoria (and all).

    [Bushfire ‏@BushfireBill

    Fairfax got rid of the egg and kept the shell, plus some old coke bottles. #bbill ]

  16. This is something that I would have posted in PP but that’s no longer with us. Today’s Daily Telegraph’s home page has a headline “Labor sells off the farm to China”. This linked to a story about the approval by the Treasurer of the sale of Cubby station to a Chinese-lead consortium. The story itself, and the headline on the actual story page, are quite balanced. The fact is, the headline on the home page linking to the story is inaccurate and I suspect wilfully so. If the aim of the Telegraph is to inform its readers, the headline on the home page certainly detracted from it, as indicated in the comments on the story – many Telegraph readers apparently think that the Government owned Cubby station or that we shouldn’t allow Chinese interests to invest in Australia. If, on the other hand, the Telegraph was pushing an agenda…
    Naturally, the Telegraph has not published my comment pointing this out.

  17. Diogenes @ 76 re Gillard early election speculation
    Christopher Pearson’s reason for this nonsense was that an early election is “the only weapon Gillard has left to defeat Rudd.” Pearson saw this on a British satirical TV show as a plotline and he likes it. Seriously, Pearson says that is where he got the idea.
    The best sentence in his fantasy is this one.
    “Recent decisions show key ministers …….. setting an example to caucus members by beginning to look like a government that can get things done.” This is his evidence for an early election. Oh and the fact that Rudd is “mesmerisingly silent”.

    This garbage actually defies analysis and criticism it is so stupid. Although I see now it allows Abbott to “respond” and kick it along.

  18. vic

    He wasn’t specific about time. I gathered Rudd would have another go in the killing season of the end of year break, so before then.

    Laura Tingle has said something similar

    [Some in the government wonder why there was such a rush to announce the carbon price change and dental programs this week…

    This did not stop some pondering aloud whether the Prime Minister was being urged onto a war footing for an early 2012 election.

    Labor’s fortunes seem to make that a crazy option. But the clouds are gathering: a cooling Chinese economy and increasingly difficult budgetary problems for whoever wins the next election.]

    I thought the dental program was especially weird. It was something I would have expected as an election promise. Now the main question being asked of it is where the money will come from. In an election campaign, that could have been brushed over more easily.

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