Seat of the week: Melbourne

After powering to an historic victory in the electorate of Melbourne at the 2010 election, Greens MP Adam Bandt is likely to find the going a lot tougher next time around.

The electorate of Melbourne produced a watershed result at the 2010 election, with Labor suffering defeat at the hands of the Greens in a seat it had held without interruption since 1904. It thus became the first federal lower house seat to be won by the Greens at a general election, and the second overall after a by-election victory in the New South Wales seat of Cunningham in 2002. Currently the electorate extends from the central business district westwards to the Maribyrnong River, northwards to Carlton North and eastwards to Richmond. The redistribution has transferred around 6000 voters in Clifton Hill and Alphington to Batman, and another 6000 at Fitzroy North to Wills.

Contributing to the Greens’ strength are the second youngest age profile of any electorate (the first being the strongly indigenous Northern Territory seat of Lingiari), substantial student populations associated with the University of Melbourne and RMIT University campuses, and the nation’s highest “no religion” response in the 2011 census. Other demographic features include substantial Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean populations. The Greens are strongest in the inner-city bohemia of Carlton, Fitzroy, Collingwood and Richmond, excluding some local-level concentrations of migrant populations which remain strong for Labor. They are weakest in and around the central business district itself and at Ascot Vale in the seat’s outer north-east, which are respectively strong for Liberal and Labor.

Melbourne was held for Labor from 1993 to 2010 by Lindsay Tanner, who in turn succeeded Hawke-Keating government Immigration Minister Gerry Hand. Their highest profile antecedent in the seat was Arthur Calwell, member from 1940 until 1972. A leading light of the Left faction, Tanner became Finance Minister when the Rudd government was elected, and emerged as part of a four-member “kitchen cabinet” which dominated the government’s decision-making. On the day that Kevin Rudd was deposed as Labor leader, Tanner dropped a second bombshell in parliament when he announced he would not contest the election, which he insisted was unrelated to events earlier in the day. He has since emerged as a public critic of the leadership change and the political process more broadly.

Tanner’s exit at the subsequent election brought into play a seat where the Greens had rapidly grown as a threat since the 2001 election, when their vote lifted 9.6% to 15.8% on the back of concern over asylum seeker policy. It rose again to 19.0% at the 2004 election, when the party harvested much of a collapsing Democrats vote. A further breakthrough was achieved in 2007 when their candidate, Adam Bandt, overtook the Liberal candidate to reach the final preference count. On that occasion the primary vote for Labor’s Lindsay Tanner was 49.5%, enough to ensure him a 4.7% margin after preferences. With Tanner’s retirement at the 2010 election, the Labor vote fell 11.4% while the Greens were up 13.4%, which panned out to a comfortable 6.0% win for the Greens after preferences.

Adam Bandt came to parliament with an instant national profile by virtue of his position on the cross-bench of a hung parliament, which events since have only enhanced. However, he has twice received portents from the sphere of state politics that he will face a tougher environment at the next election than the last. The first was in the state election campaign of November 2010, when the Greens’ high hopes for breakthroughs in the electorate’s corresponding state seats were dashed by a Liberal Party decision to put Labor ahead of the Greens on its how-to-vote cards. This decision was seen by some as a catalyst for the Coalition’s election victory, and there seems a high probability it will be repeated federally. The effect at the state election was to cut flows of Liberal preferences to the Greens from around three-quarters to around a third, which would have cut Bandt’s two-party vote by over 9%. The second was the Greens’ failure to win the by-election for the state seat of Melbourne, despite an expectation that they would profit from annoyance at the mid-term departure of the outgoing Labor member Bronwyn Pike.

Labor has again preselected its unsuccessful candidate from 2010, Cath Bowtell, a former ACTU industrial officer, current state party president and member of the Socialist Left. Bowtell won the preselection against what proved to be token opposition from Harvey Stern, the state president of Labor for Refugees.

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.

1,077 comments on “Seat of the week: Melbourne”

  1. Diogenes@1055


    53-47 to the coalition


    That would be smack bang in the average of current polls.

    Yup. Cant really see any validity in the meme of an early election that some people are trying to get to grow legs.

  2. I would be surprised if the next Newspoll didn’t jump back to something similar. Still, at least the days at 43/57 are behind us!:p

  3. We’re goona win, but WORLLIKE HELL!

    From the”Fair and abalanced Fox News web site:

    [Nobody really knows what the impact of hurricane Sandy will be on the election. Until its waves crashed into the New Jersey shore, the election was well in hand for the Romney campaign.

    Many a governor or mayor has recovered from political oblivion by actively running around his state seeming to coordinate storm relief. And just as many have fallen apart because of a failure to clean up promptly.

    It may be that Obama’s visit to New Jersey and the high profile (figurative) kisses bestowed on him by nominal Republican Mayor Bloomberg of New York and real Republican Chris Christie of New Jersey might have helped him.

    Perhaps he is erasing the image of a nit-picking, petulant president deep into negative charges against his opponent and replacing it with the image of an executive handling a tough situation for our country.

    This race is not over yet! And with a media determined to re-elect Obama, we may see the president’s recovery continue unless we step up our own efforts to thwart it.

    We are still likely to win. The undecided vote always goes against the incumbent and all the polling suggests we will be more successful than they will be at turning out our vote. But, early warning signs must be headed.

    Bottom line: WORK LIKE HELL!!!

    Dick Morris is a Fox News contributor and author. His latest book is “Here Come the Black Helicopters: UN Global Governance and the Loss of Freedom.” Visit his website: http://www.dickmorris.com and follow him on Twitter@DickMorrisTweet. Click here to sign up to get all of Dick’s videos emailed to you.]

  4. Still about the same. Steady as she goes.

    I couldn’t care less what people believe about the leadership spill. I couldn’t care less what happened in the leadership spill.

    It is so yesterday.

  5. Groundhog Day in the Galaxy poll: Labor election-losing position, Ruddstoration, She Lied, Turnbull the toff trumps Abbott… the old memes die hard.

    Now can we get back to serious stuff?

  6. [I would be surprised if the next Newspoll didn’t jump back to something similar.]

    If it does, then it would mean that nearly a million people are changing their minds every couple of weeks and are prepared to virtually swear to it.

    So much for polls being a reliable indicator of who’s going to twin the election.

  7. [If it does, then it would mean that nearly a million people are changing their minds every couple of weeks and are prepared to virtually swear to it.]

    If Newspoll came in as 53/47 that really wouldn’t surprise me given the trend is around 51.5/48.5. Its just statistical noise, not lots of people changing their minds.

  8. I just watched ‘Dangerous Remedy’ and it was amazingly well-acted and well-scripted. If it doesn’t win awards left, right and centre, then there is no justice. Except if next week’s effort, ‘Deadly Dust’, about Asbestos, is as good or better. 🙂

    I don’t know who is the Head of Drama at the ABC now, but they sure are doing a heck of a job in getting high quality work to screen.

    As for the poll, well all I’ll say about that is that if Kevin Rudd keeps up with his supportive words for JGPM, as he did today in an interview on Sky, from Beijing, then the negative energy will dissipate more rapidly, and there will naturally be less pining for the Rudd fjords. 🙂

    Also, good to see the Labor Party keeping in touch, at 53-47. I really did not think there was a major surge underway, after the 50-50 Newspoll. Motto: ‘Keep on, keeping on.’

    OK, goodnight all. 🙂

  9. f, the Magic Dragon.
    Posted Sunday, November 4, 2012 at 11:09 pm | PERMALINK
    I did not notice that, ALP +3, Libs -3.

    PUFF yes i think thats important
    are galaxy just catching up,

  10. Fargo61,

    If you came to me and said “hey, look at that high-rise building over there. 6 months into construction and all they’ve got is the basement carpark” Most people would look at you and think you’re a right turkey. I do too.

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