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”

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  1. F61

    [Nice to see though that the goog old standbys of “tea party” and “troll” are immediately thrown out instead of argument by the Gillard propaganda crew.’

    I don’t know about “tea party” but stale LNP memes about the NBN and MRRT; “another Gillard stuff-up” do make you sound like you are posting metaphorically out of Menzies House.

    If you’re not a copy and paste troll, you do a fab impression.

    NB: Not a fan of the existing MRRT structure but it is supposed to be a profits based tax collecting on windfall price levels for commodities. That sharply declining commodity prices mean it doesn’t collect much/anything is a consequence, surely. It is structured for boom proces. That the Libs let this opportunity pass between 2002-7 is certainly one of their key failures. Some estimates put that revenue loss at $71bn.

  2. “@latikambourke: Independent MP Rob Oakeshott ‘“I am very surprised the Minister has threatened legal action over this matter.’”

    “@latikambourke: Independent MP Rob Oakeshott ‘I do not know whether this action was encouraged or approved by other members of the Cabinet or the Caucus.’”

    “@latikambourke: Rob Oakeshott ‘The only action I have taken in to ask Mr Ferguson in person if the letter is authentic and if he authorised it’”

  3. “@latikambourke: Independent MP Rob Oakeshott ‘He [Resources Minister Martin Ferguson] confirmed both.’ [that he was threatening legal action against RO]”

  4. Fargo’s most excellent reflection on how badly Howard stuffed up the policy in this area makes me wonder why developers don’t have to pay for the estates fibre and connection to the grid. Seems it should be a requirement.

  5. MegaGeorge always worth reading.
    [The baby bonus was paid parental leave by another name, but it earned the ridicule of commentators such as me because it came without a means test.

    This was middle-class welfare made absurd by the political spin that you were being asked to have one child for the father, one for the mother and one for the country.

    The irony is that although the fertility rate increased during this period, the return to work accelerated.]

  6. Aguirre on the old thread 5 minutes ago:

    [Just thought you might all like to know there’s a new thread up]

    Spoilsport! I was enjoying watching posters ‘trolling’ themselves.

  7. Well, it was too early for me to catch that William had opened a new thread, so thank you Aguirre for popping by the old one to let us know. 🙂

    Therefore, you are all now to be bored rigid with a blizzard of my posts from there. Energy conservation and recycling principles applied in real time, of course. That’s all it is. 😉

  8. Fargot61

    The mining tax is a profits based tax. The only clown is Abbott for claiming that it would end the mining industry – something your mob the Greens would dearly love. Well half your luck!

    By the way, the Labor vote is stating to gain momemtum, but how are your Greens going?

    Like I said, Peak Pewny, the Greens R.I.P. 😀

  9. Another ‘Early Election’ meme piece from Simon Benson:

    Apparently, in 2013 Labor have put a greater than normal amount of time between the March and May Budget Sittings into the Parliamentary Calender. Ergo = Early Election! Sigh.

    I just wonder, however, if Mr Benson has considered the practical interpretation of such a move? That is, that with the final pre-selections having just been made for the ALP, the party may want the PM and other federal MPs to spread out around the nation to support the new candidates and settle them in before the Budget? And do their pre-Budget work as well?

    I know it’s a boring interpretation cf ‘Early Election!’, but oftentimes they turn out to be the correct ones.

    However, I might add, I did like Benson’s comparison of Tony Abbott to Peter Debnam. 🙂

  10. Here’s one I prepared earlier 😉

    Good Morning Bludgerinis! 🙂
    All this ‘Early Election’ talk is just piffle and pizzle from the TOM brigade(Tired Old Media-I just have a picture in my mind’s eye of all these grizzled old tom cat journalists 🙂 ).

    Just look at it REALISTICALLY for a moment. Absent the fine-sounding and flowery words that the pros spew out for our edification.

    Consider the seat of Dobell. A seat that the Labor Party need to win off the back of the perturbations that the mess around Craig Thomson has created for them, in an electoral sense.

    For a start, the FEC hasn’t even opened nominations for a candidate to replace Craig yet. As William noted above in his notes:

    Labor will hold a preselection for Dobell in February or March next year.

    Now, ask yourself, absent the self-serving meta narrative from the media, how exactly would Labor be able to run the pre-selection then almost immediately call an election to be held before the ‘Horror Deficit Budget Actually Instead of A Surplus’?

    It doesn’t pass the Sensible Shoes Test.

    The ALP would be laughed out of town if they tried to do that.

    Just think about it calmly. A new candidate needs to establish their credentials with the community/electorate. Gain their trust, then hope like hell that they get enough votes to win.

    Not to mention all the standard election housekeeping jobs, of photos for posters, pamphlets and corflutes, finding and setting up a campaign office, meetings to decide the campaign structure and agenda, and an important little thing called FUNDRAISING! Otherwise the campaign can’t afford all the other stuff.

    So really, unless the Labor Party have advance knowledge of the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ himself occurring in Wyong, so that they can pre-select him to run for Labor in March, then call their Early Election for before the ‘Shock! Horror! $1 Billion Deficit(maybe)’ ‘becomes known’ in the May Budget, which the talentless clowns in the MSM are now getting their fevered brows in a knot over, then, all I can conclude is:

    1. It’s NOT going to happen.

    2. It IS a media beat-up.

    And, as Dobell isn’t the only Federal Seat without a candidate, and there is only one JC to go around to win a seat for the ALP on celebrity value alone, then you would be best advised to laugh the hacks out of the room because Labor still have a lot of work to do before they can SERIOUSLY consider an election.

  11. [Romney: “The climate couldn’t possibly have changed in just 6,000 years…” ]

    And I heard an (intelligent) American on radio last night say that there was no difference between a country ruled by Repubs and one with a Dem President.
    Sheesh 😮

  12. I am certain the action by Minister Ferguson would not have been presented before cabinet and I am certain it would not have the approval of the PM and doubt she would even have had knowledge of it.

    Whether the Minister discussed the action with some in caucus before sending the letter may be another story.

    The Minister has reacted to a statement be Mr O. pretty much accusing the Minister of running dead in negotiations with the miners over the MRRT and perhaps negotiating with their interests in mind.

    Silly statement by MR O but a overreaction by the Minister as well.

    Hopefully sorted out ASAP.

  13. Ferguson seems not to have made any statement so far. He has demanded Oakeshott apologise for saying the MRRT was poorly planned. Oakeshott thinks the MRRT should go back to parliament for reworking to make it more effective. What’s wrong with saying that and what’s wrong with a newspaper reporting that? If Oakeshott doesn’t come good with the apology then I assume legal action for defamation will proceed.

    As an independent MP Oakeshott can say whatever he likes about government policy. Ferguson doesn’t seem to understand that, nor do those who supported this move.

    As we speak Tony Abott’s minders are writing new speeches which will include heavy use of the word’ Stalinist’. This time it will be justified.

  14. I can’t believe Ferguson could be so thin skinned.

    OK ask for an apology, put your case forward, but to take steps initiating legal action?

    I’ll bet Ferguson hasn’t done so!

  15. Boerwar,
    Fran still hasn’t credibly explained why she thinks it’s OK to put all these new asylum seekers in high-rise gulag ghettoes in our inner cities. 🙂

  16. Very good blog post on the gallery’s coverage of Tony Abbott, past & present.
    [One more time (with feeling)
    Posted by Drag0nista on November 2, 2012

    I’ve written before about the Canberra Press Gallery’s changes of heart when it comes to Tony Abbott.]

    Blogger Drag0nista’s pick with links of politics articles from the week just gone. Worth a browse to see what you missed.
    [November 3, 2012
    No Crap App: w/b 29 Oct 2012

    The week that was…

    The week began with three competing political narratives: the revelations in Maxine McKew’s book, the launch of the government’s Asian Century white paper, and the second 50/50 Newspoll within two months.]

  17. I read Coorey’s article. It’s a bit of a long bow for Oakeshotte to say the government is against Rob Oakeshotte, when it’s just Marn chucking a hissy fit. Coorey’s report does seem fairish (for him) on this point.

    I would think a compulsory meeting in the Headmistress’s office and a “Shake hands and make up” directive from the lady in charge would be advisable before this goes too far.

    Rob Oakeshotte is someone that the government does not want to get offside for political reasons, and is a thoroughly decent bloke into the bargain. Marn should pull his head in or have it pulled in for him.

  18. leone @77.

    I think the action by the Minister is stupid, don’t get me wrong.

    Mr O did complain that the MRRT was poorly designed but he also went on to infer that this may have been a deliberate attempt by the Minister to favour the miners ie the Minister was running dead during negotiations.

    I might be pissed off as well if accused of that but still it should have been sorted behind doors and not like this.

  19. Again, the Prime Minister is leaving Tony Abbott and the Coalition flat-footed and in her wake. A ‘Defence Force Families’ Pin. What a great idea! 🙂

  20. catmomma

    Switzer totally misses it on endorsements. He mentions the car industry and ignores the Jeep comments. Totally refuted by Jeep itself and whose workforce is in places like Youngtown Ohio

  21. Is Ferguson high or something? What POSSIBLE benefit could be gained from threatening Oakeshott? It really shows a level of ungratefulness for the sacrifices the poor bloke has made for this government AND gives a story that had very little traction (ie the original negative comments about the MRRT) new legs in the media.

    A thoroughly stupid own goal. Glad it happened on a Saturday and hope it’s over with quickly.

  22. We Want Paul-

    Agree re Howard stuff up re Telstra etc.

    Mostly agree re developer contribution.

    Disagree re current gov’t fixing the situation, it has been a stuff up.

  23. Morning all.

    [I see RW shill, Tom Switzer, is putting his anti-Obama/Pro-Romney spin on the US Election via News 24 atm.]

    Reith tried the same yesterday, but was forced to concede, when asked directly who he predicted would win the election, that Obama would win albeit in a tight contest.

  24. [Again, the Prime Minister is leaving Tony Abbott and the Coalition flat-footed and in her wake. A ‘Defence Force Families’ Pin. What a great idea!]

    Do you know what this involves? I’m interested because my dad is going to the Solomon Islands for 4-5 months next year in the army, and I’d be happy if it involves some assistance for my family while he’s away.

  25. I had a water-cooler moment this week. There were 10 people in our small office having a standing lunch sharing half a dozen pizzas. The spread of political viewpoints is typical. Management and wanna-be management are conservative. The rest are either Labor or silent. Normally politics is not discussed, but the Sales Manager paying for the lunch (because his little division is over their Sales budget) told a Gillard joke. It was one of those generic ones where you just insert the name of an unpopular person.

    One of the women respondedby saying she thought it is possible PM Gillard can win next time. The reaction was “oh how can you say that?” mixed with a condescending “Trust me that is not going to happen” from management. The usual points about chronic debt crippling the future, the failure of the democratic process under minority govt and Juliar were all trotted out. Other people said that the debt was not that bad and the country is actually doing quite well which led the Libs to crank up the volume to prove Labor incompetence and praise Costello’s genius. Opposing views were put by me.

    The detail of what was said is not important. What struck me was the emptiness of the Libs in my office with loud laughter, silly jokes, trivia and a “don’t you worry about that!” condescension that does them no favours. It was the Liberal Party writ small and showed the born to rule mentality that could be the main reason they lose next time.
    Oh and one other thing. None of the Lib voters in my office thinks Tony Abbott is worth a cracker. (I had to ask.) All in all a refreshing lunch.

  26. [I would suggest that Ferguson has got the hump and done this without consultation.]

    The comment he made, outside of parliament and if correctly reported, is a very serious allegation and it is quite understandable that offence has been taken by the minister.

    I say this as someone who is not a big fan of Marn but who has viewed the report which is still available on line…probably not for long. But I am not going to link to it as smh is in trouble for this, as well.

  27. Centre, nice to see you are still here. I suppose if you predict rain everyday you get it right eventually.

    Obviously, contrary to Swan ang Gillard spin, the MRRT is not a profits base tax. That is not its design at all. If it were, tax would have been collected, from the mining companies that are in fact making profits right now. The design is flawed. It is a stuff up. So much for the surplus we had to have.

  28. “@latikambourke: Treasurer Wayne Swan’s Chief of Staff Jim Chalmers has quit (for think-tank). Will be interesting to see who applies and gets the CoS gig.”

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