Bruce covers suburbs in eastern Melbourne from Glen Waverley and Wheelers Hill south to Springvale (home to substantial Vietnamese and Chinese communities) and Dandenong. The Monash Freeway bisects the electorate from north-west to south-east, serving as a rough divider between a strongly Labor-voting south and a broadly marginal north with pockets of strong Liberal support around Wheelers Hill. The redistribution has added around 7500 voters from those parts of Glen Waverley who were previously in Chisholm, which has garnished Labor’s margin from 8.1% to 7.7%.
Bruce was created in 1955 but has been substantially altered over time by redistribution, its original boundaries extending far beyond the city limits to Cranbourne in the east and Berwick in the south. Suburban expansion soon caused it to be drawn into its long-term base of Glen Waverley, and it assumed roughly its current dimensions when it acquired Labor-voting Noble Park and Dandenong North in 1996. This proved a watershed moment electorally, as the Liberals had previously held the seat without interruption and Labor has done so since.
The inaugural member for the seat was Billy Snedden, who went on to lead the Coalition in opposition from the wake of the 1972 election defeat until he was deposed by Malcolm Fraser in March 1975, and then to serve as Speaker throughout the period of the Fraser government. Snedden retired following the 1983 election defeat and was succeeded at the ensuing by-election by Kenneth Aldred, who had held the since-abolished eastern suburbs seat of Henty for the Liberals from 1975 until his defeat in 1980. In 1990 Aldred was defeated for Liberal preselection by Julian Beale, whose seat of Deakin had been made notionally Labor by a redistribution. Aldred then ran for Deakin himself, and managed to retain the seat on the back of a statewide backlash against Labor.
The 1996 redistribution gave Bruce a notional Labor margin of 1.6%, which Beale had to overcome if he was to retain his seat. In the event he could manage only 0.8%, a rare disappointment for the Liberals in the context of that election. The winning Labor candidate was Alan Griffin, who had previously held the abolished seat of Corinella. Bruce has since swung substantially according to the prevailing political winds, but has nonetheless remained fairly secure for Labor, the narrowest margin after 1996 being 3.5% in 2004.
A noted figure of influence in the Socialist Left faction, Griffin served as Veterans Affairs Minister in the first term of the Rudd-Gillard government before standing aside after the 2010 election. Griffin cited personal reasons for this decision, but he would soon emerge as a numbers man for Kevin Rudd’s leadership aspirations. Griffin announced he would not seek re-election in August 2011, before changing his mind in July 2012. He had earlier been fortunate to survive a preselection challenge for the 2007 election by Matt Carrick of the Right, who was reportedly thwarted by a single Transport Workers Union delegate who split from his faction’s line out of animus towards Carrick’s backers in the National Union of Workers.
The Liberals have endorsed Emanuele Cicchiello, Knox councillor and deputy principal of Lighthouse Christian College.