Seat of the week: Bendigo

The federal electorate of Bendigo has been trending to Labor since Steve Gibbons gained it for them in 1998, but it is reportedly back on the Liberals’ radar with his impending retirement.

Created at federation, the electorate of Bendigo currently extends from the city itself south to Castlemaine and the Macedon Ranges around Woodend, also taking in smaller rural centres to the west and north. The redistribution to take effect at the next election has added the Macedon Ranges area from McEwen in the electorate’s south-east, and transferred Maryborough and its surrounds to Wannon in the west. The changes respectively affect about 7000 and 10,000 voters but have only a negligible impact on the Labor margin, which goes from 9.5% to 9.4%.

Bendigo was first won by Labor in 1913, having earlier been in Protectionist and Liberal hands. Billy Hughes contested the seat as the Nationalist Prime Minister in the wake of the Labor split of 1917, having recognised he would be unable to retain his existing safe Labor seat of West Sydney, and succeeded in unseating Labor incumbent Alfred Hampson with a 12.5% swing. Hughes would remain member for five years before moving to North Sydney. Bendigo was in conservative hands thereafter until 1949, except when Richard Keane held it for a term after Labor came to office in 1929. George Rankin gained the seat for the Country Party when United Australia Party incumbent Eric Harrison retired in 1937.

Bendigo emerged with the curious of distinction of being gained by Labor when it lost office in 1949, and next lost by them when they finally returned to power in 1972. The win in 1949 resulted from the redistribution giving effect to the enlargement of parliament, which accommodated the state’s northern rural reaches in the new seat of Murray and transferred Castlemaine and Maryborough to Bendigo. John Bourchier won the seat for the Liberals against the trend of a substantial pro-Labor swing in Victoria in 1972, which was variously put down to the entry of a popular Country Party candidate and attacks on Labor member David Kennedy over state aid and his liberal position on abortion. Bourchier would in turn hold the seat until the Fraser government’s defeat in 1983.

Bendigo was then held for Labor by future Victorian Premier John Brumby, who served for three terms before joining Victorian Labor’s extensive casualty list at the 1990 election. Bruce Reid served for three terms as Liberal member until his retirement in 1998, when Labor’s Steve Gibbons, a former Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union official and electorate officer to Brumby, gained the seat with a swing of 4.4%. Gibbons came within 1.0% of defeat at the 2004 election before enjoying consecutive swings of 5.2% and 3.4% in 2007 and 2010. After announcing in September 2011 he would not seek another term, Gibbons became less disciplined in his public pronouncements, proclaiming on Twitter that Kevin Rudd was a “psychopath”, Tony Abbott a “douchebag”, Julie Bishop a “narcissistic bimbo”, and Australia Day an “Invasion Day” celebrated by “throwing bits of dead animals on a cooking fire just like the people we dispossessed”.

Labor’s new candidate is Lisa Chesters, a Kyneton-based official with the same Socialist Left union that once employed Gibbons, which has lately been rebadged as United Voice. Earlier speculation that the seat might be used to accommodate electorally endangered Senator David Feeney or even a return to federal politics for John Brumby was quickly scotched. Greg Westbrook, director of legal firm Petersen Westbrook Cameron, was an early nominee, but in the event Chesters was preselected without opposition. The Liberal candidate is Greg Bickley, owner of a local transport business. Other reported nominees for Liberal preselection were Jack Lyons, owner of construction business Lyons Constructions, and Peter Wiseman, a teacher and owner of a website design business.

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.

1,296 comments on “Seat of the week: Bendigo”

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  1. That poll cannot be right because Bob Ellis, darling of Independent Australia, said Nielsen would be good for ALP and Fairfax were suppressing it.

  2. 7 months left etc etc etc…

    But this is dismal. Gillard will not get any clear air regardless of what she says. We know how the MSM operates.

    Pretty dire.

  3. Just saw another Liberal ad on TV declaring R4R is here to stay. This on top of the Lib candidate flyer saying the Liberals are fully committed to R4R.

    They must be really worried about the campaign the Nats are waging in the regions.

  4. [Rudd is all over the joint, no focus on policy and this is what we get.]

    Expect it to continue. The only way Rudd becomes invisible is when Labor polling improves.

  5. Amazed at PPM figures but not 2PP. A lot has been going on.

    Bob Ellis is a pathetic drunk and should not be taken seriously on any matter.

  6. 1268
    [Whatever Gillard has on Abbott now she needs to deploy.]

    Timing might not be under her control, might depend on external factors, like court cases, etc.

  7. [Adonis the Geek ‏@geeksrulz
    The PM and the many LOTOS she is facing and fighting. 🙂 GOLD from @Thefinnigans #auspol ]

    Says it all

  8. The ALP have had a bad couple of weeks, and as I said before I think the sport doping scandal is a big factor.

    No surprise at the bad result for the ALP. It doesn’t change anything in the short term.

  9. What does this mean?

    [Peter Brent ‏@mumbletwits
    Yes, with sample size caveats. Big NSW component? (Nielsen) RT @littleaud1 The state splits will be interesting just to c the trend ]

  10. BK@1258

    Abbott +9 on PPM.

    What can one say?

    That we knew this was likely – BB (among others) predicted it. And that it is 6 months or so till the real campaign starts.

    Do you seriously believe Abbott – a man of zero substance – can sustain a 7 month election campaign?

    I don’t – and I think Gillard’s plan all along has been to make this plain to the electorate. Abbott has to spend the next 7 months in electioneering mode, with nothing in the way of policies. All Labor has to do for the next 6 months or so is govern effectively while Abbott is busting a gut trying to make his flimsy brainfarts look like policy.

    Then, when it is plain as a pikestaff that the LNP are so full of hot air that they will have to start buying carbon offsets just to keep their campaign going, Labor can begin the real election campaign.

    Lots of water to go under the bridge tonight. And (with luck) perhaps a few bodies as well – like those who continue to white-ant the ALP.

  11. Sorry to hear about the 56/44 Neilsen but not surprised. The last week has been all focused on Labor, and in a bad way. Meanwhile Abbott had almost no scrutiny at all, again.

    I remain very concerned. The budget is in May, discussion of it will occupy June, and July/August will be largely the campaign proper. That leaves only about 8 weeks to influence voters about Abbott’s nature before events overtake Labor. Abbott was not a bad campaigner in 2013, and will have 50% of the press supporting him as well. The campaign period will be too late.

    Unless we want an economically illiterate, misogynistic, fundamentalist, speedo-wearing megalomaniac as PM, Labor must clean out the NSW right faction and focus on Abbott and nothing else immediately. A change to Rudd will not solve this; IMO the NSW legacy would swamp him too. Plus the look of panic from another change wold be disastrous.

    Today’s manufacturing announcement was well meaning, but again insufficient. They are a small share of total workers. Focus on Abbott’s misogyny ( while telling the Labor catholic right to button their lips for six months) and you stand to pick up a much larger share of 51% of all voters.

  12. When Labor kills the Coaltion on economy, education, health and the NBN the LNP agenda folds.

    There is only so long LNP will get away from running from policy. We also do not know how soft the result is. That being what is said before a campaign and when a campaign starts.

    We know most do not pay attention to politics until then. We also know people are likely to say they are for the opposition to scare the government to get more results.

    The narrowing is not a figment and will happen come the campaign. As even Abbott concedes when he states complacency is the enemy.

  13. BK 1267

    ‘Whatever Gillard has on Abbott now she needs to deploy’.

    I am dismayed, but not surprised.

    Cannot imagine what Julia has on Abbott.

    Windsor has the goods.

  14. Re Polls
    Why is anybody suprised ??

    A whole catalogue of disasters…Obeid/NSW Right/Gillard’s unpopularity(yes she really is not much loved apart from some here like GG who thinks she is The Virgin Mary and can work miracles!!)
    For two years we have heard the manta that it will come good before the elections…but no sign of that

    The rise in Abbott’s support seems to show the extent of the electoraL swing to the Libs _…they are going to vote for him so they might as well like him…feel good politicss !

    A disaster too in terms of caucus members in a whole range of marginals…not just NSW either
    So what now…Rudd,,could he win ..well we now nowq that Gillard cannot
    Not many options left

  15. This is rubbish. Whatever your view, Deblonay.

    I hold to the certainty that Labor will be the preferred option. On polling day.

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