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. [Rua 1156 seems very clear to me what they were saying?]

    What that Labor is not trying to win seats in NSW and that their vote in Vic is about as high as it can go.

    Its kindergarten stuff and Sam Maiden should do much better.

  2. No I think the article is saying the challenge is to hold their ground in NSW & VIC and pick up seats in other states. Seems like a sound strategy if they can pull it off.

    I don’t believe the article is saying they don’t try in NSW & VIC just that seats there don’t seem vunerable.

    Can’t see where your problem is?

  3. GG

    [I just reckon a three year tantrum is long enough.]

    Well, GG, I’ve been called all the nasties in the universe for calling out all the male commentators “sexist” in their opinionastering.

    These guys, who would never have subjected another bloke to a three-year onslaught – oh, what, stabbed in the back, get over it, this is just politics, get over it – won’t let up.

    They’re consumed by a homo sapient sapient with a hole between her legs taking the top role.

    Talk about domestic violence on a grand scale.

    There are so many of them. Both on independent media and the msm.

    I won’t reiterate the roll call, for fear of being branded as “NASTY” by the moderator, but sheesh it’s not hard to point them out.

    Every time one of them takes a step forward, and says, well she’s not so bad, another 50 jump out of the woodwork to say yes she is, get back in line.

    Then we have blokes’ sphincters arrayed in a line, all tightened and afraid of losing their jobs in case they praise JG for anything.

    It’s pathetic, especially when we are over 50% of the population. But then women have to look after their sons as well as their daughters.

    And to make the peace, because men have a few more muscles that can do more damage than women, women always have to make the peace for harmony.

    It has ever been thus.

    That JG claimed the PMship without a drop of blood being spilled, makes no difference.

    There must have been. Abbott continually said in the first days of parliament “Out damn spot” – a reference to an illegal Shakespearian taking of Ruling that did not belong.

    The msm have continuously, fraudulently, portrayed to the public that JG is illegitimate, as if she belonged to a warring faction of the Wars of the Roses.

    What a fkn farce.

    When they discovered it wasn’t between the Catholics and the Protestants – hey, JG is an atheist – that’s worse. The keepers of the Sky Fairies can’t/won’t cope.

    So, what are you blokes going to do about it? It’s about time you stepped up to the mark to stop this nonsense.

  4. confessions

    People are livid at the plan to sell the Sunny Coast Hospital before it has opened. Newman knows how to lose votes.

  5. rua 1133

    I don’t know if you could call this a flat-out lie, as there are funds from this announcement that were included from the industry research transformation hubs in todays announcement. The Govt has been upfront about this but the funds have increased substantially, as I understand from news reports, which may not be entirely accurate.

    Also, if the scheme was announced in 2011 then it would be perfectly normal for nothing to have happened by now, many grant processes take around a year from application to spending the money, and they are wel established processes. Just look at the ARC funding timelines to give you an idea of this, and they haven’t changed with a change of Government. So to say that it won’t happen because nothings happened yet, isn’t justified at all.

    So I would say the shadow minister for industry, innovation and science isn’t lying, instead she is just ignorant about things that are happening in her portfolio. Things like science, industry and innovation.

  6. Ch10 news chose to omit JBishop’s year of the goat remarks, and edited out the more arrogant displays by Abbott, but got Ben Wyatt saying Barnett was playing puppy dog to his federal leader while he’s in town, and described the launch as an American style campaign launch.

  7. Another comment just got lost in the Crikey Triangle.
    [instead she is just ignorant about things that are happening in her portfolio]
    She does not have the nous or desire to get the facts; much less to talk coherently about them.

  8. Ducky:

    Troy Boy got the loudest applause from the crown and a VERY enthusiastic intro by JBishop.

    WA Liberals clearly love seat warmers.

  9. Opinion polls taken in 2001 indicated that over 90 percent supported Howard’s policies on the boats. That means that less than ten percent support left-wing policies. The very definition of an elite.

  10. ABC says they are doing Minister v Shadow on Q&A. There are not enough weeks left to do all the portfolios. I smell rotten fish.

  11. [Tony Abbott has addressed the WA Liberal Party’s campaign rally, telling the crowd he hopes to model his government on Premier Colin Barnett’s.]

    A minority government?

  12. [ABC says they are doing Minister v Shadow on Q&A.]

    Then why is Greg Hunt on tomorrow night with Plibersek instead of Dutton?

  13. \
    Re the terrible dry in Vic…
    Bloody Baileau !
    Today the B.O.M map shows a vast monsoonal trough and much rain all across our north though
    none for poor unfortunate Melb gardens
    So Lizzie…are your vegies suffering fron thew Melb drought ??

  14. deblonay

    Not only vegies. Trees (30m gums) and many 2m bushes dying. Couldn’t water everything even if I wanted to. Just have to wait and see what’s alive come autumn.

  15. [Bridget O’Flynn ‏@BridgetOFlynn
    Julie Bishop: It’s a productivity measure (Paid Parental Leave) No Jules it’s a tax on big business.]

    Is anyone bothering to watch JBishop blunder her way through on Sky?

  16. BK@1228

    How many genuine head-to-heads do you reckon will occur?
    Not many, Id say.

    No Abbott, no Hockey, No Robb, a Morrison, a Hunt, no Mirabella, a BishopJ, an Andrews.

  17. [Craig Emerson MP ‏@CraigEmersonMP
    Why are Libs so attracted to recessions? Abbott lauded NZ during GFC = 5 -ve growth quarters. Now lauding Germany with negative Dec quarter.]

  18. Incidentally, that power-packed survey of 800 or so Oz women, Australia wide, from which it was, with a straight face touting that “Women fall for Abbott” (if one can be straight-faced in print)has virtually disappeared from news services.

    To think there were one or two r/w hacks here who actually took it seriously and actually quoted from it as though it was credible.

    The sounds of laughter I think caused it to die of embarrassment.

    Such a blatant suck-up to Abbott and polishing of brass knobs.

  19. [How many women under 30 have a landline anyway.]

    How can a pollster get them when they are not chatting on the phone?

    Runs and hides. 😆

  20. [No Abbott, no Hockey, No Robb, a Morrison, a Hunt, no Mirabella, a BishopJ, an Andrews.]

    Abbott and Gillard will probably be offered the whole program to themselves (as was done last election, and as Gillard has done a couple of times since).

    They should go ahead with the shows anyway even if only one side turns up. I’d watch a genuine “audience gets to question ministers” discussion…

  21. [No Abbott, no Hockey, No Robb, a Morrison, a Hunt, no Mirabella, a BishopJ, an Andrews.]

    Abbott and Gillard will probably be offered the whole program to themselves (as was done last election, and as Gillard has done a couple of times since).

    They should go ahead with the shows anyway even if only one side turns up. I’d watch a genuine “audience gets to question ministers” discussion…

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