Seat of the week: Aston

Redistribution has given Labor a boost in an eastern Melbourne seat that has remained outside their grasp for over two decades, though perhaps not enough of one in the current environment.

The outer eastern Melbourne electorate of Aston was created with the expansion of parliament in 1984 and held by Labor in the early years of its existence, since which time it has steadily strengthened for the Liberals. It covers the Liberal-leaning suburbs of Wantirna in the north and Rowville in the south, along with naturally marginal territory in Wantirna’s eastern neigbours Bayswater and Ferntree Gully. The redistribution has effected an eastwards shift at the northern end by moving 16,000 voters in Liberal-leaning Vermont to Deakin and adding a similar number in marginal Boronia from La Trobe, reducing the Liberal margin from 1.8% to 0.7%.

Aston was held for its first two terms by Labor’s John Saunderson, who had won the neighbouring seat of Deakin for Labor in 1983. Saunderson inherited a notional Labor margin of 4.1%, which rose to 6.5% in 1987. Saunderson then copped the full force of Labor’s statewide battering in 1990, when it was one of three Victorian seats to record double-digit swings to the Coalition and one of nine to be gained by them. The seat was then held for the Liberals by Peter Nugent, a noted moderate who at times bucked his party’s line on indigenous issues. Nugent’s sudden death in April 2001 resulted in a by-election three months later which delivered the Howard government a morale-boosting win that predated the game-changing Tampa episode by a month, Labor managing a swing of only 3.7% swing in the face of a 4.2% Liberal margin.

The member for the next two terms was Chris Pearce, a Knox councillor and managing director of an IT company. Pearce picked up a 7.1% swing at the 2004 election, the biggest in the state in the context of what was a strong performance by the Liberals throughout suburban Melbourne. It was widely noted that this left the seat with a bigger Liberal margin than the famously blue-ribbon Kooyong, which was seen to typify the hold the Howard government had secured in middle-class outer suburbs. However, it equally joined many such seats in swinging heavily to Labor at the 2007 election, when an 8.1% swing reduced Pearce’s margin to 5.1%. Pearce meanwhile became closely associated with Peter Costello, and his announcement he would bow out at the 2010 election came hard on the heels of Costello’s.

The hotly contested preselection to choose Pearce’s successor was won by Alan Tudge, a former staffer to Brendan Nelson and Alexander Downer, ahead of Neil Angus, a chartered accountant who would go on to win Forest Hill for the Liberals at the November 2010 state election. Labor was vaguely hopeful that Pearce’s retirement would help add Aston to a list of Victorian gains compensating for expected losses in New South Wales and Queensland, but the 3.3% swing fell short of the 5.1% margin. Labor has again endorsed its candidate from the 2010 election, Rupert Evans, deputy secretary of the Left faction Community and Public Sector Union.

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.

2,002 comments on “Seat of the week: Aston”

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  1. I’m in Bucharest and it would be nice to get some good news about our prospects in September.

    Can anyone cheer me up?

    Romania is good, off to Vlad country tomorrow, but need cheering up a bit politically.

    Optimists please post:)

  2. hi…I love Romania too




  3. Thanks, yes, first visit to Romania, but enjoying it. Bucharest is quite a pleasant surprise.

    Off to Brasov tomorrow, but you’re right, I’ve been advised Vlad is on LSL in Australia.

    I’ll look out for the bok for the next visit, but we’re heading for Llubjiana and Bled soon, great places.

  4. spur212
    Posted Friday, May 10, 2013 at 11:16 pm | PERMALINK
    Very well written Kevin.


    Unfortunately people like the coalition supporters and spur212

    its only based on hypothetical

    the media biased polls pm fantasy will not put abbott into government

    There is no election now

    no matter how much look at the poll look at the polls

  5. Morning all. Certainly here in SA there is no observable change of sentiment towards the government.

    There have been a lot of stories in my field, transport infrastructure, in the news this week. From ports in Melbourne to airports in Sydney, they are generally unflattering to the government responsible. Overall I think the criticism is deserved. Transport infrastructure has a major impact on the economy and job growth in particular. It also annoys people when they are stuck in traffic. So if you mess around with it for political reasons, you will get a kick.

    Yet that is just what we see happening time after time. I think there are two reasons. First, politicians in LIberal and Labor really do not understand it technically. So they go on ideology. Labor favours public transport more, Liberals roads. Trouble is, that means they only have a 50/50 chance of making the right decision.

    Second, there is a huge lack of transparency in the decision making at both State and federal level. Infrastructure Australia promised to change that, but it has not. There is a transparent list of projects needing funding, but no transparency in how they are chosen for funding. Here in SA we do not even have a program of what the government intends to do in future, let alone published reason why. So when governments change, as they soon will, the old intentions get swept out, and we make little long term progress.

    This is the latest example of this – a new Melbourne port. Economically, it is probably one of the most important decisions Australia will make. It is far more important to business than a second airport for Sydney, or a HSR. But Napthine insists on doing it his way, despite serious criticism from even pro-Liberal business interests:
    [The Napthine government’s plan to spend up to $12billion developing the Port of Hastings would be a ”financial disaster” for the freight industry, one of the nation’s leading logistics experts has warned.
    Former Toll boss Paul Little, who resigned from the company in late 2011 but remains the largest private shareholder and a consultant, has thrown his weight behind a proposal for another port development located on the other side of the bay near Geelong.]

  6. Just to demonstrate that Labor is also guilty of making bad decisions, or non decisions, on transport, here is the SMH editorial on the avoidance of the Sydney second airport decision by Albanese, one of his weakest moments in politics:
    [Superficially clever but deeply cynical and damaging for the state. That sums up how federal Labor and its Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese, have obstructed progress on a vital second international airport for Sydney.

    Albanese’s response – ordering yet more taxpayer-funded research into a demonstrably unsuitable site – reflects a lack of political courage to overcome his party’s opposition to commonsense. It also reeks of disdain for everyone who would benefit from 30,000 new jobs and a $6 billion economic boost in the next two decades.]

    Labor supporters understandably wish to promote the Gillard governments achievements at this point. Sadly transport has not been one of them at a strategic level.

  7. This report on rising atmospheric CO2 levels shows the carbon tax was correct policy:
    [Daily measurements of CO2 at a US government agency lab on Hawaii have topped 400 parts per million for the first time.

    The last time CO2 was regularly above 400ppm was three to five million years ago – before modern humans existed.]

  8. Since Abbott refuses to give oakeshot an explanation on his no confidence motion

    Oakeshot should put a censure motion on Abbott , if oakeshot is wanting an explanation from abbott

  9. Socrates:

    Wouldn’t it be great if the September election could be a contest about which party had the more robust abatement policy with a view to leading the world in this field?

    You may say I’m a dreamer …

  10. Fran

    We have that dream in common.

    Climate change is one area of policy where the phrase “world’s best practice” is not even contemplated. We have made more progress than most of the OECD, but not much more. The single biggest improvements have been through public awareness and personal action, not government: people buying solar panels, more efficient cars, and using public transport more (when it is available).

  11. Socrates

    One thing we could do would be to phase out tax deductibility of dirty energy — defined as energy usages with a lifecycle CO2e intensity greater than 5% of the current benchmark usages.

    That would make a huge difference and the funds raised could be applied to support for new means-tested low-cost energy-efficient housing.

  12. Fran

    Good point. In many of our dirty industries simply phasing out the existing subsidies would make more incentive to reduce emissions than imposing the carbon tax. For example, I will never understand why we subsidise diesel trucks for farmers and miners, when trains use less than 1/4 of the fuel (and CO2) per tonne-km.

    The fact that introducing these same measures would be sufficient to take us a fair way to balancing the budget (the subsidies are worth over $5 billion per annum) yet they are not even discussed in the current parliament, shows just how low a priority climate change is, compared to appeasing farmers and miners. Given that most of those groups do not even vote Labor, the politics of this seem a tad stupid too. And don’t get me started on energy prices for alumina smelters.

  13. While we’re dreaming Socrates … some headlines I’d also like to see.

    Punitive detention for asylum seekers to be abolished

    Same sex marriage to be legislated

    Live exports to be banned

    Anomalous profits tax to be introduced

    Submarine, fighter jet purchases to be scrapped

    Troops from Afghanistan to be recalled immediately

    Cuts to supporting parents reversed

    Superannuation tax concessions to be removed

    Business tax cuts abandoned

    Government to fund massive expansion in quality public housing, transport

  14. Socrates

    Last night on 730 Victoria there was quite a good summary of the different sides of the “traffic congestion solutions” in Melbourne.

    In spite of all the logic for rail, the whole argument, according to Nic Economou, is trumped by
    1. short term electoral thinking
    2. many Lib voters live in suburbs that rely on cars so Lib govts build roads for them, thereby perpetuating the problem.

    Nothing that transport experts don’t know, but vert frustrating.

  15. Fran 15

    Sorry I missed the thrust of your dirty energy tax policy, which is additional to my rant on subsidies. In principle it sounds very sensible, though you would need some transparent means of publicly defining what energy sources triggered the policy. But that shouldn’t be too hard, since we are now already monitoring emissions from all energy providers. So yes, I think it is a quite feasible policy.

    As for your post 19, I see we share many dreams in common. They are achievable too – the cuts would provide the funding for the expenses.

  16. Socrates:

    [In many of our dirty industries simply phasing out the existing subsidies would make more incentive to reduce emissions than imposing the carbon tax.{price}{my revision}]

    Both subsidies and deductibility should go.

  17. victoria

    Is this Republic re-launch an attention-seeking device by Turnbull, or a distraction from Abbott’s policy pressures? 😉

  18. Not surprised at all Abbott rejected an offer to debate Windsor in Armidale today

    Abbott only gets
    people who are already comitted to voting for him to his invite only meetings.

  19. lizzie 21

    I live in Adelaide so did not see the 730 program. However I think it is even worse than that. The toll road tunnel is not even a good idea in the short term. It will NOT solve the traffic congestion. It will either go broke or require a large government funding contribution. It will not support job growth in the CBD the way the rail tunnel would.

    Those Lib voters in leafy suburbs don’t seem to understand that Melbourne is now too large to return to 1960s traffic solutions. Further, with Melbourne headed for a population rivalling San Francisco before 2050 (even on the ABS low projection) this problem will only get worse. Frustrating.

  20. Lateline last night was Pyne on steroids. Horrible, rude little man. He epitomises the attack-dog methods of the Libs.

  21. Socrates

    7.30 Vic laid out the alternatives clearly – had experts who criticised road tunnel and recommended road link. But ended with the “leafy suburbs” political solution, of course. Not because anyone except the pollies wanted it… Seems to me that any improvements recently have been pure pork-barrelling – the Liberal way.

  22. lizzie

    It is a very curious situation. Pyne is not behaving like a person with all the confidence in the world.

    All is not well in coalition land.

    Me thinks PMJG, Clive Palmer and Tony Windsor might have something to do with it. M
    Fun and games

  23. One final comment on transport policy – light rail. Despite hating heavy rail, the Liberals seem to consistently be willing to look at supporting light rail systems. There are plans for sensible new systems under way in Sydney and Perth. The Glenelg tram extension here in Adelaide (called a tram but really it is light rail) has worked very well and definitely improved business activity in the CBD.

    Light rail can work well in Australian inner city population densities, so this part of Liberal transport attitudes is sensible. But why do they then hate heavy rail so much? For the big centres like Sydney and Melbourne CBDs there is no other way to move the required number of people in the space available. Why are they so opposed? Frustrating.

    Off to do the chores. Thanks for the chat Fran and lizzie. Have a nice day all.

  24. I do like Mike Carlton’s description of Bolt. But he makes a good point. The ABC is the emergency warning station. Who else would fund it? These idiots who want to get rid of it probably all live in cities.

    [The lead in this latest push is shared by the IPA and Melbourne’s village idiot and columnist for the Herald Sun, Andrew Bolt, who howl for the ABC to be broken up and sold off. This is deeply stupid. To give just one simple example: who would buy the ABC’s network of country radio stations? They’re a vibrant part of their communities, especially at flood or bushfire time, but they could never turn a profit. Most commercial stations in the bush are struggling as it is.

    None of this troubles Bolt and his goons. ”The ABC and SBS networks … must simply be eliminated. This will remove the largest mass propaganda machine from the Communists,” frothed a reader comment on his blog this week. That was one of the milder efforts at what I think of as Fruitcake HQ.]
    Read more:

  25. Swing Required

    ‘Romania is good, off to Vlad country tomorrow, but need cheering up a bit politically.

    Optimists please post:)’

    Send blunt stake soonest.

  26. Congratulations to all the denialists for achieving a remarkable milestone.

    This magnificent achievement has required hundreds of millions of big oil and big coal dollars over a quarter of a century. It has required the dedicated work of editors such as Mitchell. It has required the bastardization of climate science. It has required agility in changing positions as each is demolished. It has required persisent lying, big and small. It has required people like Howard to spend eleven years undercutting global initiatives on reducing carbon emissions.

    Well done lads. 400ppm.

    Now for the blowback.

  27. No air defence and no strategic naval deterrent?

    I wonder how long it would take Indonesia to arrive at our shores were we to be totally defenceless?

    A defenceless continent full of resources, would be a tantalizing proposition.

    It certainly was when the British sent a fleet around the world to take it.

  28. A couple of comments b4 heading off to work.

    Feedback from voterland and the main reason that the polls are probably where they are is to do with the current Gov saying one thing and doing another. I would take a guess and say the current opposition are aware of this and that is the reason that they are practically saying nothing. I have a view that with the relatively new media landscape that we currently have govts of the future(even with large majorities) will be reminded of this and removed from office if they go down this path. If you have a policy(good or bad) take the time,explain and you may get the support of the people who vote. The current opposition will have to after the budget start outlining some objectives and we will soon see what they are. I expect that there will not be much because of the state of the budget. Alot of people out there have been saving while the Govt Spends. Maybe when the Govt starts saving people will be more comfortable spending. I will look at this next budget harder than at any other time.

    Amazing story of survival after 17 Days. With so many in that building there may even be more. Perhaps as part of our foreign aid budget we could give expertise on construction to some of these countries where it maybe substandard

    I noticed people discussing Carbon Emissions. Our family manufacturing business would look at alternative if it was readily avail?

    Oh to the other poster who inferred my first latenight post may have had something to do with Menzies House. I googled that and it is just another BLOG so no that is not where I’M from

    Good day to all

  29. Lizzie

    My profound troubles at the ABC’s current approach to News & Current Affairs notwithstanding, it’s very easy to forget that #theirABC does a lot more than launder coalition/Murdoch talking points as clean information.

    It also provides valuable services in areas of unmet need, children’s programming (sometimes very high quality) and is a vehicle for a lot of useful informational documentary.

    While I’d like to see #theirABC take a break from News & Current Affairs until such time as they learn how to do it professionally (i.e. with intellectual integrity – a process that is unlikely in the near future) selling off #theirABC would be a backward step, IMO.

  30. Peter van Onselen “Bloated bureaucracy to blame for Labor’s deficit”

    Luckily (?) it’s behind the Oz paywall so I haven’t read it.

  31. Fran

    Things seem to have deteriorated at ABC since they have tried to spread themselves over ABC24. That program is nowhere near the standard we expect (deserve). I suspect too little funding, eked out to try for audience share. I’d rather have quality.

  32. [Not surprised at all Abbott rejected an offer to debate Windsor in Armidale today

    Abbott only gets
    people who are already comitted to voting for him to his invite only meetings.]
    What else could we expect from one so patently gutless?

  33. lizzie:

    [I suspect too little funding, eked out to try for audience share.]

    I suspect intellectual, indolence, cravenness and the baleful influence of light entertainment.

  34. Lizzie PVO’s article basically says both sides are right and wrong over the economy and the government’s main problem is that they spend money based on estimated revenue which is never realized. A bit of a dog against both sides of politics.

  35. Morning all.

    WA Heart Foundation sticks it up McDonalds:

    [McDonald’s has complained about a WA Heart Foundation campaign featuring images of human organs surrounded by toxic fat.

    It has the slogan “You sure you want fries with that?” and advertisements were placed outside fast- food outlets across Perth.

    About 250 of the bus shelter advertisements, aimed at turning people off fast food, were put near clusters of food outlets for the $9.1 million LiveLighter campaign, funded by the Health Department.

    Heart Foundation chief executive Maurice Swanson said a senior McDonald’s policy officer contacted him to accuse the foundation of targeting the fast food giant.

    “She said they were aghast and very disappointed with the advertisements, which they saw as targeting McDonald’s,” Mr Swanson said.

    “When I get a complaint like that from McDonald’s about our advertising, I give that a big tick because now we know it’s having an effect on them.”]

    Of course it’s fine for junk food outlets to spread their advertising across sporting ovals, sponsor kids sports activities and the like, but when health groups put up advertising with factual information, suddenly they are targetting junk food places.

    Such hypocrisy.

  36. The hubris among the coalition is increasing, according to Marius Benson:

    [With 16 weeks now to go until the election, opposition politicians and their supporters are radiant with anticipation. It is getting harder to inject the appropriate note of sobriety into their disclaimers that they are not taking a September win for granted.]

    And I loved this description of Gerard Henderson:

    [Gerard Henderson curled, koala-like in a corner of the Insiders armchair waves an admonitory paw towards Barrie Cassidy and repeats that nobody knows the result of the election at this distance.]


  37. Fran/ Lizzie

    5 years ago I would have been aghast at the sale of the ABC but now I am a bit Meh!!

    Programming quality is RS and now that they will no longer have the BBC programs they have little to offer.

    Dreary panel shows and average standard current affairs seems all they have now

    Even the kids programs are not what they used to be. Maybe I am a bit jaded but that is how it seems to me.

    OK they still have 4 corners but I am struggling to think of much else I would actually miss.

    I have not been listening as much to ABC radio so perhpas this is still worth saving BUT when I do try to listen it seems I have a choce of repetitive news on 24, Some Right wing commercial talk fest on ABC1 or some utterly depressing, excessively “arty” program on ABC 2, which either discussed death or dying or some esoteric stuff of the “gargoyles of outer Mongolia circa 1440 and their relevance to the development of mysticism in the Arctic” variety

  38. Incidentally, Bludgers … it now seems very likely that I am to move from my home of nearly 22 years at Epping to Pendle Hill within the month. If so, I will wave goodbye to John Alexander and Greg Smith and hello to Michelle Rowland and Nathan Rees …

  39. Good Morning

    The MSM are going to hate budget week. A chance for Labor to sell its message live.

    This budget speech is arguably Wayne Swans most important ever.

    Primetime selling of the economic facts unfiltered by the MSM.
    Resetting the debate for the campaign.

    You can tell the MSM is worried when 24 gets Sophi Mirabella to comment on the budget.

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