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. Katter and Palmer will be annoying static for Abbott. He will go to North Qld and talk about huntin’ an fishin’ only to have Katter say he is talking tosh.

    Then he will go to Gladstone and talk about boats, Clive will interfere will his let them in.

    Abbott is in a cage match, he hasn’t figured it out yet.

  2. confessions


    I got the feeling from the credits that Bowie helped out with it. Maybe it was just to acknowledge copyright though. Not sure]
    Just spotted that. He probably gave them permission to go for it and/or waved any fees he may be due. I’m sure he would get a great kick out of it being done.

  3. Palmer is given way too much media time.

    Why are we meant to be listening to him again? Oh thats right, he’s a self-important blow-hard billionaire who thinks light shines out of his arse.

  4. [shellbell

    Is the horse inquiry at the Piccadilly Bld as well?]

    Not sure. If it was at Racing NSW it was near Town Hall

  5. 2 reachtel polls in northern tablelands in the last 3 weeks , about the by-election and federal election in new england

    [No results are made public why

    1- they do not reflect the the media’s agenda

    2- they must reflect reality

    which means the coalition is in trouble]


    They might have been commissioned by one of the parties – internal polling – so there is no need to release them.

  6. CTar1

    Saw the BK link. Immediately thought of you. It was a great clip. I’m sure you would have had fun spotting the buildings that have gone and those that have not changed. I was amazed at how much traffic and pedestrians mingled. Resulting no doubt in lots of casualties.

  7. Rummel,

    With insights like that, perhaps you should start your own fact checking website. I reckon “Bull Busters” might be a good name.

  8. ruawake
    Posted Monday, May 13, 2013 at 6:12 pm | PERMALINK
    Katter and Palmer will be annoying static for Abbott.



    Qld will have the big 3

    Mad Tycoon – Palmer

    Mad Hatter – Katter

    Mad Monk – Abbott

  9. Sean Tisme
    Posted Monday, May 13, 2013 at 6:13 pm | Permalink
    Palmer is given way too much media time.

    “Why are we meant to be listening to him again? Oh thats right, he’s a self-important blow-hard billionaire who thinks light shines out of his arse.”

    How quickly they turn on their own….after years of accepting his donations….this is what we see from Abbott/Liberals

  10. [Do you agree with Costello’s revenue forecast for the forward estimates in 2007-8?]

    Given the likelihood of a reply is slender. If Costello’s revenue estimates had in fact been correct, the budget would be in surplus. He was only out by $36 billion

  11. I took it from tweets from Bernard Keane that Essential contained some questions about PPL. Did we ever see the full tables for this week?

  12. Acmed,

    I’ve always thought Palmer was a self-important d1ckhead from day 1.

    He’s a bit like the Bill Shorten on the Nats Party.

  13. Confessions

    i thought the essentials were going to poll on direct action as well

    But it shows more evidence the opinion polls are media driven rubbish

  14. [I think Clive’s lost it that’s if he ever had it to begin with.]

    Still he could NOT possibly be worse than Abbott.

  15. poroti
    Posted Monday, May 13, 2013 at 6:25 pm | PERMALINK

    Qld will have the big 3

    Some may say the big 4

    4) Mad Toll Road Tunneller – CanJoh.



  16. [A family holiday ended in tragedy when a column holding up a hammock in a unit split into three pieces, crushing Thomas Michael Brasier.

    The inquest was told that the unit, built in 1974, did not comply with the State’s building codes and was not corrected during refurbishments in 2006.

    The coroner is investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of Thomas, who died in October 2009.

    In her opening address, counsel assisting the inquest, Melanie Smith, said on Monday that four families, comprising eight adults and 10 children, were holidaying together at the tourist spot when the accident happened.]

    Apparently one of the parents brought their own hammock and tied it to the columns. One of the fathers swung in it for a while before letting children play on it. That’s when the columns collapsed, and the toddler was crushed by the ensuing rubble.

    Just a tragedy, and an unnecessary one. This is what happens when shortcuts are taken in the building industry, and why we have a building code.

  17. poroti

    The things that have come and gone are amazing.

    There’s a very nice view from the South Bank to the Tower with no high-rise behind it (I’ve swum that bit – good tide judgement and just enough booze) and a shot down Whitehall taken from a just a little away from ’70’.


  18. GG

    [Mr Howard said he is optimistic and bullish about the future of the country.

    “When the current prime minister and the treasurer and others tell you that the Australian economy is doing better than most – they are right,” he said.

    “We are still fortunate that we have an unemployment rate with a five in front of it. I wouldn’t have thought that was going to be possible a couple of years ago, and I don’t think many people would have. Our unemployment has remained pleasingly quite low.

    “And our debt to GDP ratio, the amount of money we owe to the strength of our economy, is still a lot better than most other countries.”]

    I guess he is trying to undermine the Abbott leadership team… ooops sorry that only happens to one side of politics nowadays.

  19. 1858
    William Bowe
    [Ringo was the favourite of 17% of Republicans and 10% of Democrats.]

    Ringo was my favourite, coz he has the most original sense of humour of them all.

  20. mikehilliard

    Has Abbott ever held a job, other than being a politician?]
    He was the Labor party’s mole in the Hewson camp helping to lose the unlosable election by way of being Hewsons meeja adviser and helping with Fightback.

  21. ruawake 1977 – he also managed a concrete plant.

    something about political “burying” enemies perhaps???

  22. mikehilliard

    [Has Abbott ever held a job, other than being a politician?]

    Yes! As a journalist I think at the Bulletin – maybe wrong there – Bob Carr was a journalist there at the same time I think.

    He later became a Political Staffer for Hewson I think.

  23. … he’s a self-important blow-hard billionaire who thinks light shines out of his arse.

    Something similar used to be said about Joh Bjielke Peterse (apart from the billionaire bit). So Queensland didn’t have daylight saving because he wasn’t getting up an hour early for anyone.

  24. Throughout his time as a student and seminarian, Abbott was writing articles for newspapers and magazines—first for the Sydney University Newspaper, and later The Catholic Weekly and national publications like The Bulletin. He eventually became a journalist and wrote for The Australian.[12]

  25. Wiki

    Abbott began public life as a journalist for The Bulletin, an influential news magazine, and The Australian newspaper.

    [12] While deciding his future career path, Abbott had developed friendships in the NSW Labor Party right and was encouraged by Labor’s Johno Johnson and ministers in the Unsworth Government, including Bob Carr, to join the Labor Party and run for office.

    Abbott was uncomfortable with the role of unions in the party, however, and wrote in his biography that ultimately Labor “just wasn’t the party for me”.[23]

    For a time he was a plant manager for Pioneer Concrete before becoming press secretary to the Liberal Leader of the Opposition, Dr John Hewson from 1990 to 1993 and working on the Fightback! policy.[12]

    John Howard (Liberal Prime Minister 1996-2007) wrote in his 2010 autobiography that Abbott had considered working on his staff prior to accepting the position with The Bulletin, and it was on Howard’s recommendation that Hewson engaged Abbott.

    According to Howard, Abbott and Howard had established a good rapport, but Hewson and Abbott fell out before the 1993 election and Abbott was in search of work following the re-election of the Keating Government.[24]

    He was approached to head Australians for Constitutional Monarchy (ACM), the main group organising support for the maintenance of the Monarchy in Australia amidst the Keating Government’s campaign for a change to a republic.[25]

    Between 1993 and 1994 Abbott was the Executive Director of ACM.[8] According to biographer Michael Duffy, Abbott’s involvement with ACM “strengthened his relationship with John Howard, who in 1994 suggested he seek pre-selection for a by-election in the seat of Warringah.”[26] Howard provided a glowing reference and Abbott won pre-selection for the safe Liberal seat.[27]

    Despite his conservative leanings, Abbott has acknowledged he voted for Labor in the 1988 NSW state election as he thought “Barrie Unsworth was the best deal Premier that New South Wales had ever had”. Nevertheless, Abbott then clarified that he has never voted for Labor in a federal election.[28]

    Abbott was elected to the Australian House of Representatives for the Division of Warringah at a by-election in March 1994 following the resignation of Michael MacKellar. He secured the safe Liberal Seat with a 1% fall in the primary vote.[29]

  26. mikehilliard, BK

    No, I won’t have that. The ABC is required to provide balance, and Ross Cameron is a nice balance to non-fiction.

  27. chris murphy ‏@chrismurphys 50s
    After 41yrs a lawyer,on my birthday,sucked into a case where I know the truth wasn’t told. Apologised to Singo. He said forget it.Yeah.

  28. TheFinnigans天地有道人无道 ‏@Thefinnigans 8m @TheKouk kouk, pre FACup ManCity $1.20 Wigan $8.60 – the rest is history

  29. This story is interesting in terms of the mindset of media staffers from now till Labor’s almost inevitable defeat in September.
    [Explaining his decision to harden-up government staffers in the style of a US general’s roughnecks preparing for one of World War II’s most famous battles, Mr McTernan later told Fairfax Media: “We fight and we fight to win.”
    But Patton demanding that his soldiers make “the other poor dumb bastard die”?
    “They’re good words,” Mr McTernan said.]

    It is nonsense of course, but as Anna Bligh proved, if you admit to the voters you are going to lose, it only increases the losing margin. So you can understand the need to lie to themselves. Engagement and debate are over. It is only claim and denial from now till election day.

    While the media people will deny it, going through the infrastructure announcements today it is obvious that Cabinet knows clearly that Labor will lose in September. They are only working to minimise their loses. So they make undeliverable promises about roads in western Sydney that may save a few mates, knowing they won’t have to find the cash anyway. But at this point, any thoughts on the national interest appear to be over. Gillard will be able to point to some achievements, though also many mis-steps. But at this point they are clearly bunkered down for D-Day, and D does not stand for victory. It stands for defeat.

    I will probably comment on Pollbludger less from now till September. I do not want Abbott, but the signal to noise ratio here will climb to painful levels from now on. Adieu.

  30. [confessions
    Posted Monday, May 13, 2013 at 6:01 pm | PERMALINK

    As someone on twitter said, Hadfield is the coolest astronaut ever]

    He is talk about a natural

  31. BK @ 1968

    My ideal match up on The Drum: Ross Cameron vs Craig Thomson. I know who would come off worst.
    May be the first time Cameron was forced into embarrassed silence.

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