Seat of the week: Indi

A review of the circumstances which caused Tony Abbott to enter the government formation process a female cabinet minister short.

Bordered to the north by the Murray River, the electorate of Indi covers an area of northern Victoria including Wangaratta, Benalla and the border town of Wodonga. It produced one of the biggest boilovers of the 2013 election with the defeat of cabinet minister-in-waiting Sophie Mirabella at the hands of conservative independent Cathy McGowan, whose win marked the first time since 1931 that the seat was not in the hands of one of the main coalition parties. Indi has existed without interruption since federation and only ever won by Labor in 1910, 1914, 1928 (when Labor’s Paul Jones was elected unopposed after Country Party incumbent Robert Cook forgot to nominate) and 1929, from which time it shifted decisively to the conservatives. It was thereafter fought over between the Country Party and the Liberal Party (together with its predecessor the United Australia Party), the member from 1937 to 1949 being Country Party titan John “Black Jack” McEwen, who moved to the new seat of Murray with the expansion of parliament in 1949. The Nationals last held the seat in 1977, when their incumbent Mac Holten was defeated by Liberal candidate Ewen Cameron on Labor preferences. The Nationals contested in 2001 when Cameron’s successor Lou Lieberman retired, but managed only 12.3%.

The new Liberal member in 2001 was Sophie Panopoulos, a barrister and Australians for Constititutional Monarchy activist. Panopoulos married in 2006 and assumed her husband’s surname of Mirabella. Mirabella became noted for her aggressive parliamentary style, and was promoted to shadow cabinet in the innovation, industry, science and research portfolio when Tony Abbott became leader in December 2009. McGowan’s challenge to Mirabella arose out of a local activist group called Voice for Indi, which initially declared itself set on “improving the political process in the electorate” rather than mounting an electoral challenge. The group says it resolved to field a candidate after Mirabella gave their concerns short shrift, informing them that the real concerns of her constituents aligned with her party leader’s oft-repeated soundbites.

The candidate nominated by Voice for Indi was Cathy McGowan, a rural affairs consultant and former regional councillor for the Victorian Farmers Federation who had once worked for Liberal member Ewen Cameron. With McGowan to rally behind, the organisation proved adept at fund-raising and use of social media, and it soon became apparent that it was succeeding in tapping into a perception that Mirabella was a Melburnian careerist with an insufficient connection to the local area. McGowan’s profile was further lifted when retiring New England independent Tony Windsor told the ABC’s Insiders program that the “nasty” Mirabella was the person he would least miss in politics, and that McGowan was an “excellent independent” whose campaign he might lend support.

Also lending McGowan support was Ken Jasper, who served Wangaratta and surrounding areas in state parliament for 34 years, retiring as member for Murray Valley at the 2010 election. McGowan appeared to benefit from friction between the coalition parties spilling over from the contest for Mallee, which the Liberals were seeking to win upon the retirement of Nationals member John Forrest. Reports indicated that local Nationals had been quietly told they would not face disciplinary action if they lent support to McGowan.

McGowan went on to prevail after polling 31.2% to Mirabella’s 44.7%, which was down from 51.8% in 2010. This left McGowan well clear of the Labor candidate on 11.6%, down from 28.2%, and she was narrowly able to close the primary vote gap after picking up 79% of Labor and minor party preferences.

NB: Hat tip to Ben Raue at The Tally Room, whose Google Earth maps I’m using for the electoral boundaries displayed in the map above. Raue does tremendous work on his blog and deserves donations. Note also that you can get a slightly bigger image of the above map by clicking on it.

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.

1,337 comments on “Seat of the week: Indi”

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  1. davidwh

    [I could take a fence to that Fran but I won’t.]


    It’s about the selection process arising from taking ‘the road less travelled’.

    Everyone must take some road. The wise and the foolish and the lazyand the intrepid and resourceful alike can take the well-worn path, where the road is even and people will smile at you as you proceed. For many, that is the right path to take.

    But the road less travelled is available only to the resourceful, courageous, curious and intrepid. Bandits and danger lie at every turn and one sees the bodies of those who have stumbled along the way. In the distance, one can see where the courage or strength of some have failed and they have found their way back to the well worn path sneering defensively at those whom they have left on the hard road.

    Those who take the road less travelled and stay on it know that they may never find the path to happiness and purpose and that the journey may be illusory. Yet until they fall their minds are sharpened and their eyes and ears kept keen. They have the satisfaction of sharing the journey with others who like them are thoughtful and wish to discover for themselves their possibility and the nature of their shared humanity with others.

    Of course we on the left are likely to be wiser. There’s no cultural space for us to be lazy or unreflective. We expect every day to be shouted down by some lout with his copy and paste “common sense” and to which we must respond robustly with good sense a.k.a insight.

    It is always easier in the short run to be on the weel worn path and to take one’s “wisdom” in a box from someone close to the elite or the fool next to you at the bowling club who beat you to the “wisdom” of the elite. Yet it comes at an enormous longterm cost — one’s wit — and therewith — one’s human possibility.

  2. Turnbull says current fibre rollout contracts will be completed – future work contracts will be established following 60 day NBNCo revue.

    Fraudband – the haves and have nots…

  3. The “great silence” continues to spread.

    [The controversial social media voice of the Immigration Department’s top spin doctor has been silenced by the incoming Abbott government.

    A senior departmental official confirmed in Canberra on Tuesday that the department’s tweets would focus on “good news stories” under the Coalition.]

  4. [Abbott turning off the Christmas Island mobile phone tower to stop residents from contacting the mainland]

    shoodna told him!

    Time for guerilla warfare…not telegraphing punches.
    Just push a liberal down a liftshaft don’t talk about it! threatened men live longest


    [Turnbull has persisted with this cost blowout lie (yes, it’s a lie, no other way to describe it) for years now. Offering no evidence & using the tried & true “trust me” line. NBN Co has been so effective to date that NONE of the $3b contingency fund has been touched, not a cent. Any increases in cost are being offset by the increased ARPU from a 30%+ uptake of 100Mbps plans.

    So why did Turnbull demand the whole board resign? Basically Turnbull is setting up NBN Co to fail. I’ve written on this previously, & now I’m as sure as ever that Turnbull’s intention is to destroy the NBN, even now they are in office. This is the first step in many that will ultimately end in Telstra purchasing the NBN for below cost price.

    What strikes me as odd is that Turnbull still insists that he will build the NBN, while simultaneously doing all he can to destroy the network. Demanding a board resigns is far from the smartest move, & if anything will create disquiet in the company.]

  6. Kinkajou

    [Abbott turning off the Christmas Island mobile phone tower to stop residents from contacting the mainland]

    That’s got to be a silly rumour.

  7. The thing that really annoys me with the NBN is that the Labor Government wasn’t spending the money, it was investing the money.

    Then on completion the NBN was to be sold and the Government recoup its investment plus a profit.

    The Liberals are going to invest in a second rate system and when completed their Fraudband will sell for a second rate price. The on-going maintenance and replacement of the copper will drag the price down

  8. Dovif @ 1267

    Ha. Ha. JWH was ‘knifed’, first by the Liberal Party – for Andrew Peacock no less – in 1989, and later by the electorate itself, in 2007, who didn’t even want him as a local MP. The fact that his own party – Downer backed down when asked to approach the great man, and Costello lacked the guts – didn’t want him showed what a gutless bunch they really were. If the party had had it’s way, Howard would have been ‘knifed’ at least twice by his own party.

    Try polishing that turd.

  9. In the meantime Turnbull has invested his own money in the French NBN which is FTTH.

    Good enough for his money, good enough for the French but not good enough for his own country.

  10. [Simon Banks ‏@SimonBanksHB 1m
    So @nbnco Board was asked to resign by @turnbullmalcolm before facts established. This is a complete shambles]

  11. Murdoch’s plan for broadband is to cherry pick the most profitable bits for himself and leave the dregs to NBNco, so of course it will fail.

  12. [That’s got to be a silly rumour]

    there are no more jokes. humor has prostituted itself to Mordor. Be pleasant, arouse no suspicions until a liftshaft appears…then push the liberal in and stroll away

  13. CTar1@1295


    Wait till Joe loses AAA ratings.

    I give him 2 or less budgets to do just that.

    If he lets his mouth run and pulls out his eleventy calculator at the G20 or wherever he is, he might even manage to so impress the world that he loses AAA without even producing a budget.

  14. davidWH

    That is where I part company with you regarding polls.

    For six years, at every tiff and turn, the last government was bombarded with poll driven attack.

    If it “does not matter” so far out from an election why did the pollsters – all of them – keep tabs on it all?

    Of course it matters – unfortunately.

    The polls are now driving the politics and everything is seen through this looking glass.

    Simple conclusion: Two polls have shown the Abbott honeymoon, if it ever got started, is now dead on its feet.

    Sure, “If and election were held tomorrow blah blah…then they would not matter.

    But, if things go rough for Abbott and he is tempted to a DD, which I don’t think he has the stomach for, then every week a poll will keep the death watch.

  15. Zoidlord

    [That depends if DD is called or not.]

    If what was written in Matilda today is true – that the total number of votes in the election between the Coalition being ‘in’ is somewhat less than 40,000 then they will want to see some improvement before a DD would be risked.

  16. Tricot I did leave a smile at the end of my post. Just thought you may all be missing MB.

    Personally I think now people have punished Labor things will settle down to more normal behaviour and polls will wax and wane in a much more narrow band. The only factors which are likely to change that is if Abbott performs much better or worse than people expect.

  17. davidWH

    Sorry I did miss the smile.

    You are not the only one to allude to polls being of dubious value some way out from an election but that is all changed now due to the nature of the political cycle.

    As the Abbott crew will find, actually trying to do something/anything will be done so those with an attention span of a gnat and only understand good = white hats, and bad = black hats and simple competitions will be the go.

  18. A senior departmental official confirmed in Canberra on Tuesday that the department’s tweets would focus on “good news stories” under the Coalition.

    Good grief.

    So blatant.

    Yes, this is what the public service is for … to focus on “good news stories” under the Coalition.



    Climate Council only one example.

    [Right-wingers know they’ve rejoined battle. They’re itching for a fight they think they can win. A typically grandiloquent article today from Nick Cater, who is leaving The Australian, illustrates the point. “The Left will have to man up if it intends to fight back,” Cater intones, with apparently unconscious paternalism, “for the momentum is running against progressive conformity.” For Cater, “the dismissal of Flannery” signals that Tony Abbott’s government “will not bow to political correctness and has little time for the nanny state.”

    Like it or not, the next three years will see bitter battles over culture, the humanities and science. If the left decides not to fight them, they are battles that will be certainly be lost.

    As it turns out, I think the left will fight. Indeed, the next three years are likely to see a much wider and more effective mobilisation of progressive sentiment than Tony Abbott and the tacticians at Crosby Textor may have bargained for.

    In that respect, this morning’s announcement of the rebirth of the Climate Commission as the crowd-funded and independent Climate Council is a straw in the wind. Only days after its abolition, Flannery and his colleagues at the Commission have reconstituted themselves with the help of a groundswell of community support. As independent analysts, they loom as far more effective critics of Greg Hunt and Tony Abbott’s risible Direct Action policy than they would have been while still formally part of the government.]

  20. [While there are few consolations for no longer being in government, one that will appeal to Labor is that it no longer has to deal with the asylum-seeker problem. It’s now up to Tony Abbott to ”stop the boats”. As Labor’s perceived failures in this area were Tony’s ticket to the Lodge, it’s unlikely the electorate will allow him to forget his promise.
    Whatever he comes up with, it is unlikely that any specific solution will work for long. This is because the situation itself is constantly changing: the refugee problem reflects the human costs of a world that is increasingly violent and unpredictable. There are not only questions of values at stake. For any Australian government, giving effect to our right to control who comes into the country poses some difficult administrative problems.]

    Read more:

  21. Asha Leu is absolutely clueless.

    Many Labor supporters do not object to the Greens because they are in competition for the same voter base.

    NEWS: Asha Leu does not understand the way the 2PP system works.

    Many Labor supporters do not like the Greens because they are a nuisance and a hindrance.

    But now they really are no longer a nuisance and a hindrance – they are irrelevant!

    All good 😎

  22. Sandi has been “boned”

    [The controversial social media voice of the Immigration Department’s top spin doctor has been silenced by the incoming Abbott government.

    A senior departmental official confirmed in Canberra on Tuesday that the department’s tweets would focus on “good news stories” under the Coalition.

    The department’s national communications manager, Sandi Logan, has been told that incoming Immigration Minister Scott Morrison would “front” for the department and Mr Logan’s combative presence on Twitter was no longer required.]

    Read more:

  23. Classic tweet from Albo!

    [Anthony Albanese Verified account ‏@AlboMP

    So Joe de Bruyn thinks I’m “rabid” on sexuality issues and Mark Latham thinks I don’t have Leadership skills ……..]


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