|Blue and red numbers respectively indicate booths with two-party majorities for the Liberal and Labor parties. Click for larger image. Map boundaries courtesy of Ben Raue at The Tally Room.|
Wannon has existed without interruption since federation, presently extending along the Victorian coast from the Twelve Apostles and Port Campbell through Warrnambool and Portland to the South Australian border, and northwards through rural territory to Hamilton, Ararat and Maryborough. The electorate has always accommodated the state’s south-western corner but was initially oriented further to the north and less to the east, encompassing Horsham until 1949 and only then acquiring Warrnambool, which had previously been in Corangamite. Relative population decline has lately caused the electorate to expand in a north-easterly direction, gaining Ararat in 1996 and Maryborough in 2010. Electoral support is generally evenly divided in the towns, but the rural balance keeps the seat safely conservative.
Wannon was a marginal seat prior to 1955, having previously changed hands on a number of occasions between Labor and the prevailing conservative party of the day, without ever being held by the Country Party. The turning point came with the retirement of Labor member Donald McLeod in 1955, at which point it was gained by its highest profile former member, Malcolm Fraser. Fraser was 25 years old at the time, and had fallen 17 votes short of winning the seat on his first attempt at the election held a year previously. After sweeping to victory on the back of an 8.5% swing, Fraser increased his margin at the next four elections and held the seat securely thereafter, going on to serve as Australia’s twenty-second Prime Minister from 1975 to 1983.
Fraser retired from parliament in the immediate aftermath of the 1983 election defeat and was succeeded at a by-election by David Hawker, who held the seat for the next 27 years. Hawker’s profile was rather lower than his predecessor’s, the high points of his career being a junior shadow ministry from 1990 to 1993 and the Speakership in the final term of the Howard government. On retiring at the 2010 election he was succeeded by Daniel Tehan, deputy director of the Victorian Liberal Party and son of the late Kennett government minister Marie Tehan, who won preselection ahead of Stephen Mitchell, founder of natural gas explorer Molopo Australia.