Seat of the week: Wannon

Malcolm Fraser’s old seat in the western districts of Victoria was highly marginal for the first half of the twentieth century, but it’s been a long time since it was last a source of interest on election night.

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.

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.

732 comments on “Seat of the week: Wannon”

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  1. [Gee Whiz Bludgers, I remember the days not too long ago when Labor politicians used to boast about how many “refugees” they were sending back to Sri Lanka.]

    You do, RT? You’re welcome to post the links.

  2. Fark you’d swear it’s like if we STOP THE BOATS everything in this country will be sunshine and roses.

    Does this government understand there are more important things to be going on with?

  3. Is anyone else having that problem with PB on their iPad’s centering everything? I’ve had trouble all afternoon, and this time, refreshing is not fixing it.

    Not very happy, Crikey IT people.

  4. [You would bloody think so wouldn’t you.]

    Yep the Prime Minister of Australia, attends the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and discusses domestic politics.

    Ignoring the vast majority of Commonwealth leaders who only attended to ensure the Sri Lankan Govt was well and truly warned about its actions and human rights abuses. He hands them the get out of jail free diplomacy card.

    Its disgusting.

  5. [Yep the Prime Minister of Australia, attends the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and discusses domestic politics.]

    It’s probably more fair to say that the Australian media attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and discussed domestic politics. I’m sure Tone is up to much more than is being reported.

    [Ignoring the vast majority of Commonwealth leaders who only attended to ensure the Sri Lankan Govt was well and truly warned about its actions and human rights abuses]

    This is not the most intelligent thing ever written here.

  6. Resurgent Turkeys

    Posted Sunday, November 17, 2013 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure Tone is up to much more than is being reported.

    Organising a pollie pedal so he can claim more taxpayer money in travel allowances?

  7. @Burgler/597

    Don’t think so, 600,000 children in Poverty lines, 15% increase since 2001.

    According to the latest ACOSS/UNICEF report.

    Hockeynomics is going to make that number even worse.

    Trying to compare other countries is just using it as an excuse,

  8. WTTE :
    The vast majority of Commonwealth leaders only attended to put SL on notice

    Did I just get censored for saying that PBers make stuff up abour SL

  9. POST Sri Lanka

    I don’t think PM Cameron was making “shit up ” in his sharply critical statements re the treatment of the Tamils…PM Cameron in fact has given the Sri Lanka Govt a timed ultimatum..or UN action will follow on the British demands being ignored
    Cameron has done a great job…and we know Human Rights are not on Abbott’s agenda anyway

    They obvioulsy consider the S.L Govt actions towards the defeated Tamils merit such actions…and all 6he evidence from a host of sources…including those Tamils who dare to speak out ,,suggest that Cameron is quite right

    Abbott declined to follow Cameron…for no other reason
    than his needs to win favour in Colombo…but according to one report Cameron was not very pleased at Abbott’s actions

    Foreign Affairs are problem for Abbott it seeem…first Jakarta the with London

  10. I think I’ve worked out what is the problem Australia has with boat people.

    It’s not a great moral failure — it’s OCD.

    It’s an illness.

    We’re like the guy who washes his hands 100 times a day because if. my. hands. are. clean. it. will. all. be. OK. Meanwhile he takes his eye off every other ball and forgets who his friends are and where he lives.

    We don’t need condemnation, we need therapy.

    Poor us. Someone get us a shrink to make us functional again — able to get on with our day-to-day lives without getting so hung up on such an insignificant issue.

  11. mikehilliard,

    I guess he’s staying true to form. He did try to score political points out of the death of Margaret Whitlam after all.

  12. You should read the article:

    Most CHOGM attendees, including Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, have refrained as far as possible from embarrassing Mr Rajapaksa over questions about his regime’s human rights record.

    The press conference was surprisingly a PRESS CONFERENCE and like the conferences of the Gillard government the Western press only questioned about their own interests.

  13. [“Does anyone specifically have a question that’s not on Sri Lanka or human rights?” the media spokesman for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting implored journalists at a press conference held by host president Mahinda Rajapaksa.

    The normally diplomatic Richard Uku had just unwittingly summed up a CHOGM that can only be described as extraordinary for all the wrong reasons.]

    I rests m’lud. 😛

  14. Why are people out on the streets wasting time… protesting??

    Don’t they realise we just had an election and now Abbott has a mandate to do what he promised and scrap the Carbon Tax?

    Simply saying to ignore all those voters is undemocratic.

  15. [@Sean/621

    Isn’t the truck convoy protesting?]

    The difference of course is that Abbott has a mandate.

    Gillard had NO mandate because she said vote for me and I promise never to introduce a Carbon Tax.

    There has been an election, the left lost, they need to move on.

  16. Tisme there are people around the world fighting and dying for the right to engage in civil democratic street protest like citizens here in Australian can.

    If you enjoy the prospect of living in a totalitarian state so much, why don’t you move to one?

  17. Abbott; “The biggest humanitarian issue in the region is stopping the boats.”

    He obviously is in some world of his own.

    The Philippines would be a greater humanitarian issue than the ‘stop the boats’ mantra.

  18. Sean Tisme

    Posted Sunday, November 17, 2013 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    Why are people out on the streets wasting time… protesting??

    Don’t they realise we just had an election and now Abbott has a mandate to do what he promised and scrap the Carbon Tax?

    Simply saying to ignore all those voters is undemocratic.

    But quite happy to ignore the 46+% that didn’t want a Coalition Govt

  19. @Sean/626

    Ah so it’s ok for truck convoy to protest, but not everyone else.

    Double standards again.

    Abbott has no mandate.

    If you lie enough, you lie to yourself and never tell the truth.

  20. Abbott; “The biggest humanitarian issue in the region is stopping the boats.”

    The biggest humanitarian issue in this region is the shameful life expectancy and quality of life of our Indigenous brothers and sisters, followed closely by the shocking plight of addicted gamblers and alcoholics whose addiction is fully enabled by the state-corporate-media complex, followed by the still inadequate provisions we make for people with disabilities, followed by the callous indifference we routinely dish out to single mothers through systematic disadvantage in workplace and welfare laws, followed by the barbaric treatment of asylum seekers, followed by our miserly attitude to foreign aid.

    Twice as many people died in one afternoon in the Philippines from a cyclone as have died in the last 15 years trying to come to Australia by boat.

    To label these remarks Abbott’s crocodile tears is an insult to crocodiles.

  21. Zoidlord,

    We are one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Yes, we have our problems, I wasn’t arguing to the contrary. I am a social democrat and I certainly believe we can do better, but that wasn’t the issue at hand. If Australia can’t be considered a “nice” country, then where can? Scandinavia, with gargantuan suicide rates? The most powerful nation in the world *insert derisive huff*?

    Are you saying that because we haven’t made heaven on earth here that we, too, can’t host any event, nor may any other nation. I’m sorry if I’m misinterpreting you but you seem to be making a lot of an off-hand comment at the end of another post that was basically saying that, comparitively we are doing much, much better than pretty much any other nation in the world, for a number of reasons. Anyway, I’ll leave it at that.

  22. Why are people out on the streets wasting time… protesting?? it’s called democracy, free speech, freedom of opinion, freedom of expression….

  23. Sean Tisme

    Posted Sunday, November 17, 2013 at 9:16 pm | Permalink


    What did you think about Abbott handing over coastguard boats to the Sri Lankans?

    I stated in an earlier post that it creates an issue/problem.

    There are problems in Sri Lanka. People are leaving with a genuine concern for their welfare and safety, that makes them genuine refugees. There is no way of guaranteeing that only non-genuine refugees are on the boats.

    Yet Abbott is providing boats to ensure they are returned to face that same problem/issue.

    I think the balance would be to set up a process for people to apply for refugee status and transfer to Australia on the Sri Lankan mainland.

  24. [ “The biggest humanitarian issue in the region is stopping the boats.”]

    Even I didn’t expect him to say that. What a disgusting insult to the whole region. What about the human trafficking that isn’t people seeking asylum? It’s of a far greater scale and they certainly aren’t coming by boat, or at least not fishing vessels. Or corruption, or instability, or poverty. Both he and Australians need a good hard slap and wake up to themselves.

  25. Respect Tony Abbott’s mandate

    Since the election, Abbott has insisted that the election result requires the Opposition to support his carbon tax repeal legislation:

    “It is at the heart of the Government’s mandate. The people got to vote on the carbon tax at the election and in the days to come this Parliament will get to vote on the carbon tax and I trust that ‘Electricity’ Bill Shorten will … appreciate that the people’s verdict must be respected.”

    The stunning hypocrisy here is that this was precisely the issue on which Abbott rolled former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull in 2009. Turnbull wanted to respect the clear mandate of then PM Kevin Rudd to implement a carbon trading scheme. Abbott wanted to oppose that mandate — and has opposed it ever since.

    Now – suddenly – a mandate “must be respected”.

    Hypocrisy and lies from Abbott and his trolls.

  26. [Ah so it’s ok for truck convoy to protest, but not everyone else.]

    Where did I say it’s not Ok to protest? Please provide that quote.

    I asked why the Get Up Rent-A-Crowd are wasting time protesting over something we just had an election on… and they lost.

    Do they really think tomorrow Abbott will come on the news and go “Gee I saw these handful of GetUp blokes protesting so now I’m not going to Axe the Carbon Tax and I’m going to ignore the millions and millions of people who voted for me to do exactly that”??!

  27. @Bugler/634

    So far in the last 10+ years have been the focus of budget surplus and boats, nothing else nothing more.

    What I am saying is that we will end up like the other nations if we continue this unhealthy focus on these two issues alone?

    You seem to be suggesting it’s ok to focus on boats alone in every single issue, and yet you are discussing other countries with other issues other than what Abbott was there for in Sri lanka?

    Abbott wasn’t there for Human Rights issues, Abbott was there to SLOW THE BOATS, or more specially, HIDE THE BOATS

  28. @Sean/640

    “The difference of course is that Abbott has a mandate.”

    You said it yourself, but the truck convoy was before the election, so you are ok with it.


  29. Yes, Abbott has a mandate to repeal carbon pricing. Same as Labor had a mandate in 2009 to legislate for an ETS which the Abbott-led coalition didn’t respect.

    What goes around, comes around. Tism should just suck it up and stop whingeing.

  30. Mandates – did John Howard have a mandate to double the cost of tertiary education for students? Did he have a mandate for Work Choices? Did he have a mandate to take us to war in Iraq?

  31. [UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has said he believes it is possible for the Sri Lankan government to establish a war crimes inquiry before March.

    It comes after PM David Cameron called on president Mahinda Rajapaksa to set up an independent inquiry into alleged war crimes – or face a UN probe.]

  32. Is it true that the Australian ambassador to the Philipines has been instructed to advise them that the biggest humanitarian issue confronting Asia is ‘boat people’?

    Is the right wing intellectual Sarah Palin now advising the Australian Government?

  33. Tisme, if you truly believe the GetUp protestors are “wasting their time” over an issue that you believe has been settled by an election, then what label would you apply to your efforts to strenuously point out that they’re “wasting their time”?

    You see, when I notice somebody wasting their time, I don’t feel the need to point it out because it’s obvious, and it’s a waste of MY time to say so…

    …Of course, it might just be that you’ve noticed that unlike the Convoy of No Consequence, there was somehow or other a mass rally in more than 200 towns across Australia today, comprising more than 60,000 people, which dwarfs by some orders of magnitude the pathetic attempt of the denialists in creating a “grassroots” movement.

    We are not “wasting our time”, we are biding our time.

    There is a BIG difference.

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