Seat of the week: Calwell

A journey around another safe Labor seat in Melbourne that tends not to get too much attention on election night.

Red and blue numbers respectively indicate booths with two-party majorities for the Labor and Liberal. Click for larger image. Map boundaries courtesy of Ben Raue at The Tally Room.

Calwell covers suburbs around Melbourne Airport in the city’s north-west, including Keilor, Sydenham and Taylors Lakes to the west, Tullamarine to the south, and from Broadmeadows north along Sydney Road to the southern part of Craigieburn. The seat was created with the expansion of parliament in 1984 but at that time the electorate was oriented further to the west, with only the Keilor and Sydenham area west of the Maribyrnong River carrying over to the electorate in its current form. The redistribution which took effect at the 1990 election shifted it eastwards to include Broadmeadows, which it has retained ever since. Substantial changes at the 2004 redistribution saw the electorate lose the areas west of the river to the new seat of Gorton while gaining Sunbury and Craigieburn to the north from abolished Burke, but these were reversed at the 2013 election, when Sunbury and most of Craigieburn were transferred to McEwen and Keilor and Sydenham were returned from Gorton.

Calwell has been won by Labor at each election since its creation by margins ranging from 7.1% in 1990 to 19.7% in 2010, which were respectively the worst and best elections for Labor in Victoria during the period in question. The seat’s inaugural member was Andrew Theophanous, who had been member for Burke from 1980. Theophanous quit the ALP in April 2000 after claiming factional leaders had reneged on a deal in which he was to be succeeded by his brother Theo, who served in the Victorian state upper house from 1988 to 2010 and as a minister from 2002 to 2008. Andrew Theophanous was facing criminal charges at the time of his departure from the party for receiving bribes and sexual favours from Chinese nationals seeking immigration assistance, for which he would eventually be sentenced to four years’ imprisonment, which was halved after one of the major charges was quashed on appeal.

Labor’s new candidate at the 2001 election was Maria Vamvakinou, who shared Theophanous’s Greek heritage and background in the Socialist Left faction, having spent the eight years before her entry to parliament as an electorate officer to factional powerbroker Senator Kim Carr. Vamvakinou went entirely untroubled by Theophanous’s forlorn bid to retain his seat as an independent, which scored him 9.6% of the vote. Vamvakinou had her 17.7% margin at the 2001 election pared back 1.6% by redistribution and 6.9% by a swing to the Liberals at the 2004 election, before enjoying a thumping 11.1% swing in 2007 and a further 0.4% swing in 2010. The redistribution before the September election increased her margin another 0.4%, but she went on to suffer a 6.2% swing that was slightly above the statewide 5.1%, reducing her margin to its present 13.9%. Vamvakinou has remained on the back bench throughout her time in parliament.

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.

1,367 comments on “Seat of the week: Calwell”

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  1. confessions

    It appears so. I guess the question is whether they are motivated to put pressure to bear on the govt re this policy area, or is there some other agenda?

  2. I travelled around South Africa in the 1970s. What struck me was the administrative meanness of the apartheid system that systematically closed off options for blacks.

    1. blacks had to have passes to live outside the homelands. blacks over 18 living outside homelands paid a hefty poll tax.

    2. blacks had to leave the white towns before curfew. Every town you see on a map of South Africa is a white town, there were satelite black townships around it

    3. black houses did not have running water or electricity – the Johannesburg hypermart sold all manner of camping gear like one burner stoves, battery power stereos and electric generators

    4. black houses were roughly finished

    5. black kids were taught in Afrikaans, even though that was the language of the voortrekers. totally useless useless south africa

    6. black kids did an extra year of education at age 13 so that they were 19 before they finished school meaning their parents had to pay the poll tax for their last year of school

    7. the homelands were very poor with no infrastructure and even worse education so that kids were sent to the black townships in white areas to stay with aunts uncles who had work permits

    8. I entered a township in western cape after dark. As people heard our truck engine they turned their lights off and listened. A lot of fear

    9. I remember a bottle shop in Orange Free State, the white side was clean bright spacious and the black side of the same shop front was dirty mean and crowded. It was the same ‘boy’ who mopped the floors – at least daily for the whites and weekly for the blacks – under the white owners orders

  3. [50


    Yes, someone in Cabinet is leaking.]

    Leaking…this is what happens when opinion is ignored and persuasion fails. You leak if you’ve been muzzled or spited and conclude you have no other way to be heard, or you are engaged in a power struggle.

    This is a bad sign for Abbott. He is losing control.

  4. billie

    Posted Sunday, December 8, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    re reemergence of Gillard – AWU slush fund in 1990s
    Isn’t there a time limit on this sort of stuff?

    As I said previously in posts – I have yet to see a Union go bankrupt and its members (shareholders) lose their life savings as happens all to regularly with companies. And while shareholders lose their life savings the Board/CEO continue to live their millionaire life styles.

    Qantas – Board/CEO spent $400 million over 2 years buying Qantas shares to use as a bonus for themselves. In that 2 years shareholders did not receive a dividend.

    Now Qantas is several hundred million in the red. That $400 million would have been better utilised in being added to the company bank balance

  5. A condition of any Government bailout of Holden or Qantas should include the sacking of their respective boards, their CEO’s and all or most of the CEO Direct reports. The salaries of their replacements should be capped at around, say, $500K. Any dodgy tax arrangements on the part of the company or its senior management to hide income from Australian taxation authorities must be disclosed. All bonuses for the top couple of two layers of management, who showed themselves unable to make it in the competitive world of free enterprise, should be rescinded. If the companies accept these conditions, the Government might consider their cries for help from the public purse.

  6. briefly:

    And then there is the whispering campaign against his CoS, the one person with a proven track record of controlling Abbott.

  7. A Climate Action Tracker policy brief suggests while Labor’s emissions trading scheme would enable Australia to cut emissions by five per cent on 2000 levels, the Abbott government’s policy won’t meet the Kyoto target.

    “The Abbott government’s proposed direct action program lacks the resources to meet the five per cent from 2000 reduction goal and instead could lead to emissions of about 12 per cent above 2000 levels by 2020,” the policy brief states.

    All this Abbott/Liberals b*llsiht over the price of a weekly cup of coffee at the local café, or one middy of beer a week.

    Abbott has made things worse for himself and the Liberals promising a $550 reduction in power bills by Christmas.

  8. Billie, victoria

    Yes the operative word for blacks under apartheid was fear. The fear was not imagined. As my link showed, they had good reason to fear the police.

    It really was a police state, including control of reporting. But I think there was a sense of deliberate disbelief among the Afrikaaners too. All the english background white South Africans I have met seemed aware of at least rumours of murders and oppression of blacks. The Boers did not want to know.

  9. [58


    And then there is the whispering campaign against his CoS, the one person with a proven track record of controlling Abbott.]

    Considering they are duo, a campaign against Credlin is also a campaign against Abbott himself.

    He made some more very stupid remarks this week – first about Indonesia (almost unbelievably) and later about the auto industry, while his fumbling response to the passing of Mandela also attracted attention. He also told the Business Council they should not expect too much action from the Government. He basically admitted he has no plans and no will to act, and asked them to bully Labor on the carbon tax and the mining tax.

    His tenure is already proving to be a gathering failure.

  10. Steve777. 56

    Those are sensible conditions, but are why Holden is not saveable. Detroit will not agree to them. They have invested nothing more than what we have given them, or unpaid taxes, for many years. The fact is that making cars at Aussie wage rates is not economic unless in a heavily automated plant employing a small number of highly skilled technicians and engineers. They need to make high quality advanced cars that can be old for a premium price.

    Even then, the low skilled people on the current assembly line would not have a job. So, even if some Holden jobs survive in the long term, they will not be the same Holden jobs as those people are concerned about losing now.

    Qantas is different, and far more important. International Qantas is in trouble. Domestic Qantas is still a profitable business with a capable workforce. The management must go.

  11. briefly

    Credlin was successful in getting Abbott the top job. Their primary focus is to keep him there, and everyone else be damned.

  12. Eschertology ‏@Eschertology 2m
    @randlight will this govt Peta out?
    Hide conversation

    From one of my followers for your enjoyment

  13. AA

    [Is Abbott still residing in the AFP building?]

    Don’t know.

    The building was originally named ‘Pine Lodge’ and was a gambling casino much beloved of our federal politicians.

    When it was decided to raid it and close it down the coppers had to do lots of work to make sure no politicians were around.

  14. Socrates

    AIUI, manufacturing vehicles at under about 500,000 per annum is a marginal proposition. We have nothing like the domestic market to produce in those numbers and onsell a surplus to the region. Very few places do. Only about 17 out of 193 countries manufacture cars, and this number is shrinking.

  15. ABC:Joe Pineapples ‏@ResignInShame 10m
    “Once I was afraid, I was Petrafied,
    Kept thinking I could never live
    without you by my side…”


    My followers are really getting into the swing of Petrafied, lot more tweets along same line 😀

  16. CTar1

    Posted Sunday, December 8, 2013 at 10:27 am | Permalink


    Is Abbott still residing in the AFP building?

    Don’t know.

    Going back many years now when Abbott ran away from getting married, and had his ring the young lady for him, he went and hid in a seminary.

    Is he hiding again?

  17. YOU really do have to wonder which bright spark in the government’s brains trust thought it would be a good idea to reappoint Don Randall to the privileges committee which overseas how MPs use their expenses.

    In a rare moment of clear thinking, however, Randall took himself off the committee once the media reported his involvement.

    If the media hadn’t reported it, he would still be there

  18. “@tapbot_paul: He sees you when you’re sleeping
    He knows when you’re awake
    He knows if you’ve been bad or good

    You can’t spell Santa without NSA.”

  19. mari

    Saw a brilliant comment about Edinburgh that gave me a smile. The winds there a very lazy, they go through you rather than around.

  20. Guytar @73

    ‘Kevin Rudd Lies’ and ‘Julia Gillard Lies’ yield over a million results, but they each had 3 years as PM. Tony Abbott is getting close to that milestone after having been PM for only 3 months.

  21. Fran 68

    True. We do not have the scale, the cheap labour, cheap shipping, or the high tech (in auto terms) to compete. Our auto factories are old and small, having stupidly built one in each state in the days of interstate competition for industrial development. There is no concentration or agglomeration benefit either, with Holden and Toyota plants almost 1000 km apart. In Germany, Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Porsche are all within 200km of each other. They can swap parts, workers and technology easily. Maybe Toyota can survive with their hybrid production, but neither GM nor Toyota are keen to build the sort of cars here that most people want to buy.

    There has been so much bollocks written about saving the car industry. This includes gross exaggeration about the number of workers indirectly employed (most of whom have skills and will not all be unemployed) and about the economic benefits of keeping it. The jobs are few (<2000 at Elizabeth) and pay below the average wage. The valuable jobs (e.g. ford engineering centre) they intend to keep, and employ skilled people who could find work elsewhere anyway.

    When Mitsubishi closed in Adelaide in 2007 there was hardly a ripple in the local economy. The workers were paid out fully and most found new jobs, or retired. That would be the best outcome now, but it would mean a bunch of policies, and some policy positions, were useless.

    Will Elizabeth suffer if Holden closes? Yes. But I am not being callous. Elizabeth is already suffering in socio economic terms. It badly needs something other than Holden, whether Holden survives or not. The myth that unskilled men can find secure well paid jobs in manufacturing assembly lines on Australian wage levels needs to be killed. The solution is to retrain the men, and encourage their kids to stay at school till they are employable.

  22. “bill shorten lies” yields 2,810,000 results.

    I’m hoping you people aren’t reading too much into google search numbers.

  23. Fran

    Further to 81, there is a story here about the new factory Ford built in Thailand to build Focus models. The plant will build 150,000 Focus models a year, bringing total Ford production in Thailand to 450,000 cars a year. All the engineering work on this model was done by Ford’s team in Geelong (who are good) and the cars will be exported throughout the Asia Pacific region. But they will not be built here.

    Off to watch the cricket, have a good day all.

  24. Diog

    Seach results show where lies is connected to the person concerned mentioned in some way that google can connect to it.

    So no record of pub talk for example.

  25. [Possum Comitatus ‏@Pollytics 19h
    Johnson’s Ashes scorecard so far is 16 for 143 @ 8.94, and a strike rate of 20.8 balls!]

    And just got better this morning.

  26. confessions

    They are not scientific analysis like we get with polling results. They are reliable enough for advertisers to use.

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