Seats of the week: Kooyong and Higgins

A double dose of the Liberal Party’s inner eastern Melbourne heartland, encompassing the seats held by Josh Frydenberg and Kelly O’Dwyer.


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

Presently covering Melbourne’s affluent inner east from Kew and Hawthorn eastwards to Balwyn North and Camberwell, Kooyong has been held by the prevailing conservative forces of the day without interruption since its creation at federation, including by Robert Menzies throughout his 31-year career in federal parliament. The seat has had only seven members in its long history, of whom the first two were William Knox and Robert Best, the latter succeeding the former in 1910. Best was defeated as Nationalist candidate at the 1922 election by conservative independent John Latham, who ran in opposition to the prime ministership of Billy Hughes. With that end accomplished by an election that left the anti-Hughes Country Party holding the balance of power, Latham in time joined the Nationalists and served as Attorney-General in Stanley Bruce’s government from 1925 until its defeat in 1929. Bruce’s loss of his seat of Flinders at that election saw Latham emerge as Opposition Leader, but the defeat of the Labor government two years later was effected when Joseph Lyons led Labor defectors into a merger with conservative forces as the United Australia Party, with Latham agreeing to serve as Lyons’s deputy. Latham served as Attorney-General and External Affairs Minister in the Lyons government from 1931 until his retirement at the 1934 election, and a year later was appointed Chief Justice of the High Court.

Latham’s successor as both member for Kooyong and Attorney-General was Robert Menzies, who had been a state parliamentarian since 1928 and Deputy Premier since 1932. Menzies ascended to the prime minister after Joseph Lyons’ death in April 1939, serving for two years as the nation’s wartime leader before resigning in August 1941 after losing the support of his cabinet colleagues. Following Labor’s landslide win at the 1943 election, Menzies returned to the leadership of the United Australia Party which had been held in the interim by Billy Hughes, and brought fragmented conservative forces together a year later under the new banner of the Liberal Party. Two elections later he led the party to a resounding victory, commencing an epic 16-year tenure as prime minister from December 1949 until his retirement in January 1966.

Menzies was succeeded in Kooyong at an April 1966 by-election by Andrew Peacock, who went on to serve as a senior minister in Malcolm Fraser’s government from 1975 until April 1981, when he unsuccessfully challenged Fraser for the leadership. He briefly returned to the ministry from November 1982 until the election defeat the following March, after which he defeated John Howard in the ballot for the party leadership. Despite leading the party to an honourable defeat at the December 1984 election, he was obliged to surrender the leadership the following September after a bungled attempt to force Howard out as deputy. A party room coup returned him to the leadership in May 1989, but he failed to win the March 1990 election despite securing for the Coalition a narrow majority of the two-party preferred vote. He then relinquished the leadership to John Hewson, and served in the shadow ministry until his retirement from politics in November 1994.

The seat’s next member for Petro Georgiou, who as member for so prestigious a seat was generally assumed to have a career as a heavy-hitter ahead of him. However, he instead emerged as a permanent back-bencher and a thorn in the side of the Howard government, particularly in relation to his liberal views on asylum seekers. Georgiou retired at the 2010 election and was succeeded by Josh Frydenberg, a banker and former adviser to Alexander Downer and John Howard who had earlier challenged Georgiou for preselection in 2007. Frydenberg won the 2010 preselection with the backing of the Michael Kroger faction, while rivals associated with the then state Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu initially backed John Roskam, the director of the Institute of Public Affairs. However, Roskam declined to run and instead threw his weight behind industrial relations lawyer John Pesutto, whom Frydenberg defeated in the final round by 283 votes to 239. Frydenberg was promoted to parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister after the September 2013 election victory.


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

Held by the Liberals since its creation in 1949, Higgins owes its blue-ribbon status to the affluence of Toorak and suburbs further to the east, including Glen Iris and Malvern. Prahran in the electorate’s west provides a strong basis of support for Labor and the Greens, while Carnegie and Ashburton in the south-east are naturally marginal. At the time of the electorate’s creation the Toorak end was accommodated by Fawkner, which prior to 1949 had boundaries resembling those of Higgins today. Higgins assumed its present character when Fawkner was abolished at the 1969 election. The seat’s inaugural member was Harold Holt, who had previously been member for Fawkner since 1935. Holt remained in the seat until his disappearance in December 1967, at which point it was used to parachute Senator John Gorton into the the lower house to enable him to assume the prime ministership. Gorton stayed on for two elections after being deposed as Prime Minister in March 1971, before indulging in a quixotic bid to win one of the Australian Capital Territory’s newly acquired Senate seats as an independent in 1975. Roger Shipton subsequently held the seat until 1990, achieving prominence only in 1988 when he stood firm against maverick businessman John Elliott’s designs on his seat. Shipton stared down Elliott only to lose preselection to Peter Costello, who was at no stage troubled in Higgins through his 11 frustrating years as Treasurer and Liberal deputy.

On the morning after the November 2007 election defeat, Costello made the surprise announcement that he would not assume the leadership. Speculation that he might later do so lingered until October 2009, when he announced his resignation from parliament. The Liberals had at this time just completed their preselection for the following election, which was won by Kelly O’Dwyer, a National Australia Bank executive who had earlier spent four years as an adviser to Costello. O’Dwyer was chosen ahead of Toorak businessman Andrew Abercrombie by 222 votes to 112, with candidates earlier falling by the wayside including Tim Wilson, then a policy director at the Institute of Public Affairs and now a Human Rights Commissioner, and the IPA’s executive director John Roskam, whose bid reportedly suffered from an article he wrote for The Punch which had put Costello’s nose out of joint. Tony Abbott said in April 2011 that O’Dwyer was “knocking hard on the door of that Shadow Cabinet”, but she is nonetheless yet to have won promotion.

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.

1,620 comments on “Seats of the week: Kooyong and Higgins”

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  1. Good morning Dawn Patrollers and especially all you mothers.
    More leakage from Manus Island for Morriscum to refuse to comment on.
    Medicare changes to prompt ill feeling.
    The ambulance crisis in Victoria continues to simmer.
    I can’t wait to see what the cartoonists do with this.
    More immigration lawyer blacklists emerge. Will there be blacklists coming for doctors with the DSP crackdown?
    “Reassuring” words from Mr Grecian 2000.
    Abbott to descend into tokenism.
    Some introspection by Rolf Harris.
    Mission accomplished, one would think!

  2. I’m no kind of spiritualist, but this quote from the Dalai Lama on what surprised him most about humanity seems as poetic as it is fair:

    [Man surprises me most about humanity. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
    Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”]

  3. fran

    …which seems to support my suspicion that the man can spout all the tosh he wants and someone will stick it on a poster and admire it for its inner deepness…

  4. Indeed. Recently, Psephos pointed out that the character, Smith, was gay. That had not occurred to me when I watched the show, but then, at 14 or so I had no strong conception of gayness, and did’t watch the show much after about 1972-3.

    He was a kind of cardboard cutout villain.

  5. [Today the work of Robert and William Nordhaus is profoundly shaping how the United States and other nations take on global warming.

    Bill Nordhaus, 72, a Yale economist who is seen as a leading contender for a Nobel Prize, came up with the idea of a carbon tax and effectively invented the economics of climate change. Bob, 77, a prominent Washington energy lawyer, wrote an obscure provision in the Clean Air Act of 1970 that is now the legal basis for a landmark climate change regulation, to be unveiled by the White House next month, that could close hundreds of coal-fired power plants and define President Obama’s environmental legacy.
    . . .
    The two have a friendly rivalry, but both believe that cutting carbon pollution is crucial to protecting the environment and the economy from the risks posed by climate change. They also agree on the best way to do it: A Bill-style carbon tax, they say, would be far more effective and efficient than a Bob-style regulation.]

  6. Huge sacrifice by Tone and co. A pay freeze will prove that they are doing some “heavy lifting” too. Those whose benefits and pensions are going to be cut wouldn’t mind a “freeze”.

  7. You learn things all the time. Kipling was a Nobel Laureate – literature.

    If he wrote the same things today he would have to self-publish for his Tea Party readership.

  8. Zoomster

    […which seems to support my suspicion that the man can spout all the tosh he wants and someone will stick it on a poster and admire it for its inner deepness…]

    That’s true. There’s no telling what will speak to each of us. I don’t regard it as deep — more the sort of thing that one might find on one of those old desktop calendars that were once a feature of my life.

    Nevertheless, there’s some truth amidst the rather felicitous antimetabole.

  9. lizzie

    The real question is why politicians will be able to access their superannuation before they turn 70.

  10. The DL’s words are a statement of fact. That is what most surprises him.

    What continues to suprise me about humanity is that anyone gives a toss about what theocrats think.

  11. [Acland coal mine: Company seeking mine expansion donated $700,000 to LNP, federal Liberal Party
    Lateline By the National Reporting Team’s Mark Willacy
    Updated Sat 10 May 2014, 8:43am AEST

    Landholders on Queensland’s Darling Downs say they are fighting a losing battle to stop a huge mine expansion on prime farming country because the company behind the project is a massive donor to the conservative side of politics.

    The mining group New Hope wants to expand its coal mine at Acland, west of Toowoomba, taking the operation’s output from 4.8 million tonnes to 7.5 million tonnes per year.

    It will also increase the mine’s water consumption to 9 billion litres per year, in an area that has recently been drought declared.]

  12. From the same link.

    [The ABC revealed that farmer Garry Reed faces financial ruin after losing a legal battle to stop the diversion of Coral Creek, with the Queensland Land Court awarding costs against him.

    QCoal’s owner, the reclusive billionaire Chris Wallin, is one of the Queensland LNP’s biggest donors.]

  13. KB

    Thank you, as always. I was particularly taken with the murderous stupidity of the GunFail link. My favourite sentence?

    ‘What has been ruled out is defect with the holster.’

    We can only imagine what really happened.

  14. Alan Jones – Heather Brown | 2GB
    Continuing from yesterday’s thread

    I really really can’t stand Jones… he is about nothing except self interest ( even in this case, because this is a coal mines in the area he grew up in)…. non the less it’s great to see him turn on Newman & some Fed Libs… Abbott even?

    However I think he will ensure Abbott will be able to plead… “Thanks Alan ….I didn’t know about that”..

  15. Damn it, it must be 8 am (ish).

    fran —

    my kids watch a crime show on TV at the moment (hmmm, so do I…it’s not like I’m bound and gagged and propped on the couch..) which usually starts and ends with one of the cast doing a voice over and solemnly entoning something like “Man is man’s greatest enemy – Sigmund Freud.”

    I have taken to imitating the same tone of voice and saying things like ‘”I’ll have a coffee” – Bob Dylan’ and ‘Sorry, can’t talk now” – Hillary Clinton.’

  16. On Australian Agenda, spear carrier Paul Kelly tries to do some of the heavy lifting that Hockey and Abbott have urged that we, the citizen, must do by making the Menzies House mandated case for the Budget cuts and new taxes.

  17. Wall to wall News Ltd Coalition apologists are duly lining up next to PvO on Australian Agenda to sing from the approved song book – shrill, hollow and tuneless.

  18. [Sir StanDeSteam ‏@StanSteam2 1m
    Joe Hockey on Mother’s Day
    Matt Golding cartoon via @theage #auspol #corruption #Budget2014 #MothersDay ]

  19. Good Morning

    ************************EUROVISION SPOILER***************************

    “@abcnews: #BREAKING: Austria’s Conchita Wurst wins the Eurovision song contest.”

    A big defeat for Russian intolerance. Outvoted.

  20. Jamie Briggs, Assistant Infrastructure Minister, seems to be voiced by nothing more than a platitude generator. I haven’t heard so many motherhood statements and cliches packed into a few minutes of regurgitated pap since …. well, the most recent Hockey press conference.


    [The $30 billion airport to the north of İstanbul is being constructed in a forest and wetland area. However, this region is used as a resting place by migrant birds travelling between Europe and Africa. The birds rest and feed there and then continue their journey. If the government doesn’t abandon its insistence on constructing the airport, despite all the warnings from environmentalists who are concerned about the negative impacts the airport might have on the natural environment of this forested location, an important migratory route for billions of birds will be blocked. If this happens, İstanbul’s third airport will be responsible for a massive number of migratory birds’ deaths.
    . . .
    BirdLife International works in cooperation with civil society organizations in 180 countries around the world. It is highly respected in terms of nature protection through its influential activities in the world. It prepares the most reliable lists of endangered species in cooperation with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

    The president of the nature conservation network, Hazell Thompson, told Sunday’s Zaman that the birds, which know no limits, migrate between continents and serve as a source of balance in nature, adding: “They take the overbreeding of animals such as insects, caterpillars and mites under control. By scattering seeds and pollen around, they contribute to the production of plants such as cereals, vegetables and fruits, which are of great importance for people. We can say that when birds flap their wings less, people have less food and face various problems, such as disease. Anything that is good for birds is also good for people.”
    . . .
    it is more rational to expand an existing airport instead of constructing a new larger one, both in terms of its negative effects on nature and the financial burden it will bring to the state. ]

  22. Do I dare flip over to ‘Insiders’ at 9am and risk raising my blood pressure to dangerous levels? I don’t expect anything put partisan bias from Sky News, but from our ABC?

    ‘Expect,’ yes, but experience tells me that systemic ABC incompetence, rather than real bias, mitigates against anything of substance being raised by the likes of Fran Kelly.

  23. Happy Mothers day

    Its a bad budget for Australia. Good for Labor and the Greens as the narrative has been lost by the LNP.

    Yesterday was a bad look especially as disability advocate in his wheelchair defended those on the DSP

  24. The Big Ship

    I have noticed that since the first words I heard him utter. His talents lie only in regurgitating Tony’s mantras, accompanied by a smug smirk which demands a smack in the moosh.

  25. Jeezus that footage of Hockey and Cormann chuffing on cigars looks way more worse than the still photos.

    A terrible look!

  26. The egregious Stutchbury, Mark Kenny and Dennis Atkins … not what I’d call an overly balanced panel on Insiders.

  27. … although on the plus side, at least we don’t have to put up with the sourfaced Niki Savva or Gerard Henderson.

  28. “@ABCNews24: .@BowenChris: There’s a yawning gap between the Abbott Govt’s pre-election rhetoric & post election reality #Insiders #budget2014 #auspol”

  29. @ABCNews24: .@BowenChris: Tony Abbott should be held to his own test, he said the trust deficit was the most important #Insiders #budget2014 #auspol

  30. As expected, Fran Kelly cherry picks parts from recent polls saying that 50% of respondents say they would support the idea of a Deficit Levy, while failing to quote the more important point from the same polling that 60% of these respondents consider the same Deficit Levy is a broken promise.

  31. “@ABCNews24: .@BowenChris: A charge to go to a GP is a breach of a fundamental principle, your health should not be determined by your wealth #budget2014”

  32. [8
    Fran Barlow

    He was a kind of cardboard cutout villain.]

    As I recollect, his general mischief-making – stemming from irredeemable selfishness, deviousness, submission to temptation, lies and cowardice – were responsible for driving the plots. Smith served as a kind of anti-hero – the stowaway, the outcast and the self-pitying trouble-maker. The cardboard cut-outs were usually the goodies, while the robot had the ability to sense trouble and, apparently because it was a machine with human-like qualities, also had an extra-real capacity for selfless, courageous, decisive and inspired action.

  33. “@ABCNews24: .@BowenChris: Our energy will be used defending the conditions of average Australians #Insiders #budget2014 #auspol”

  34. morning all


    The reports you posted are related in part to the Alan Jones interview he conducted with heather Brown. There are more insidious links fhat are exposed. As i said last night, i cant stand Alan jones and he obviously doing this as a result of self interest. But what he details in his rant, are mind boggling

  35. Stutchbury getting himself into a spluttering tangle as he toes the Coalition line and tries to defend the indefensible.

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