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”

Comments Page 32 of 33
1 31 32 33
  1. I would have thought that if he declines, or is unable to give further evidence, considering that Gillard’s and Wilson’s barristers did not have time to contest or cross-examine his evidence, it should be thrown out altogether.

  2. Someone was asking the other week how Howard and Costello’s first budget was reported. Troy Bramston has the front pages of The Australian for the following budgets:

    1978 – Howard’s first Budget

    Headline “It’s Revolting”

    1983 – Keating’s first Budget

    Headline “Keating’s mild Budget”

    1996 – Costello’s first budget

    Headline – “Costello punts on cuts, tax”

    2008 – Swan’s first budget

    Headline – “Swan lite on inflation”

    Somehow I doubt we will see a “It’s Revolting” from the Oz for tonight’s budget.

  3. Madcyril

    [Besides, I like The Bill. Well at least the episodes from the 1980′s and early 1990′s. Twas a fine show back then.]

    Agree – better shown when the detectives looked like they enjoyed a bit of hard living rather than self-grooming

  4. Blewitt was the big brave bloke who was going to lift the lid off shenanigans in the AWU, and throw himself on the mercy of the Court as a sacrifice for all the bad things he’d done in his life.

    After turning up virtually unannounced and now, it seems, squibbing cross-examination (where the barristers today may not be as kind to him as yesterday’s Counsel Assisting was), he deserves little or no credibility.

  5. BB Brilliant comeback. Took liberty of sending link to Labor pollie, hope you don’t mind

    Bill Shorten just made lovely comments about Neville Wran

  6. [“Costello punts on cuts, tax”]


    You wouldn’t want to have had few vinos and try to say that one, would you!

  7. Meanwhile at ICAC

    You’re lying thru your teeth, aren’t you? Tim Koelma is doggedly sticking to the line his firm 8×5 was a ridgey didge media&PR company #icac

  8. No,no,no,no,no, says The Commish about Koelma’s various versions of how he came to be involved with the Tinkler Group #icac

  9. [
    Agree – better shown when the detectives looked like they enjoyed a bit of hard living rather than self-grooming


    Yes indeed. It certainly had a feel of gritty realism to it back then.

  10. Did you think the horses were developing properties? asks Watson about the use of Tinkler’s horse stud to hide payments from Buildev #icac

  11. “@AustralianLabor: “The PM promised… ‘No cuts…’ How can the Australian people trust anything the PM has to say?” @billshortenmp #auspol #qt”

  12. There is also a difference between asking those questions privately because you’re genuinely curious about the answer, and projecting those “questions” publicly (aka insinuating) when you already have an answer designed into a budget you’re about to release.

  13. from the UK

    the rise of the UKIP is scary – I guess here the LNP has morphed into a far right party in rhetoric if not in practice (xenophobia but immigrant numbers un-changed; nationalistic, but signing free trade agreements as though they’ll benefit australia; etc). on a plus side, the lib-dems will not go near the tories again if they side with UKIP. i am surprised the Lib Dems are polling so well – Labour must be stuffing up bad or be facing the same murdochshite our progressive parties face.

  14. @1565

    Obviously again you don’t.

    I been in the Centerlink system since John Howard time, same bullshit they throw out then, then is it now.

    These guys have NFI and just pushing their ideology BS on us. It is a mistake to take anything what Andrews or anyone else for that matter, because what they say and do are totally different.

  15. Blewitt now being asked by Wilson’s lawyer how he has sustained himelf financially since he left the Union.

    Blewitt asks, “Do I have to answer this Your Honour?”

  16. “@AustralianLabor: “The PM promised… “No change to pensions…” How can the OZ people trust anything this PM says?” @billshortenmp #auspol #qt”

    Seems Labor going to hammer Abbott on broken promises as much as Abbott did Gillard. Good I say.

  17. [1546

    Thanks you for your work in this area. Can be very unrewarding and soul destroying stuff.

    Your comments remind me of an infamous legal case a few years back in Sydney involving one of those obnoxious medicos-for-hire (a psychiatrist in this case), whose attitude to disability was scathingly dismissed by an appeal judge as something like ‘requiring all four limbs to be missing in order to qualify for a claim’.

  18. Blewitt asked to step outside the courtroom,and indeed be confined to a room without a live feed of the Commission, while Wilson’s brief explains to Heydon just why she’s so interested in Blewitt’s finances.

    Hmmm… sounds like something interesting coming up…

  19. [“Costello punts on cuts, tax”


    You wouldn’t want to have had few vinos and try to say that one, would you!]

    BB – I had the same thought (as well as a mental image of costello wearing an interesting looking hat)

  20. LOL
    Blewitt has been taken to a room while someone explains why she wants to pursue a line of questioning about why he REALLY shifted to Indonesia.


    Read the first paragraph:

    “But spending on the disability support pension is projected to grow only 2.8 per cent, spending on unemployment benefits only 1.1 per cent, while spending on family tax benefits is expected to slide in real terms even before any budget cutbacks.”

    “Even the age pension is only expected to increase in cost by 4.7 per cent a year above the rate of inflation.”

    “The really big drivers of government spending are childcare and paid parental leave, whose costs are set to soar 14 per cent a year above the rate of inflation; hospitals, whose costs are set to soar 11.7 per cent; and carers payments whose costs are set to soar 10.2 per cent a year.”

    Tony Abbott’s own policies cost more than the current policies!

  22. If you want the questions but not the answers Australian Labor is tweeting the Labor ones.

    Also looks like Bob Katter is getting a question soon

  23. Heydon is worried about questioning Blewitt’s motivations.

    We’re starting to get controversial here. Wilson’s lawyer is suggesting that there may be some financial funny business going on and that Blewitt’s motives may be be pure of heart.

Comments Page 32 of 33
1 31 32 33

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *