Seat of the week: Gorton

Labor front-bencher Brendan O’Connor is securely ensconced in what remains Labor’s sixth safest seat, despite a 7.5% swing to the Liberals at last year’s election.

Red numbers indicate size of two-party majority for Labor. Click for larger image. Map boundaries courtesy of Ben Raue at The Tally Room.

Gorton is located at Melbourne’s strongly Labor-voting western edge, covering the rapidly growing fringe suburbs of Derrimut and Deer Park in the south, Caroline Springs and Kings Park in the centre and Hillside in the north, and from there extending westwards through semi-rural areas to the satellite town of Melton. The latter area was gained with the redistribution that took effect at the 2013 election, adding 32,000 voters who had previously been in Lalor. This was counterbalanced at the city end through transfers of 33,000 voters at Sydenham, Keilor and Taylors Lakes to Calwell in the north, 9000 west of the rail line in St Albans to Maribyrnong in the centre, and 13,000 in Ardeer and Sunshine West to Gellibrand in the south. This boosted the ample Labor margin of 22.2% to 23.6%, which was then cut at the election by a 7.5% swing to the Liberals.

The electorate was created at the previous redistribution ahead of the 2004 election in place of abolished Burke, which furnished it with 12,000 voters around Sydenham and also included Melton and areas beyond the city to the north. This area was covered by Corio prior to pre-war urbanisation and the expansion of parliament in 1949, after which it was accommodated by shifting aggregations of Lalor (created in 1949), Burke (1969) and Calwell (1984). With the exception of one defeat in Lalor at the Liberals’ statewide high water mark in 1966, each of these three seats has been won by Labor at every election since their creation. Gorton’s inaugural member was Brendan O’Connor, who had entered parliament as member for Burke in 2001. His exchange of the predominantly rural outskirts seats of Burke for one anchored in outer suburban Melbourne was a welcome development, boosting his margin from 5.5% to 20.2%.

O’Connor rose through Labor ranks as an official with the Australian Services Union with factional backing from the Ferguson Left, which is now more likely to be identified under its formal name of the Independent Left. He was promoted to shadow parliamentary secretary when Kevin Rudd became leader in December 2006 and then to the junior ministry after the 2007 election victory, serving first in employment participation, then in home affairs in June 2009. Justice was added to his workload after the 2010 election, and in December 2011 he was shifted to human services. O’Connor stood by factional colleague Julia Gillard during Rudd’s leadership challenges in February 2012 and June 2013, and won promotion to cabinet as Small Business Minister on the former occasion. Further promotion to the troublesome immigration portfolio followed in February 2013, and he did well to be moved to employment after Rudd assumed the leadership the following June. Since the September 2013 election defeat he has served in shadow cabinet in the employment and workplace relations portfolios.

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.

1,728 comments on “Seat of the week: Gorton”

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  1. poroti

    Talking about school chaplains not supposed to be proselytising Krauss said it was just like hiring circus clowns and telling them not to be funny.

  2. KM@1623. My impression is that swinging voters don’t care much about “egalitarianism”. They don’t like long term welfare recipients, don’t think boat people should be welcomed, don’t belong to or like unions, send their kids to private schools and aspire to be wealthy.

    Like their US counterparts, they believe that people who work hard should be rewarded more generously by society than people who don’t try: even if the latter have grounds for considering themselves to be victims.

    Where they differ from their US counterparts – and why Tea Party policies don’t really work here – is that, while they aspire to climb the greasy pole to the top, they want to be able to do so wearing the safety harness provided by things like Medicare, family tax benefits, government subsidies to tertiary education, etc, etc. Unlike the average US voter, they do not see these sorts of programs as intrinsically evil: they consider them to supplement, rather than undermine, individual initiative.

    This is why the current Budget is such a problem. Without even trying to prepare us for any of it, the Government has launched a full-blown Tea Party agenda in an electorate which by and large doesn’t share the Tea Party view of the world. The Government clearly thought that their mantras of “budget emergency” and “debt and deficit disaster” would be persuasive enough. But they weren’t.

    But don’t make the mistake of thinking that, when people jn swinging voterland tell pollsters they think the Budget is unfair, they mean this in any sense other than “unfair to me”. They fear paying more for health services, more for their kids’ education and that they’ll have reduced middle class welfare payments with which to pay for these things.

    As Chifley said, it’s all about the hip-pocket nerve.

  3. I have already turned off qanda.. the apologists for this government make me physically sick with their sloganeering and lying..

  4. Question about $248m chaplaincy programme and school autonomy. Answers have now been steered towards Labor debt and waste.

    You wonder how the Libs won the last election. They’re bloody relentless.

  5. [J

    My God Rowan Dean is a smug bastard…]

    Pls stop talking like Bernardi. One a night is too much, already.

  6. AA@1631: it’s crazy crap whoever says it, be that Joh Bjelke, Peter Beattie, Bob Katter, Kevin Rudd, Barnaby Joyce, Tony Abbott or whoever.

    I can’t think of a better way to waste taxpayers’ money than on the Northern Myth. From Port Essington to the Ord River to the Alice to Darwin railway. Waste, waste, waste.

  7. Boerwar is right ML. Ask PM Abbott. If no answer, refer Treasurer Hockey … if you can find him. Add that to what Pyne says, divide by two and double it.

  8. ….just seems passing strange to me.

    It appears Abbott is spooked by the bad publicity for his budget and wants to be popular.

    Rudd shows how dangerous that attitude is in a leader.

  9. [BK
    Posted Monday, June 2, 2014 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    What a crashing bore is Rowan Dean!]

    Like many a drunk at a party, he is fascinated by the sound of his own voice. He also laughs at his own jokes.

  10. @Mod Lib/1672

    I think a quiet few people on PB ages ago suggesting that we need to get rid of both Rudd and Abbott…

  11. Boerwar
    Dean reckons that Turnbull ought to be in the Labor Party]
    Unlike Tones who actually voted for Labor ? 🙂

  12. It appears Abbott is spooked by the bad publicity for his budget and wants to be popular.

    I guess we are all allowed to dream. I think he’s lost his chance ML. It’s hard to recover when you’ve made such an impression you get John Oliver taking pot shots – not the popularity I think he was looking for.

  13. BK@1585

    I’m happy to talk about a political death for Abbott but that’s where it stops.

    I prefer the Harold Hold Chinese Submarine option. 😉

    But I doubt they would want him.

  14. Boerwar

    [Bernardi does not consider himself part of the Government?

    Another LNPer deploying a barge pole to keep Tones at an appropriate distance ?

  15. confessions@1595


    F*ckers could pitch the mother of all ever-loving fits for all I care. I want to hagiograph or whatever about Abbott’s govt, then no Liberal boxhead will prevent me from doing so.

    Sorry if that offends some, but just throwing that out there in light of the conversation.

    Well that post establishes one thing quite clearly. You haven’t got a clue what hagiography is.

  16. p
    I think he was trying to say that because he was not in Cabinet he was not bound by Cabinet solidarity.

    But who really knows what goes on in his head? The chap’s a religous nutter.

  17. Rowan Dean completely ignores all questions and goes straight to DEBT BAD in his response.

    Every time.

    Ask him his favourite ice cream and he will mention debt.

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