Seat of the week: Corio

Once an electoral bellwether to rival Eden-Monaro, the Geelong-based seat of Corio has been in Labor hands since 1967, and is today held securely by Shadow Immigration Minister Richard Marles.

Geelong has been the focal point of the electorate of Corio since it was created at federation, its name being derived from the bay on which the city is situated. However, it originally extended northwards to encompass areas beyond Melbourne’s limits including Sunbury, Melton and Bacchus Marsh, became more strongly focused on Geelong after the expansion of parliament in 1949. The continuing growth of Geelong has been such that the its south-western suburbs of Highton, Belmont and Grovedale are now accommodated by Corangamite, a once rurally oriented and safe Liberal seat that has more lately been highly marginal. Corio nonetheless extends south to cover the Bellarine Peninsula, and north to encompass Lara 20 kilometres to Geelong’s north.

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

Now a safe seat for Labor, Corio was a litmus test electorate early in its life, having changed hands along with government in 1910 (to Labor), 1913 (to Liberal), 1914 (to Labor), 1917 (to the Nationalists), 1929 (to Labor) and 1931 (to the United Australia Party). It fell to Labor ahead of schedule at a 1940 by-election after Richard Casey was appointed ambassador to the United States (he would return to parliament in 1949 as member for La Trobe), a result that played a crucial role in Bob Menzies’ defeat on the floor of parliament the following year. Cycling hero Hubert Opperman recovered the seat for the Liberals with the 1949 election win, eventually serving as Immigration Minister before taking up a diplomatic post in 1967. Bob Hawke unsuccessfully contested the seat for Labor in 1963, and newly arrived Labor leader Gough Whitlam encouraged him to do so again when Opperman departed mid-term in 1967. Hawke preferred to pursue his designs on the ACTU presidency at that time, and the by-election was won for Labor by engine driver Gordon Scholes, in an early electoral success for Whitlam. Scholes consolidated his hold over time, managing to survive by just 20 votes in 1975, and the seat had become fairly safe for Labor by the time he retired in 1993.

The next member was Gavan O’Connor, who rose to the front bench in 1998 but became increasingly imperilled as local Labor branches fell under the control of the Right. This enabled ACTU assistant secretary Richard Marles to unseat him at a preselection vote held in March 2006, winning 57% of the local party vote. O’Connor registered his displeasure by running as an independent, complaining that Kevin Rudd – who had not in fact been leader at the time – had told him he lacked the power to prevent Marles’s union backers from rolling him. O’Connor managed only 12.7% of the vote, with the Labor vote falling only 1.2% and increasing by 3.3% on two-party preferred. Without the complication of O’Connor in 2010, and with Labor performing well across the state, Marles added 5.3% to his margin, before a 5.7% correction in 2013 reduced it to its present level of 7.7%.

Marles was quickly promoted to parliamentary secretary in June 2009, but took a further four years to attain ministerial rank. After remaining in the Julia Gillard camp during Kevin Rudd’s first leadership challenge in February 2012, Marles came out in support for Rudd during his abortive second bid a year later. He resigned as parliamentary secretary when the challenge failed to eventuate, joining an exodus that also included Chris Bowen, Martin Ferguson, Kim Carr and Simon Crean. When Rudd succeeded in toppling Gillard in June, he won promotion to cabinet as Trade Minister, a position that had been vacated by the resignation of Craig Emerson. Since the 2013 election defeat he has held the position of Shadow Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.

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.

1,790 comments on “Seat of the week: Corio”

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  1. Good morning Dawn Patrollers.

    Who’s pulling the council’s strings I wonder?
    In a sobering article Peter Hartcher asks if the Lucky Country’s luck is running out.
    Abbott set to pull the trigger on war. Here we go again.
    Jacqui Maley writes about this latest excursion and how Abbott has communicated on it.
    Boots and all. It will be a long war.
    UK bombing to start within hours after the government approves action in Iraq.
    Katharine Murphy has a very good look at her industry and herself in the wake of this week’s shocking performance by the media on local
    The Saturday Paper has a good and thorough piece on “Inside the terror of the suburbs.
    Peter Wicks – Welcome to the Terrordome.
    The New Matilda on the Australian media’s demonisation of Muslims.

  2. Section 2 . . .

    Who’d want to be a sailor?
    Is it any surprise it has come to this?
    Our climate change stance savaged at the UN summit.
    Our new security laws explained.
    Jack Waterford – political oversight of ASIO has not succeeded on creating public confidence.
    Morrison’s role could be beefed up to include anti-terror activities. OMFG!
    Lindsay Murdoch – Morrison’s diplomatic embarrassment.
    Michael Gordon – radicalisation is a challenge to us all and must be fought with inclusivity.
    NSW Liberals in limbo as ICAC prepares its report.
    Mike Seccombe examines the huge growth of internet betting and the lack of political will to manage it.

  3. [There’s that passive voice so beloved of Bushfire Bill. Should be pushed by whom? I’m pretty confident that he means, but knows he cannot say, the very papers he’s writing the column for. Who, as Mark Colvin noted today, had a fair bit to say about such matters not so very long ago.]

    Being quoted by William in a manner in which I am perhaps not necessarily depicted as moronic by him is a rare treat for me, so let me comment and offer a resolution to the News Corp Paradox.

    News Corp is commonly in receipt of “Exclusive” leaks. In some cases they print material even before the relevant minister knows about it.

    What if they continue to be the beneficiary of such largesse, except this time in the area of secret squirrel business. Only News Corp could print it. Presumably the government wouldn’t prosecute them if it was the government that leaked to them in the first place.

    Fairfax couldn’t even comment on the material.

    Voila! News Corp becomes more like the Australian version of Pravda than ever before.

    It could all be covered by a sham press release after the fact, or an artificially-imposed embargo to retrospectively make it all legit, but by that time the story would have moved on and any coverage by other news organizations would be too late to sell extra papers.

    Just sayin’….

  4. At least William can actually recognise the passive voice…

    The poor old passive voice gets such a bad press. It is spoken about as if its only function is to obscure agency, but sometimes agency doesn’t actually matter (see what I did there) and it has many other functions as well.

    Not every obscuring of agency is through the passive voice and not every use of the passive voice is about obscuring agency.

  5. Gosh, we’re doing well in foreign affairs – condemned by world leaders for our stance on climate, criticised by the UNHCR and Amnesty for the deal with Cambodia…

    Just as well we’re prepared to bomb a few people, or we wouldn’t have any friends at all.

  6. frednk

    just to make it all worse for you, Labor stood by in silence because these were basically the laws it started working on when Roxon was A-G.

  7. I see the Greens are out and about doing what they better than anyone: ‘Holier Than Thou’.

    They even let Hanson-Young out for a righteous whinge.

    It is jsut as well that the Greens can’t actually do anything: we would not have a navy or an airforce.

  8. Good Morning


    I highly doubt Nicola Roxon was going to jail journalists for ten years. From reports that was an amendment Palmer extracted from Abbott.

  9. I was down the beach earlier in the week and there were some muslims there and, you might find this difficult to believe, let alone understand:


    Actually the kids were just running around having kids’ beach fun and the adults were paddling in the surf wash.

  10. Morning all.

    Thanks BK for today’s reading. Murphy’s column is laughable in a 20/20 hindsight way.

    [I don’t think we can avoid the reality that these two eventualities are connected. There’s a harsh truth sitting before journalists and their employers this weekend, and it’s this: people don’t support us when we very much need our community mandate because, too often, we fail our readers and viewers and listeners. We often hurl some very hard truths at others, in fact we pride ourselves on it. It’s about time we joined a couple of dots in order to hurl a few back at ourselves.]

    Well, yes. As many outside the traditional mainstream media have been saying for a while now. MSM is no longer the only source of news and information for people.

    It’s a bit rich for Australia’s media to be whining about curtailed press freedoms (as it did with Labor’s media laws) when our media has chosen to use those freedoms to report inane, irrelevant and meaningless trivialities, all the while telling its readers that this is the kind of crap that’s important.

    You limit or take away those ‘freedoms’ and suddenly the media recognises when it had a good thing. Too late now I’m afraid.

  11. The Turks are stopping Turkish Kurds from joining Syrian Kurds who are fighting ethnic cleansing of Syrian Kurds by DAESH.

    I did think that Turkey was part of Abbott’s Coalition or whether it has joined the Coalition of the Generally Unwilling and Unconcerned.

  12. It appears that the story of the Leading Seaman (equivalent in rank to a corporal) about being harassed and assaulted by “men of Middle Eastern appearance” did not pass the laugh test in senior naval circles.

    It was noted that, at 41, the man was pretty advanced in years for the rank he held, indicating there may be more to his background than meets the eye.

    Waiting to arrive at Kings Cross station (near Garden Island naval base, where he worked), after travelling from Bella Vista (in Sydney’s far north west) was also regarded as odd.

    This is apparently why his story was examined closely and, when it was shown to have little substance, produced an apology from the ADF.

    Interesting too that the man who wielded a knife publicly in a Muslim school has not been detained by terrorism authorities, but simply by the regular police.

    He was charged with “attempting to commit an indictable offence”, not “attempting to commit a terrorist act” (or whatever).

    If he had been a Muslim, one wonders whether the charges would have been different.

  13. Bw

    [I see the Greens are out and about doing what they better than anyone: ‘Holier Than Thou’.]

    Steady on there, old boy!

    In 2042 DTT has declared that the Greens will be in government.

    You’ll be sent off to be ‘re-educated’ at their facility in S-W Tasmania. The course will consist of being made to climb trees and sitting quietly under bushes at the rear of the facility.

    If I was you I’d pack a rut sack now.

  14. So Tony Abbott did have some real business in NY after all.

    To get a pat on the head, and receive more instructions.

    Tony Abbott has made time in his busy schedule at the United Nations in New York to dine with media mogul Rupert Murdoch, chairman of Twenty-First Century Fox and News Corp.

    The Prime Minister, once an employee of News Corp, and Mr Murdoch met on Thursday night. The pair also had dinner when the Prime Minister was last in New York, in June. Mr Abbott’s office declined to divulge where the pair dined this time.]

  15. The only thing I will predict about 2042 is that if I’m still alive, I will turn 84.

    I’d like to think that a qualitatively better alternative to the LNP had become the major rival to it here, but wishful thinking and insight are not at all the same thing.

  16. “@PaulBongiorno: Labor’s support of the latest batch of terror laws is frightening. At least Abbott pretended in Opposition to believe in our freedom.”

    [Baird government bruised by ICAC but still comfortably ahead
    September 27, 2014 – 12:15AM
    Sean Nicholls
    Sydney Morning Herald State Political Editor

    Revelations about illegal political donations and the resignation of two MPs and a premier during sensational corruption hearings appear to have taken a toll on the Baird government, wiping three points off its primary vote.

    But the latest Essential poll also shows that despite the scandals, the Coalition retains a comfortable lead over Labor six months from the next state election.

    The Coalition leads Labor 53 per cent to 47 per cent on a two party preferred basis – a swing of almost 11 per cent away from the government compared with the March 2011 election result.

    Support for the Greens is at steady at 8 per cent, with independents and others up three points to 13 per cent.

    While it is an encouraging result for the ALP, it would still deliver the Baird government a comfortable victory if repeated at the election next year.

    The Coalition primary vote has fallen three points to 44 per cent from the Essential poll taken in March.]

  18. Read more:

    [It was Bill Shorten who perhaps best captured the dimensions of what unfolded when he addressed Parliament the day after the violence, to express sorrow and empathy for the injured police officers, their families and the residents of Endeavour Hills. “The young man who died, Numan Haider, had a family too,” the Opposition leader said. “In their grief they will be asking themselves, ‘How did it come to this?’ What drove the boy they loved to this desperate end?”

    It is a question police, politicians, religious leaders and community groups have been tackling in different ways for more than a decade, with considerable success, but one that is made much more challenging by the reach and sophistication of groups such as IS.

    Ahmet Polat, executive director of the Australian Intercultural Society, says social media has made it easy for the radical narratives of IS to bypass religious and institutional safeguards and target the angry and the isolated.

    But he cites other factors that encourage radicalisation. “Australian Muslims in comparison to the general public have higher education but there is more unemployment, especially in the youth segment,” he says, adding that the rise of youth gangs and concern about the suffering of Muslims around the world are also contributing factors.

    “Addressing discrimination in the workforce, which is one of the main the reasons for high unemployment rate for Muslim youth, is important,” Polat says. “Encouraging businesses and non-government organisations to employ Muslims can be an effective solution.”

    Other responses build on work already done: the training and nurturing of local imams; encouraging good role models; developing and transmitting faith-based messages to counter those from the likes of IS; addressing Islamphobia in the wider community; identifying earlier those at risk of radicalisation.]

    A good article….very good.

  19. briefly,

    Indeed a good piece by Gordon.

    I suppose the message is that assimilation of Muslims into the Australian ethos is the answer. This is the same process that seems to have occurred whenever new waves of immigrants have arrived in Australia.

    The first generation find it difficult because of language and social conventions. The next generation are usually troubled because they are brought up according to old traditions which are irrelevant to what they see going around them and struggle with education and work opportunities. Eventually, they intermingle with the Skips and become part of the amorphous society we call OZ.

    Time and patience seems to be the answer.

  20. But he cites other factors that encourage radicalisation. “Australian Muslims in comparison to the general public have higher education but there is more unemployment, especially in the youth segment,” he says, adding that the rise of youth gangs and concern about the suffering of Muslims around the world are also contributing factors.

    So much of that suffering is the result of different sections (for example Shi’te vs Sunni)of Islam attacking other Muslims.

  21. Jesus guytaur, is this gonna be another day where we get the entirety of your twitter feed copied and pasted here?

    A hint: if people want to see your retweets, they can simply follow you on twitter.

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