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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    [Our only female PM told some good stories about visiting political leaders. When US secretary of state Hillary Clinton was in town, Gillard decided the two of them should take a walk along the Yarra River, followed by lunch at a local restaurant. Gillard’s “advance team”, consisting of one of her staffers and a federal police officer, walked the route and checked for problems. But Clinton’s 43-strong advance team was far more thorough, and ultimately their walk was accompanied by an army of Secret Service personnel, police boats on the river and armed helicopters whirring overhead. Once inside the restaurant, officers constantly checked the sight lines for snipers. This made her grateful that she lived in a country where residents didn’t shoot their politicians, Gillard said.]

  2. CTar1

    sceptic – ABC24 had it on their 12:00 news.]
    It is pretty bad news.When ISIS first kicked off Cockburn wrote an article about what was happening in Baghdad. At the time the Sunni militias and fighters were starting to gear up for conflict reaching Baghdad. From what I read they would not be fighting for the government. Shia militias were high on their expected hit list when the shite hits the fan. Unfortunately these militias are about the only effective anti ISIS fighting force in Iraq.

  3. [1750
    Fran Barlow

    At this stage, as far as can be told, they have not implemented violence *in the West*. They may yet manage to do so, and of course, if they succeed, that will be dreadful, but it will still be no more than a crime of violence. Violent crimes are not made more heinous because the criminals carrying them out had reactionary ends in mind. A person who murders his family or kills a random bunch of innocents in a spree shooting has done something quite as horrible as a person who kills the same number of people to establish Islamist rule.]

    Really, this is not correct. Political (or communal) violence has the potential to change our political (or religious) culture, precisely because of its capacity to change group norms and behaviour, and because the memory/experience of violence becomes socially-distributed. Political violence is not merely inter-personal. It becomes an element of social knowledge and therefore is a basis for both individual and social action, including attempts at replication.

    Our political culture has been largely free from lethal violence, though there are plenty of examples of spontaneous affray.

    In WA, political expression was last accompanied by lethal violence in the Fremantle maritime strike of 1919. Even this could be attributed to the excessive use of force by the Police rather than the deliberate intention to kill.

    Nonetheless, the threat of politically-motivated violence has cast a very long shadow over industrial relations and therefore over political contests and our cultural life more generally.

    There are many examples from WA history, including particularly examples of ethnic violence. This notorious event dates from the 1930s

    This is but one example in long list of racially and/or politically motivated riots, many of which are listed here:

    ISIL have turned to the use of political snuff movies as both a tactical device and as a means of attracting resources. We have to consider this in a context where social media are ubiquitous and where cultural, religious and ethnic harmony is already (sad to say) contested ground.

  4. @farrm51: You have one glass of champers in Phenom Penh…”@JEChalmers: “Bubbles” Morrison on his feet in #qt but this time without a glass of Moët

  5. poroti@1763

    Looks like media lizards are the same all over.

    The first Russian female cosmonaut to visit the International Space Station criticised journalists for focusing on her hair and appearance during a pre-launch news conference

    Anyone else think she looks like Jacqi Lambie?

    Can we swap? 😀

  6. Re Guytaur @1767: but Labor did get most of their major legislation through while they were in office.

    Re BB @1766: That cosmonaut is the spitting image of Jacqi Lambie. There are probably a few politicians we could send into space and increase the Earth’s average IQ.

  7. Steve

    Abbott is not. That is why I asked peak hypocrisy? No matter what else you might have thought about Labor’s last term the passage of legislation was almost flawless.

  8. I would suggest that someone ask for a breakdown regarding how the $550 was worked out and how we could measure progress towards achieving it, except that in answer the assertion will simply be repeated more loudly, with an unrelated attack on the last Government, and will not be questioned by the media.

  9. It is a bit weird but islamic arab states do appear to oscillate between ossified repressive reactionary regimes on the one hand, and anarchy on the other, without much democracy, however vaguely defined, in between.

    Was gibst?

  10. Re Guytaur @1773: you’re right – I was agreeing with you but maybe could have been clearer.

    33 degrees, very dry and windy in Sydney for the second day running.

  11. briefly

    [Really, this is not correct. Political (or communal) violence has the potential to change our political (or religious) culture, precisely because of its capacity to change group norms and behaviour, and because the memory/experience of violence becomes socially-distributed. Political violence is not merely inter-personal. It becomes an element of social knowledge and therefore is a basis for both individual and social action, including attempts at replication.]

    Yes, and no. Firstly, the violence has to have roots in the communities within which it occurs, corralling people along fault-lines that are meaningful to them. A more powerful recent example of this was the murder of that National Parks worker over vegetation rules, where sympathy was extended to the alleged killer by the murdochracy on the basis of his right, presumably, to object to ecological bureaucracy. Here though, there is no more sympathy for violent Islamism amongst Muslim communities than there is for the Westboro Baptist Church or the Lords Resistance Army amongst ostensible christians.

    On the other hand, the fellow who murders his family can be described as ‘a loving father’ even by some whom he left bereaved, and that does speak to your claim that violence can shape culture, although I’d say it was more a case of culture shaping usages, including the resort to violence. Violence is part of western culture and also continues to operate within many families in this country.

  12. The ‘one hour’ bit might be poetic licence. In terms of space time is is actually 20 minutes at 60kph.

    There may be the Mother of all Bloodbaths if the Bagdhadi Sunnis and Bagdhadi Shias have at it.

  13. Steve777@1772

    Re BB @1766: That cosmonaut is the spitting image of Jacqi Lambie. There are probably a few politicians we could send into space and increase the Earth’s average IQ.

    I am not BB and if I was I wouldn’t admit it. 😛

  14. Last night BBC-TV…late night…had their superb top reporter Lise Duset(who pops up in alof the M East trouble spots) on the ourskirts of Bagdad speaking of the IS forces closing in to a few miles from where she stood
    Our media sems to lack that on the spot coverage

  15. And now for some genuine stupid behaviour …

    Apparently people working for a construction company called ISIS have copped abuse as terrorists … They have stopped wearing the company logo as a safety measure.

    I feel sorry for the employees and scandalised that there can be people who could suppose that Islamic State would be running a construction company here with a corporate logo. You’d think some doubt would enter their heads or that the cops would have beaten them to the door.

  16. BTW PAnic Panic
    Some years ago the excellent David Marr wote a brilliant historical work called “Panic” looking at out national weakness for ponic when told of some alien outside menace that threatens us all

    In our short history, we had national panic over…

    The Chinese at the time of the Gold Rushes of the 1850ies
    The Russians over the Crimean War(see Queenscliff Fort and other such)
    The Irish Fenians fomr the attempt by an Irishman on Prince Alfred’s life in 1868 on … the Irish revolutioon in 1916 and later
    The Russian after 1917 and the Revoluion and the communists later
    The Chinese communists during the Korean War
    The macarthist scares in the 50ies
    The Vietnamese in the 1960ies/70ies

    All these threats never manifested themselves,but were exploited by right-wing politicians for their own needs
    just as Abbott and Co are doing now
    The Book..”Panic” by David Marr a wonderful read

  17. Turkey is interesting.

    Apart from Israel it has the most effective boots in the ME. It dearly wanted to intervene in Northern Iraq last time around but was pressured out of it by the US and Turkey’s NATO partners.

    It wanted to intervene in Syria earlier but was pressured out of it by the US and Turkey’s NATO partners.

    Theologically, it leans towards ISIS.

    But Turkey has the Kurds as its number one existential threat.

    So Turkey lets ISIS rout the Syrian Kurds (Turkey is accepting Syrian Kurdish refugees but is preventing arms and supplies from reaching Kurdish Kobane, currently besieged by IS fighters) and chase them into Turkey.

    The question is, once the Syrian Kurds are vanquished is it THEN time for Turkey to intervene with boots on the ground.

    You would have to say that once Turkey invades Syria, it will not be leaving any time soon.

    Some enterprising journalist should ask Mr Abbott what he expects from Turkey. After all, whatever Turkey does will have a far bigger impact on any outcome than what Mr Abbott does.

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