Seat of the week: Flinders

Presently held for the Liberals by Environment Minister Greg Hunt, the Mornington Peninsula and Phillip Island seat of Flinders was famously lost by Prime Minister Stanley Bruce in 1929, but Labor has only managed to win it on two further occasions since.

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

Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s seat of Flinders encompasses the southern part of Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, including the mouth of Port Phillip Bay at Portsea, along with the area around Westernport Bay further to the east, including Phillip Island. Its territory along Port Phillip Bay commences at Mount Martha, 60 kilometres to the south of central Melbourne, from which it extends through Dromana, Rosebud and Rye to Sorrento and Portsea, an area popular with retirees. Its other major centres are Somerville in the centre of the Mornington Peninsula and Hastings along the western shore of Westernport Bay. The electorate has existed federation, and has covered almost the entirety of its present area since that time. It originally extended north to Dandenong and east to Drouin, Warragul and Leongatha, before the latter areas were absorbed by the new seat of McMillan when parliament expanded in 1949, and the electorate of Bruce was created to accommodate Melbourne’s south-eastern expansion in 1955.

Flinders has been won by Labor on only three occasions in its history, the most memorable being the defeat of the then Prime Minister, Stanley Bruce, in 1929. Bruce recovered the seat in 1931, and it would next be won by Labor at a by-election in 1952, before returning to the Liberal fold at the next general election in 1954. Phillip Lynch came to the seat in 1966, going on to serve as Treasurer in the first term of the Fraser government, then resigning a month before the December 1977 election over his use of a family trust to minimise tax. Lynch returned to cabinet after the election upon being cleared by an inquiry as Industry and Commerce Minister, the Treasury portfolio remaining with his successor, John Howard. His retirement precipitated a momentous by-election in November 1982, at which Peter Reith retained the seat for the Liberals in the face a surprisingly mild swing of 2.3%. This sealed Bill Hayden’s fate as Labor leader, and he was toppled by Bob Hawke on the day Malcolm Fraser called the 1983 election the following February. It was at that election that Labor won Flinders for the third and so far final time, with Reith losing to Labor’s Robert Chynoweth without having had the opportunity to assume the seat he had won at the by-election.

With the enlargement of parliament at the 1984 election, Chynoweth moved to the slightly safer new seat of Dunkley, and Reith recovered Flinders with a swing of 1.5%. Reith held the seat with fair-to-middling margins until he retired after an eventful five years as a Howard government minister in 2001. He was then succeeded by Greg Hunt, who gained a secure hold on the seat with consecutive swings of 3.9% in 2001 and 3.5% in 2004. Hunt won promotion to parliamentary secretary in January 2007, and then to shadow cabinet in the important climate change and environment portfolio after the 2007 election defeat. He has maintained the environment portfolio ever since, although the climate change portfolio was abolished after the Abbott government came to power. Hunt’s present margin in the seat is 11.9%, following a 2.8% swing in his favour at the 2013 election.

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.

1,285 comments on “Seat of the week: Flinders”

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  1. Lambie


    [Yeah, I do like Vladimir Putin… I think he has very strong leadership. He has great values. He’s certainly doing his bit to stamp out terrorism and I guess you’ve got to pay the man for that.

  2. Re Victoria @1246: Romney might get the nomination again if, like last time, the Republicans can’t find a Presidential candidate who isn’t either a complete nincompoop or certifiably insane.

  3. [Yeah, I do like Vladimir Putin… I think he has very strong leadership. He has great values. He’s certainly doing his bit to stamp out terrorism and I guess you’ve got to pay the man for that.]

    Does Jacqui hear wedding bells?

  4. [Lambie’s historic role is to make Abbott look sane.]

    Actually, I’m starting to think that, in the fullness of time, Lambie will make both Tony Abbott look sane and Pauline Hanson look smart.

  5. A salient reminder to all patients not to be annoying.

    [Italian police have arrested a nurse suspected of killing up to 38 patients because she found them or their relatives annoying.

  6. markjs

    [This, believe it or not, is the Prime Minister of Australia:]

    I wonder why the press did not pick up that gaffe of his.

    How on earth he got a Rhodes Scholarship is beyond me. He can’t even grasp the English language.

    A bloody embarrassment to this country,

  7. Credlin: *Sighs* OK Tony, let’s try this one last time. Ready, set, go.

    Abbott: I am going to shirtfront Putin

    Credlin: You bet you are.

    Abbott: You bet you are?

    Credlin: You bet I am!

    Abbott: You bet I am?

    Credlin: You bet you are!

    Abbott: You bet I are?

  8. I think you posters are being far too harsh on Jacquie Lambie.

    Abbott’s press conference where he promised to shirt front Putin reinforced the opinion that he is a dill.

    Lambie’s observations that Abbott’s comments were school yard bravado and immature were commonsense. As was her opinion that Putin is a powerful man.

    You are repeating the Australian tradition of belittling outspoken women

  9. Tony Abbott and Vladimir Putin have l lot in common. They both like to play to the Action Man image. They both go in for cheap populism. They both appear in public or on film in a parilal state of undress. They boyh play the Nationalist card. They both appeal to religious conservatism. They’re both big on terrorism and security. They both have a strong authoritarian streak.

    One of them is much smarter. And his name isn’t Tony.

  10. I am gobsmacked by the older Australians who voted for Abbott. Surely their years on this earth would have made them capable of recognising a bully so they could use the privacy of the voting booth to protect their own interests

  11. Billie

    Well said!!!!

    Lambie is only stating the obvious. Putin is a powerful guy. And let me say MUCH, much triple plus more attractive than Mr Waggy d**k budgie smugglers.

  12. Abbott’s a genuine dimwit and the ALP is going too soft on him.

    Call his plans “amateur”, “simplistic” “kindergarten level” “the economic plan of a bygone era” – some of this will stick because Australians sense it already.

    I frankly think the ALP is far too soft on him.

  13. billie

    Utter crap.

    Lambie admires Putin’s values.

    Putin uses homophobia as a political ploy and encourages the vicious mistreatment of openly gay men and women.

    Putin is a warmonger who has grabbed territory and who actively supports an insurrection in a neighbouring country.

    Oh, and Putin arranges for the murder of journalists when he does not like what they write.

    It is not that Lambie is outspoken that I despise. It is her utter inability to get Putin right.

  14. [A salient reminder to all patients not to be annoying.]

    Absolutely. You want good medical care, then don’t treat the medical staff (and their support staff) like shit. There are a million little ways they can pay you back, just when you are at your most vulnerable and needy.

    [A bloody embarrassment to this country,]

    If only that is all he was. Instead he and his policy suite and whole approach to government is a huge imminent danger.

  15. The last time a former loser got a (major party) second shot at POTUS was Nixon in 68 (after losing in 60).

    The last former loser to get a second shot next time was Stephenson in 56 (and 52).

    The last GOP former loser to get a second shot next time was Dewey in 48 (and 44).

    These records aren’t predictive but it sure would be something if Romney got a second go.

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