Seat of the week: Gippsland

For as long as there has been a federal parliament, there has been a seat of Gippsland, and for as long as there has been a National/Country Party, the seat has been theirs. The present incumbent is Darren Chester, who succeeded Peter McGauran at a by-election in 2008.

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

The electorate of Gippsland has covered the far east of Victoria since federation, and has been in National/Country Party hands since the party was founded in 1922. It currently extends as far westwards as the Latrobe Valley towns of Morwell and Traralgon, other major centres being Sale, Bairnsdale and Lakes Entrance. The Nationals’ hold appeared to be in serious jeopardy for the first time when the redistribution ahead of the 2004 election added Morwell and Traralgon, which had long been accommodated by the electorate’s western neighbour McMillan. However, Labor’s traditional strength in this area has been waning over the past two decades with the decline of its electricity industry, and a realignment among workers with a stake in coal mining resulting from climate change politics. Howard government minister Peter McGauran, who had held the since since 1983, increased his margin by 5.1% at the 2004 election, and the swing against him in 2007 was only 1.8%.

McGauran was the first member of the Howard government to leave parliament after the 2007 election defeat, resulting in a by-election held on 28 June 2008. This produced a three-way contest involving both the Nationals and Liberals as well as Labor, which at the time provided a spur to talk of a coalition merger. After a campaign dominated by the Rudd government’s “alcopops tax” and local concern over the prospect of an emissions trading scheme, the Nationals easily retained the seat, outpolling the Liberals 39.6% to 20.7% and gaining a 6.1% swing on two-party preferred – a surprisingly poor result for Labor given the strength of the Rudd government’s polling at the time. Labor’s primary vote fell 8.1%, and was down particularly heavily at the Latrobe Valley end of the electorate.

Gippsland has since been held for the Nationals by Darren Chester, who had previously been the chief-of-staff to state party leader Peter Ryan. Chester had earlier run unsuccessfully against Craig Ingram, then the independent member for the state seat of Gippsland East, at the 2002 state election, and sought Senate preselection at the 2004 federal election against Peter McGauran’s incumbent brother Julian, who went on to defect to the Liberal Party in January 2006. After his strong win at the by-election, Chester’s margin was little changed at the 2010 election, and he picked up a further 4.4% swing in 2013. Chester was promoted to shadow parliamentary secretary for roads and regional transport after the 2010 election, and became parliamentary secretary to the Defence Minister when the Abbott government came to power in 2013.

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.

370 comments on “Seat of the week: Gippsland”

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  1. [It’s that time of year when splendid hopes can be dashed.]

    Sure is. Difference now is that WA farmers have a federal govt which doesn’t have its interests in its sights. But, chances of farmers waking up and smelling which side their toast is buttered and voting accordingly? Unlikely.

  2. I did, by the way, pick up one mention of climate change in the 173 page green paper on agriculture.

    There might have been another one in there that I missed..

  3. A new study on Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas
    A fascinaing study(see below) by a US historian looks at two of the key figures of the Paris Literary/Art scene in the ’20/30/40ies ….has made starting findings on the close ties these two major literary figures made with the pro-nazi Vichy regime from 1940,and their ,links with a man called Bernard Foy,who was an anti secularist/ royalists,and ,right-winger in the Nazi period,and worked to help the Nazis to attack Free-Masons,who were secular and mostly on the left(Foy had written a book on them)

    Oddly many post-war writers on Stein and Toklas(famed for her cookbook), and even a major biographer,in a book called “Charmed Circle ” … overlooked or didn’t know of the collaborationst phase of their wartime life in occupied France(they were both American and Jewish,which makes it all the more surprising)
    Though Picasso who knew them well later said that Stein “was always a fascist”

    They are portrayed recently in Woody Allen’s delightful film “Midnight in Paris”,,,when the young male hero goes to one of the literary studies at their apartment

  4. My Newspoll prediction
    50:50, +1 or -1 either way, more likely with the COALition ahead.
    So I suppose that comes down to 49:50 COAL ahead.

  5. [GhostWhoVotes ‏@GhostWhoVotes 34s34 seconds ago
    #Newspoll Primary Votes: L/NP 38 (-3) ALP 34 (0) GRN 14 (+3) #auspol]

    the Burqa BellyFlop

  6. I didn’t mind the two entertainers along with the heavyweights. I suppose they were there to be ‘everyman’/woman, the common touch. They said what they thought, no pretentions.

  7. apart from the ex gratia payments – a silly idea, setting dangerous precedents – I think all of those things were done.

    For the PM to get involved directly (beyond an expression of sorrow, perhaps) would also be unwise.

    There are deaths every day which (if you applied the same ‘rules’ applied to pink batts) could be slated home to the government.

    Under your scenario, the guy would spend his whole day issuing apologies.

    It was an extraordinary federal government program. That would be the justification for ex gratia payments for the small number of deaths in this one program which was an emergency response to a global financial castrophe.

    I disagree that the approach I outlined was taken. Kevin Rudd tried to do a Peter Beattie and apologize and get credit for the apology. Instead he should have stood up for the idea that a government cannot prevent every act of irresponsible behaviour in society. He didn’t make that point often if at all. He also didn’t spend enough time emphasizing the benefits of the program: the 1.2 million homes which had insulation installed with no problems; the immense energy savings which this achieves; the hundreds of thousands of jobs saved; the large scale misery which the nation averted; the fact that the rate of deaths and fires per 1000 insulations was lower during the program than it was before the program. He didn’t think he could make a complex argument (a weakness which characterized his actions on emissions trading) so he just declared defeat and expressed remorse as though it was all the government’s fault.

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