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. The debt threat is not doing Victoria any good. Pity the Coalition (fed and state) have built up such a hatred of it.

    [Henry Bolte used state debt to build more infrastructure in Victoria than any other state leader – during his 17 years as premier, debt as a percentage of the state economy reached as high as 58 per cent.

    Bolte understood that future generations would benefit most from his state building and should therefore share some of the cost in the form of future interest payments. He also knew that as long as the state invested in high-return projects, the government’s finances would be better off in the long run and the baby boomers and waves of new immigrants would enjoy an unrivalled quality of life.

    The Napthine government’s most recent “record” infrastructure budget was a step in the right direction, but still forecasts Victoria’s gross public debt to fall from just 6.3 to 4.5 per cent of gross state product over the next four years. If Bolte had adopted this low-debt approach, Victorians might still be catching a punt across the lower Yarra River to Spotswood or getting international flights from Essendon Airport.

    The good news is that there has never been a better time to make a policy shift. From 1969 until 2013, the cost of borrowing for the Australian government on 10-year bonds averaged 7.9 per cent. The Victorian Government’s current borrowing rate is at a historically low 3.66 per cent.]

    Read more:

  2. Zoomster

    [The very fact Sydney University has been able to suspend him suggests they have the power to sack him.]

    Yes they have the power to do both. But in neither can they exercise the power randomly. If they did so, they would be sued.

  3. [victoria
    Posted Monday, October 20, 2014 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    As per article linked earlier. I say oopsy to the Abbott

    Germany’s intelligence service believes Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by pro-Russian rebels using a missile taken from a Ukraine military base, a German newspaper has reported.

    The finding contradicts previous claims – including by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and US Secretary of State John Kerry – that the missile was supplied by Russia.

    Sunday’s Der Spiegel reported that the BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence service, had completed a detailed analysis of the July 17 tragedy, in which all 298 passengers and crew died.

    Two weeks ago, BND president Gerhard Schindler presented the evidence to a parliamentary committee, including satellite images and photos.]

    Oh shit oh dear.

    The Germans desperately want the Ukraine foolishness to stop because it is helping to kill their economy and is pushing Russia in to the arms of the Chinese.

    So they have absolutely no interest in bad-mouthing Putin as a murderer.

  4. The what is parody issue resembles the what is a portrait issue which arose from Dobell’s portrait of Joshua Smith which won the Archibald in 1943.

    Has New Matilda published the identity of the recipient(s) of the emails?

  5. BW

    Barry Spurr might be more like Max Meldrum, the Archibald winner in 1939 and 1940, who told anyone who was listening, that Nora Heysen should not have won in 1938 because she was a woman.

  6. Nathan A

    So, it comes down to [the reasonable perception of the recipient]


    [Staff usage will depend on the nature of their work.]

    Nothing new there, I believe.

  7. lizzie@101

    The debt threat is not doing Victoria any good. Pity the Coalition (fed and state) have built up such a hatred of it.

    A pity that article is written by Nick Reece, a former ALP staffer so it will be dismissed as partisan.

    It is way past time the economics profession, through its more prominent members spoke up long and loud on this issue.

    The conservatives rant and rave about bequeathing an unbearable debt to future generations, but that is overstated and ignores the other side of the ledger.

    To provide the infrastructure future generations with the infrastructure they need, we face the choice of borrowing, as we do to buy our homes, or imposing a totally unfair burden on the present generation.

    We seem to have chosen a third option. Don’t borrow enough, keep taxes low and don’t build enough infrastructure.

    We will not be thanked in the future.

  8. Will we get a Newspoll this week, or is the Oz not going to report until they have something positive to say. The government keeps shooting its feet off while they’re in their mouth, and I think the bounce from “Operation Muzzo Scare” will be waning now – abbott seems desperate to put some special forces personnel in harms way in Iraq in the hope of some casualties he can extract political capital from (I suspect he’d love to look strong at a State funeral for a digger hero, possibly with need for an “address to the nation” broadcast on all stations – I predict he’ll feel the need to a televised ‘state of the federation’ talk sometime soon).

    Are any vic polls data due? – I’m still pessimist re: andrews having made the case for government change, but political friends I respect and who are usually pessimistic/realistic are tending to predict labor in a landslide. Napthine has no shame – millions are being spent in blatant political ads about health, education and public transport at present – all the stuff they’re “gunna” do after years of inaction. the ALP and greens should be hammering the fibs about this. Anything the fibs have actually done/delivered in these areas was in train before they were elected, and they have cut all in real and previous alp budget terms. I also have a sense that this would not be a bad election to narrowly lose – the wheels are about to fall off the victorian and australian economy (Hockey will see to that) and the winner may have a sad tale to tell in four years’ time – the loss of the car manufacturing industry may send vic into recession. I note the murdoch media are ramping up on Myki and the desal plant.

  9. William

    You may want to access the results of a major poll written about in The Canberra Times today. Six thousand pollees. Robopoll. Yrs truly was one of the 6,000.

    The Light Rail issue is turning into a government changer, by the look of it.

  10. I like this from Honi Soit (Syd Uni paper):

    [“I had a great deal of respect for [Spurr],” said Bryant Apolonio, a fifth-year law student, who majored in English. “I’m appalled and angry and what he’s done.”

    When asked whether he thought Spurr’s recently discovered views informed the content of his teaching, Apolonio said: “Unsurprisingly every poet he taught was a white dude.”

    “I guess you could dismiss that by saying that almost every Modernist poet was a white dude,” he said. “But then he co-ordinated Reading Poetry, every poet was still white and a dude.”]

  11. Gippsland, Gippsland in the Latrobe Valley
    We’re going to Gippsland
    Poor boys and pilgrims with families
    And we are going to Gippsland

    My travelling companion is nine years old
    He is the child of my first marriage
    But I’ve reason to believe
    We both will be received
    In Gippsland

  12. shellbell

    That would be about on par with the goss I have been getting.

    Is one of the issues with sorting the parody argument is ‘by their works ye shall know them’?

  13. Just now on the news = Manus Island is costing the Government $635 million.

    Re-settlement would have been much cheaper I would have thought.

  14. BW

    The parody issue has probably been kicked around in the indulgent world of defamation law.

    I don’t know how it works there.

  15. [98

    The issue of language play goes to the issue of whether Spurr was using workplace resources for private purposes. If he was playing with words then it is his core business then it is not private but is, in fact, part of his job.]

    So Spurr will have to invoke the smart-arse defence – to assert he intended his expressions to have an opposite meaning from the one they appear to have.

    That aside, Spurr seems to have mistaken sarcasm for irony. He should know better, being well-learned in the language of the ridiculous.

  16. Keith Murdoch blew the whistle on Gallipoli but actually pinched his stuff from the London Times correspondent.

    Murdoch and Charles Bean were both anti-Semites who scorned John Monash because he was Jewish.

  17. Boer


    Most of the discussions on line, however, are to do with the copyright issues involved in taking someone else’s work and then making a parody or satirising it.

    In that context, it’s hard to see what Spurr is parodying.

    For example, here’s a definition of the difference between parody and satire —

    [A parody is a subsequent work that criticizes or comments on the substance or style of an earlier work (as Spaceballs parodied Star Wars, or “Weird Al” Yankovic parodies pop songs), whereas a satire makes use of an earlier work and generally invokes sarcasm or irony to criticize something else (examples include The Colbert Report and South Park, which incorporate existing copyrighted works to poke fun at political events and social mores). ]

    Using this definition, Spurr is using neither parody or satire.

  18. [122


    (a) yep
    (b) probably, IMHO.]

    (a) will not avail him much protection. It wouldn’t work for the burglar (“I wasn’t stealing your jewelry, I was testing your security system”) nor the bully (“I only threatened/mocked/teased/humiliated you to show how much I like you”)

    (b) perhaps there’s a medical explanation for his (very strange) loss of acuity.

  19. bemused

    [A pity that article is written by Nick Reece, a former ALP staffer so it will be dismissed as partisan.]

    Exactly the same thought I had. It seems Bolte had more wisdom than we thought (I loathed him, myself).

  20. Much as I think Spurr is a loathsome racist git Sydney Uni needs to tread very carefully.

    Firstly it is not illegal to be racist in private conversations or letters

    Secondly while it is technically University property, traditionally tenured staff have freedom of speech. While reactionary racist comments are distasteful to me, Spurr has just as much right to be an activist member of the KluKluxKlan (or any legal political/lobby group) as someone would if they were emailing about ALP activities or the Greens.

    I can think of a university faculty where there were two actively political guys campaigning- pone for the ALP and one for the greens – both good guys. It is probable there was a third involved in the LNP. I am sure all three used their university emails.

    What is essential for Sydney University to do is to remove Spurr from advisory positions, influencing the curriculum. They should also undertake a review of the academic gradings of any indigenous or Chinese student who dared to take his classes.

    Now personally I would like to see him allocated a class on indigenous poetry and have his performance assessed against his capacity to deliver the course.

  21. [124
    Toorak Toff

    Keith Murdoch blew the whistle on Gallipoli but actually pinched his stuff from the London Times correspondent.

    Murdoch and Charles Bean were both anti-Semites who scorned John Monash because he was Jewish.]

    Sir John Monash died in Melbourne on 8 October 1931 from a heart attack, and he was given a state funeral. An estimated 300,000 mourners, the nation’s largest funeral crowd to that time, came to pay their respects. After a Jewish service, and a 17-gun salute, he was buried in Brighton General Cemetery. In a final sign of humility, despite his achievements, honours and titles, he instructed that his tombstone simply bear the words “John Monash”. He was survived by his daughter, Bertha (1893–1979).

    Monash University, the City of Monash, Monash Medical Centre (the location of his bust, which was originally located in former SECV town Yallourn), Monash Freeway, John Monash Science School and the South Australia town of Monash are named after him. His face is on Australia’s highest value currency note ($100). Also named in his honour is Kfar Monash (“Monash village”) in Israel, and the Canberra suburb of Monash. Monash’s success in part reflected the tolerance of Australian society, but to a larger degree his success – in the harshest experience the young nation had suffered – shaped that tolerance and demonstrated to Australians that the Australian character was diverse, multi-ethnic and a blend of the traditions of the “bush” and the “city”. According to author, Colin MacInnes, as recounted by Monash’s biographer, Geoffrey Serle, Monash’s “presence and prestige…made anti-Semitism…impossible in Australia”.]

  22. Zoomster

    Once I actually read some of Spurr’s emails it is clear that there is no parody at all. He is just a racist git.

    Initially I could not believe that any professional adult in an educational institution would use such language and thought it must be parody of some kind. But no. Just a sad little racist git.

  23. [The Speaker, Bronwyn Bishop, and the president of the Senate, Stephen Parry, personally added the controversial “burqa ban” in parliament house to official security advice because they feared a group was intending to disrupt parliament.

    Parry said he had based his decision to add the “interim” ban on two pieces of advice, but one of the officials he cited as giving him that advice said she had not been told of any intended “disruption”, but only that a group wearing facial coverings intended to “enter” parliament house.

    Parry also conceded that “Asio and the AFP were not involved” in the decision.]

  24. Don’t the Libs have a single original thought in their heads? Yes, I know, I’ve said that before.

    [You know your latest public relations campaign is on to a winner when you hear your key message coming out of the mouth of a world leader.

    So when Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said “coal is good for humanity” I can’t help but picture a few corks liberated from the necks of expensive bottles of bubbly in coal company boardrooms.

    Because over the last few years the coal industry has been trying to hijack the issue of energy poverty by telling the world that the only way the poorest nations can pull themselves out of poverty is by purchasing lots of their product.]

  25. Boerwar 103

    Indeed. I found that German analysis of MH17 stunning news.

    Tony Abbott is becoming a virtual Shakespear – he is inventing even more new meanings to words. First he changed “shirtfront” to mean:
    “talk big then walk quietly away when the threatened person approaches”.

    Now he is changing “shirtfront” again to mean:
    “Apologise profusely for going off half-cocked and saying something false about a major world leader without waiting to get all the facts in.”

    To be fair to Abbott he was adding inflamatory rhetoric to the intelligence pronouncements of the USA. But if the German analysis is correct, what went wrong with USA intelligence?

  26. [129

    Much as I think Spurr is a loathsome racist git Sydney Uni needs to tread very carefully.]

    What USYD need to do is very scrupulously apply the C-o-C that all its staff are obliged to observe. That would be treading carefully.

    There is a world of difference between exercising one’s political rights and using sexist, racist or religiously bigoted expressions. The reason these expressions are not permitted is that they embody “threat” and therefore are a form of violence. They are not merely an affront, they are a breach of the peace.

  27. Zoomster

    Tricky! After all what distinguishes his racist comments from those made about ISIL or Russians or yankees or whingeing Poms.

  28. Briefly

    If he made these comments in private I am not sure he will be in breach of CoC. Unless!!!!!!!! he used his bias to improperly disadvantage a student. He probably DID but how to prove?

  29. lizzie

    The risk to Australian soldiers effectively embedded with Iraqi Army units (whom to trust?) must be very, very high.

  30. [139


    If he made these comments in private I am not sure he will be in breach of CoC.]

    The matter of privacy does not arise. He used the devices and network of the Uni to create and transmit his expressions. He has “published” them. This is the effect of the Code.


    [Dr Larry Marshall grew up working on farms and his family run a property in drought-affected Queensland.

    It’s why he isn’t afraid to talk about his ‘out-there’ vision for agricultural research at the premier science organisation.

    He’d like to see the development of technology that would make it easier for farmers to dowse or divine for water on their properties.

    “I’ve seen people do this with close to 80 per cent accuracy and I’ve no idea how they do it,” he said.

    “When I see that as a scientist, it makes me question, ‘is there instrumentality that we could create that would enable a machine to find that water?’]

  32. [142


    It seems that no one wants ‘the West’ back. Abbott’s judgement fails again.]

    The Iraqis are almost certainly saving Australian lives. We should be grateful for their reluctance.

  33. zoomster

    (1) Spurr might claim that he is reflecting Absurdistan where what politicians say has less and less to do with what is actually happening, or what they mean. In other words, words are so degraded that they can no longer reasonably be held to carry any freight.

    (2) Spurr might claim that he giving a demonstration of the popular culture/post-truth nexus, as reflected in the MSM, where nothing is real except where the unreal becomes the real, and nothing matters any more. This would be the BB defence, I believe.

    (3) Spurr might claim that he is pushing racism and sexism terminology to its extreme limits in order to demonstrate the pervasiveness of racism and sexism.

    (4) He might claim that he is parodying political correctness which limits freedom of speech, freedom to be bigotted, and freedom to have a point of view that diverges from the standard lefty. As an example he could point out all the parodying that is done with Abbott as a target, for example.

    IMHO he could probably write several books about all this stuff.

    The difficulty is that ‘proving’ that words really mean this or that, in the imagined space, is extremely difficult. The result may well be contestible and it is the contestible nature of the focus of the investigation, prosecution and judgement that will make an AAT hearing both likely lively.

    This could take longer than ASADA.

    The USyd CoC text is also very interesting. One of the relevant tests is the impact on the intended recipients. Note ‘intended’ not you and me, or New Matilda.

    If there are half a dozen of intended recipients and they all say, ‘We understood this to be so over-the-top that it could not possibly have been real racism or real sexism’, then Spurr appears not to have a case to answer at all.

    But, what if there are five of them (intended recipients) but one of them changed his/her mind some time during the year(s)? that Spurr disseminated his verbiage?

    OTOH, they may wish to sacrifice Spurr and state that they think he was writing racist and sexist stuff of the most horrible kind.

    THEN they would have to explain why they shut up about it and did nothing about it for as long as they received his emails.

    Much more water to flow under this particular bridge, IMHO.

  34. Exactly Steve777

    Where was the defence of CRU climate scientists that had emails not only stolen but then amplified and bullshitised via a massive global propaganda push by the same media that are now defending the racist, sexist paid Gonski-trasher.

    A common feature of people who want to hurt poor people is how much they sook.

  35. lizzie@128


    A pity that article is written by Nick Reece, a former ALP staffer so it will be dismissed as partisan.

    Exactly the same thought I had. It seems Bolte had more wisdom than we thought (I loathed him, myself).

    Bolte was an appalling human being and I don’t think he had more wisdom, it was just the conventional wisdom in those Keynesian times.

  36. Lizzie

    [He’d like to see the development of technology that would make it easier for farmers to dowse or divine for water on their properties.

    “I’ve seen people do this with close to 80 per cent accuracy and I’ve no idea how they do it,” he said.

    “When I see that as a scientist, it makes me question, ‘is there instrumentality that we could create that would enable a machine to find that water?’]

    Water diving is… Well… I’d call it rubbish.
    As a working hydrogeologist I can see no evidence that using stocks or bent rods or whatever would give you a better result than using geophysics or even a simple geology map. There are lots of geophysical methods for finding groundwater, but they’re all very expensive.

    I would point out that the problem of finding water underground is generally solved by ensuring that the drill rig you use to find the water has the drill set up so that it drills DOWNWARDS. I can’t stress this enough, if you set your drill rig up to point into the sky, it simply will not work. 🙂

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