Seat of the week: Aston

The increasingly misnamed Seat of the Week series takes a visit to Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, and a seat that has remained outside Labor’s grasp since 1990.

The outer eastern Melbourne electorate of Aston was created with the expansion of parliament in 1984, from territory that had mostly been accommodated by La Trobe since its creation in 1949. It covers the Liberal-leaning suburbs of Wantirna in the north and Rowville in the south, along with naturally marginal territory in Wantirna’s eastern neigbours Bayswater and Ferntree Gully. Labor held the seat for the first two terms of its existence, but it steadily strengthened for the Liberals over time, and is currently held by them on a margin of 8.2%.

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.

The seat’s inaugural members was John Saunderson, who had gained the seat of Deakin for Labor when the Hawke government came to power in 1983. He inherited a notional Labor margin of 7.0% which fell to 3.6% at the 1987 election, before copping the full force of Labor’s statewide battering in 1990. It was then one of nine Victorian seats to fall to the Liberals, and one of three across the state to experience double-digit swings. The incoming Liberal member was Peter Nugent, a moderate noted for bucking his party’s line on indigenous issues. Nugent’s sudden death in April 2001 resulted in a by-election three months later which delivered the Howard government a morale-boosting win that predated the game-changing Tampa episode by a month, Labor’s 3.7% swing falling short of the 4.2% Liberal margin.

The member for the next two terms was Chris Pearce, a Knox councillor and managing director of an information technology company. Pearce picked up a 7.1% swing at the 2004 election, the biggest in the state in the context of a strong performance by the Liberals throughout suburban Melbourne. It was widely noted that this left the seat with a bigger Liberal margin than the famously blue-ribbon Kooyong, which was seen to typify the hold the Howard government had secured in middle-class outer suburbia. However, it equally joined many such seats in swinging heavily to Labor at the 2007 election, when an 8.1% swing reduced Pearce’s margin to 5.1%. Pearce meanwhile became closely associated with Peter Costello, and his announcement that he would bow out at the 2010 election came hard on the heels of Costello’s.

The hotly contested preselection to choose Pearce’s successor was won by Alan Tudge, a former staffer to Brendan Nelson and Alexander Downer, ahead of Neil Angus, a chartered accountant who would go on to win Forest Hill for the Liberals at the 2010 state election. Labor was vaguely hopeful that Pearce’s retirement would help add Aston to a list of Victorian gains compensating for expected losses in New South Wales and Queensland, but the 3.3% swing left Tudge with a margin of 1.8%. The subsequent redistribution cut the margin further back to 0.7%, by adding Boronia and removing Vermont, but the tide at the 2013 election flowed heavily the other way, blowing the margin out to 8.2%. Tudge subsequently won promotion to parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister.

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.

979 comments on “Seat of the week: Aston”

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  1. It’s easy to see right through Baird’s transparency reforms:

    Those diaries tell us almost nothing of interest. They are long delayed, and give little detail on what was discussed and with whom.

    How interesting is it that Andrew Constance is meeting with. Goldman Sachs to discuss the global economy or that Duncan Gay is meeting the 2GB continuous call team?

  2. Good morning Dawn Patrollers.

    Well fancy that! Every cent of income for Obeid’s cafe was in cash.
    Let’s hope this goes ahead and is very successful.
    Abbott is in a spot of bother in his own electorate over a proposed conservative departure lounge.
    What a senatorial ornament is Cory Bernardi!
    ¬Glen Lazarus tells Lambie to pull her head in.
    Brian Toohey gives Greg Hunt a serve over the carbon capture pipe dream.
    A long piece from Peter Hartcher on retired Major-General Jim Molan.
    3 . . 2 . . 1! It’s time for the police state in Queensland to alight. John Birmingham also talks of the greatness of Noel Pearson’s speech.

  3. Section 2 . . .

    Michael Gordon – It’s time for our leaders to be brave again.–for-australias-political-leaders-to-be-brave-again-20141107-11ii03.html
    And Lenore Taylor in a similar vein.
    Stephen Koukoulas – Hockey has his big share of problems.
    APRA tells the banks they have some work to do.
    Warwick Smith – the Coalition’s negativity is backfiring.
    How much of the budget can be threaded through the Senate?
    It’s not that easy is it Erica?
    The mistreatment of our soldiers returning from combat.,7073
    Mike Seccombe asks just who is running Greens politics.
    Barry Spurr is not the only problem in Pyne’s curriculum review.

  4. Apologies for the longish post, but would rather not give Murdoch’s DailyToieltPaper any more clicks.

    Looks like UnitedVoice Union is commissioning ReachTel for some electorate specific polling, mostly on childcare policy, Hockey’s North Sydney and Chris Bowen’s litmus McMahon in the ‘Greater West’ are the sample this week, hopefully they will do more and publish broader than the DT.

    Joe Hockey losing 15% of his primary is an eye opener.

    The Abbott government’s childcare reforms are unpopular while Joe Hockey has lost votes in his electorate.

    AUSTRALIAN families have sent the Abbott government a blunt warning over planned childcare reforms, declaring they will make it a key election issue ­unless more money is provided to help mums who want to return to work.

    An exclusive poll obtained by The Saturday Telegraph ­revealed more than 70 per cent of people rank access, cost and quality of childcare and early childhood learning as one of the most important issues that could decide their vote.

    That message is a personal one for Treasurer Joe Hockey, with the poll also revealing a 15 per cent drop in the Coalition primary vote in his own blue ribbon seat of North Sydney since the last election.

    As Mr Hockey considers the government’s response to a Productivity Commission ­report into ­reform of the sector, which landed on his desk more than a week ago, a poll of his electorate revealed one in four of his voters had abandoned him, with his primary vote dropping to a record low of 45.3 per cent.

    Government plans to bring in a single means-tested payment for childcare, which the PC draft report recommended cut in at a combined family income of $160,000, was supported by only 57 per cent of those polled.

    The ReachTell poll this week of almost 1500 people in Mr Hockey’s seat and the southwest seat of McMahon held by opposition Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen, commissioned by United Voice, which represents the childcare sector, was universal in its findings the issue would become a key election battleground.

    As many men as women ranked the issue as being among the most important with fears means testing could lead to the cost of childcare ­becoming a barrier to mums going back to work.

    More than half of all those polled in North Sydney, 54 per cent, supported the government putting more money into the childcare sector to improve quality of care and access, with only 17 per cent believing it should not invest more. About 57 per cent also backed higher pay for childcare workers.

    United Voice National Secretary David O’Byrne said previous governments had “tinkered” around the edges of the issue and it was time for proper reform to ­increase ­access and quality of childcare.

    “This shows that it is clearly an issue for the vast majority of families,” he said.


  5. While this

    [The Lonergan poll of more than 400 voters in each seat shows the Greens’ Kathleen Maltzahn ahead of the incumbent Labor MP Richard Wynne in Richmond 54-46 per cent, based on 2010 preference flows. Ms Maltzahn’s primary vote is 39 per cent, with Mr Wynne on 29 per cent.

    In Melbourne, Greens’ Ellen Sandell leads Labor’s Jennifer Kanis 53-47, with the pair attracting 40 and 30 per cent of the primary respectively. ]

    Read more:

    this is what the polls looked like prior to the Melbourne state by election in 2012 –

    [From 7 to 10 June 2012, 365 voters (5% MoE) in the seat were telephone polled by Roy Morgan Research. The Greens’ two-candidate-preferred vote was at 54 per cent to 46 per cent for Labor. The Greens’ primary vote was at 48.5 per cent, Labor on 37.5 per cent..

    .. On 16 July 2012, 403 voters (5% MoE) in the seat were robocall polled by ReachTel with results published in The Australian. The Greens’ primary vote was at 38.1 per cent, Labor on 36.5 per cent, the Sex Party on 6.1 per cent, Mayne on 4.3 per cent, Family First on 3.8 per cent, with the remaining 11 candidates on a collective 11.2 per cent. While no two-candidate vote was produced, preference flows were said to be evenly divided between Labor and the Greens.]

    …with the final result being 51.5 to Labor.

    The Greens were 3% ahead on primaries.

    The Liberals didn’t field a candidate, which should have favoured the Greens, as it freed up the flow of preferences.

  6. Great links again BK, always appreciated.
    Do you ever sleep Wiliam, it would have been just after 3am in Perth when you put this post up?!

  7. From BK’s link on Birmingham’s article – worth a snip from it –

    [ Nick Carroll, the great surf writer, pondered this week how much the current reactionaries forced to attend Gough’s ceremony must have hated it all, knowing that not one of them will ever be loved like the man they were forced to honour as a public duty.

    “All their fantasies about themselves,” he wrote in an online surfing forum, “perpetuated by their favourite media clowns and repeated to each other in the halls of Parliament”, all just evaporated “in the presence of actual Australians, en masse in public”.

    All true, all brutally true. And yet the genius of Pearson’s speech was that while it never once allowed the guilty parties to escape their heavy and particular responsibilities, it was not in its general character calculated to divide. Instead, Pearson’s appreciation for the opportunities he now enjoys, and the importance of opportunity to individuals and communities, could have been cut and pasted whole from Bob Menzies’ articles of faith.

    It was a brilliant and touching speech in praise of a great man and one which will be read and listened to and pondered long after we have all gone, like Gough, to our reward.

    Read more:

  8. Fran from the previous thread, Julia is definitely metal otherwise she would have succumbed to the relentless pressure during her PM’ship. I usually don’t respond to responses but how vey typical of a Green to take the pedantic ideological high ground. My posts are usually full of typos but guess what, I don’t care, BTW I was in the top 10% of the state in English for my HSC, and the intent of message is still the same.

  9. z,

    That “Lonerghan” is a name I’ve not heard before in polling. I’d be keeping up the salt supplies regarding it’s credibility.

    Good decision not to preference the Greens.

    Be interesting to see if the Libs maintain their last election policy of not preferencing the Greens.

  10. [ It’s time for our leaders to be brave again.]
    Rather than leaders it’s the people that need to become “brave again”. Chickens are what WE have come to prefer. Howard and the meeja at the end of the Keating period banged on and on that we the electorate were suffering from “reform fatigue” after all the Hawke ,Keating reforms. It was time to rest. It was a message that was lapped up. So we became a nation desirous of Howard’s message for us to become “comfortable and relaxed”.

  11. The new tactics of the environmentalists. Loving trees and koalas is not enough. The game has to be played at corporate level.

    [… It’s all a storm in a teacup, except as an indicator of the great sensitivity of Milne and her people to criticism, which in turn relates to Greens’ uncertainty about how to respond tactically to a profoundly hostile government and a senate in which the balance of power is fractured.

    It is a pointer, however, to why organisations such as ACF perceive the need to move outside the political sphere.

    Which brings us back to Geoffrey Cousins, the millionaire late-life eco activist, who kindly picked up the tab for that expansive dinner in Broome two years ago. He has been at the forefront in developing the new tactics in this country.]

  12. Poroti

    The only reform fatigue about is from vested interests. The real world forces reform through the environment. Not just climate but also through technology.

    Now even Centrelink has a mobile app.

    They are screaming about it but everyone is coming to realise its the 21st century

  13. Morning all


    Appreciate this morning’s roundup. 🙂


    John Roskam on ABC radio yesterday morning said wtte that the Napthine govt would scrap home. Based on a seat to seat basis, they will win enough seats

  14. victoria

    Sounds like spin to me. No polls have shown a swing back to the Liberals. Given the balance of power they were in the lower polls has to translate into at least one or two seats lost.

  15. ….that is, to invent new ways to be patronising and supercilious in order to re-certify the high opinion you have of yourself….

    Humility suffuses your encyclicals about the economy.

  16. poroti:

    I completely agree. If anything Howard’s relaxed and comfortable mantra was just an excuse for his govt to be lazy and complacent.

  17. Whoops, that appears to be a paywalled GG article.

    Funny though it comes ok when launched from Mumbles Twitter feed..

    @mumbletwits: Discussion of Vic ALP taking Carrum from Libs is from post redistribution haul of 40. They still need to get to 45.

  18. I remember the Turnbull vs Cousins ‘fight’ referred to in lizzies’ [and BK’s] link at #14.
    It was played out on ABC radio and was notable for Turnbull losing his cool. MT claimed he was being ‘bullied’ and that he was used to be bullied by ‘rich bullies’, had encountered such a lot of times and wasn’t going to stand for it.
    Which was fascinating cos right at the same time his party was trying to portray unionists as ‘thugs’ – remember those Liberal ads in ’07 showing ‘union bullies’ turning off the lights of small business?
    I guess the irony was lost on Mal.

  19. guytaur

    Still three weeks to go. Daniel Andrews and other shadow ministers have been interviewed on ABC radio this week. Must say they have been underwhelming to say the least.
    In any case, The underlying issues here in Victoria, is the depressed job market, and the gutting of TAFE.
    The usual issues of transport is the other main one, which ties into the east west link project.
    Napthine should lose purely on signing contracts for this project, only weeks ago. It was an act of bastardy on the electorate.

  20. vic,

    Roskam is a Liberal mouthpiece even by his own reckoning. He is a Liberal, stood for pre-selection for the Libs and is a director of the IPA. His comments are wishful thinking.

    If anything, I’d say there is a surge for Labor atm.

  21. GG

    over at the Victorian seats thread, Kevin Bonham describes Lonergan as the least reliable pollster from the federal election. (I should have gone there first!)

  22. Disturbing news from the west yesterday that a month ago an 11 year old boy in Geraldton had suicided. Also surprising was that all media outlets that reported it both named the boy and the method of killing himself, which I’d thought was an absolute no-no (esp the latter) in terms of reporting on suicide.

  23. I really do’t see how pieces like this will encourage the people of Brisbane to reach out to the foreign dignitaries attending the G20.

    [Red Zone activated for Brisbane G20 summit with 70 items banned
    TENS of thousands of inner-city Brisbane residents will wake this morning to the stark reality of life inside the G20 Red Zone – where flying kites and carrying eggs could attract increased scrutiny from thousands of extra police.

    The declared zone – stretching from South Bank to Kelvin Grove, Bowen Hills, Fortitude Valley and Woolloongabba – has been established in a bid to stop the violence that crippled other G20 host cities, like Toronto in 2010 ]

  24. GG

    Agreed. Although he has been very critical of the lack of transparency of fhe fibs. Of course, it was a wet lettuce criticism. Had it been Labor, he would have ranted and ranted

  25. guytaur

    It was crap of course and agree , vested interests were and are huge drivers of it. However many in the electorate took it up. Sadly for them the real world never stops so being in a Menzian social stasis is a FAIL.

  26. Confessions

    The sad case of the young boy from the west was discussed on ABC radio in Melbourne yesterday. A gentleman whose name escapes me was interviewed about it. Very sad. He mentioned also the case of a string of suicides that happened within a week of people all known to each other. Was if you thaf had raised it on PB at the time?

  27. zoomster

    I hope you saw the SMH article about “Barbara” and Alan Jones a local from your way.

    Lonergan may be the least reliable however its still a poll and more credible than a self selecting poll. Its enough for the Greens to hang an propaganda hat on.

  28. confessions

    [ Howard’s relaxed and comfortable mantra was just an excuse for his govt to be lazy and complacent.]
    Very much agree. Doing something, anything, involves risk. What better way to eliminate such perceived risk than to do nothing ?

  29. victoria:

    No it wasn’t me. But that whole copycat thing is why the media aren’t supposed to report the method of death.

    It’s very sad. A friend of mine who is an expert on indigenous suicide prevention was apparently interviewed by the Weekend Australian for today’s edition. I’ll see if I can track it down.

  30. PvO:

    [THE constant, scripted rhetoric that Tony Abbott is an infrastructure prime minister just isn’t supported by the facts.]

  31. victoria

    [Barbara: Alan Jones’ talkback caller ‘revealed’

    She’s the voice that went viral after she took Alan Jones for a ride on his top-rating radio show – but who is the real Barbara?

    After 24 hours of intense media scrutiny, Fairfax Media received a tip-off that “Barbara” was in fact managed by Ignatius Corboy, a 22-year-old actor who works for his family’s stock-feed business in Wangaratta, south-west of Albury.]

  32. fess

    apparently the (self imposed) rules on reporting suicide have been removed – our local paper has run some quite confronting articles on youth suicide over the last year.

    I’m not sure that it’s a good move.

  33. confessions

    [THE constant, scripted rhetoric that Tony Abbott is an infrastructure prime minister just isn’t supported by the facts.]
    Why on earth would PvO expect that claim would be any different from ALL Abbott’s other claims ?

  34. Using Google Chrome I keep getting a full red screen with a message saying “{something}” is a phishing site and that I can either “Return to safety” or “Go ahead” by clicking on an appropriate button.

    Looking closely at it, there’s no Google Chrome logo, and I suspect that if I click either button I’ll end up somewhere that I’d rather not be.

    Anyone had any experience with this particular red screen message?

    (My solution, both times it’s happened has been to close the browser down, not click on anything, but this may get tiresome if the message persists on poipping up.)

  35. Guytaur,

    It cropped up both time in a Chrome Incognito window, once at the Courier-mail site (but not the second time I tried the same site), and once at the Guardian.

    Never seen it before, ever. Wasn’t clicking on anything. It just popped up without me doing anything, occupying the entire screen (1920 x 1080).

    Could have been a hover activated pop-up I guess.

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