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. 😆 Did Obama forget PMBO’s name ? Sitting next to Abbott Obama answered a reporters question “I am having talks with, ah (slight pause) Australia on this matter ..” .

  2. A very full critique of Abbott and his destructive environmental ideology in every area, as he pulls back bipartisan agreements which started with Hawke.

    [The ferocious campaign against Julia Gillard’s 2012 clean
    energy package alleged swingeing rises in carbon tax
    induced prices and job losses that proved, unsurprisingly,
    to be almost wholly untrue.

    Government Ministers routinely downplay the significance
    of climate change, reluctant ever to acknowledge that it is
    in reality occurring, on the best evidence available, at the
    highest predicted rates.

    When prominent commentators
    close to Government question the professional
    competence of the Bureau of Meteorology
    or suggest
    that the Liberal Governments of Victoria and New South
    Wales are weakly caving in to green socialists who oppose
    coal seam gas drilling,then serious debate about critical
    issues is frustrated.

    Adopting the ‘cut through’ technique of contemporary
    political practice, the Prime Minister famously mocked the
    emissions trading scheme “as a so-called market in the
    non-delivery of an invisible substance to no one.”11 Some
    voters were presumably confirmed in their opposition to
    the scheme as intended, but this is not an argument made
    in good faith. In truth the scheme was similar to that
    proposed by John Howard, a market instrument of a kind
    exactly advocated by Milton Friedman, the patron saint of
    neoliberal economics: he preferred a trading scheme to
    government regulation.]

  3. [Joe sadly is very much out of his depth he should give the game away.]

    Gee, it’s lucky we kept all those other strings to our economic bow, like the car industry, the NBN, and mammoth investment in alternative energy sources. And for billions of dollars worth of revenue of course there’s the Carbon Tax, and the closing off of loopholes for big tax avoiders like 21st Century Fox.

    Whew! For a minute there I thougth… oh… wait…

  4. This is a little ambiguous – is Barnaby offended that people think Queensland stopped being a hick state?

    the level of corruption deep in the soul of the LNP is seen in that they cannot disown Joh. the only good thing Joh did was the Joh for PM campaign that kept Howard out for bit. However, in hindsight, maybe Howard winning when the party was still more moderate, the boom was yet to come, and having keating as LOTO would have worked in our favour?

  5. Victoria

    Thankyou for the photo link. i still have tears of laughter.

    You and Zoomster seem to have reasonably good connections with unions and ALP heavies. That last photo needs to be used. He looks like a vampire? Hannibal Lector? a zombie? It is hilarious.


  6. Just noticed the SMH headline: $51 billion dollar black hole: Hockey lays the blame.
    For a ‘no excuses’ government, they spend a hell of a lot of time making up excuses.

  7. [Mr Hockey sought to put pressure on Labor over the deficit saying: “Sooner or later the Labor party needs to understand that they can’t keep whingeing about spending more money, whilst we fail to get the revenue that was anticipated from iron ore exports and coal exports months and a year ago.”.

    But Labor’s Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen said the opposition would not back the government’s “unfair budget” because it was “fundamentally bad for the economy”.

    And Mr Bowen said Mr Hockey’s warning about diminishing revenues flew in the face of his previous claims in opposition that Australia did not have a revenue problem and accused the Treasurer of abandoning his May budget.

    “This is a complete and humilating back down for the Treasurer,” Mr Bowen told Fairfax Media on Tuesday.

    “As world leaders fly into Australia for the G20, they are witnessing the Abbott government’s first budget completely unravelling.”]

  8. The headline of this “Vote Compass” article (highlighting the East-West Link question) is ok:

    But the first para is not:

    The Victorian Coalition’s election campaign has received a boost, with the latest Vote Compass results showing nearly half of Victorian voters support the East West Link project.

    When the results are examined according to voting intention, almost all of the objection is coming from coalition and “other” voters. Those with an ALP or Greens intention are very strongly in favour of scrapping the project. I would read this as irrelevant to the fortunes of the Coalition in Victoria as almost all of the support for the project is clearly coming from their existing base.

  9. 954

    Imagine if an ALP Prime Minister did that. They might well be forced to resign by negative media coverage and resulting public outcry.

  10. [Imagine if an ALP Prime Minister did that. They might well be forced to resign by negative media coverage and resulting public outcry.]

    i had the same thought. Bolt and Gerard’s heads would explode.

  11. StephenD:

    [I would read this as irrelevant to the fortunes of the Coalition in Victoria as almost all of the support for the project is clearly coming from their existing base.]

    Also, as a non-scientific poll, the results are irrelevant in general.

  12. [FMG’s marginal cost of production is around $65 to $75 depending on who you ask.]

    that’s what I’ve heard too – that’s a whole lotta pain right there.

    [RIO and BHP are in the $40 to $50 zone – anecdotally they are ramping up production with the aim of suffocating their higher cost competitors.]

    They are price takers, and know which way the wind is blowing, so they are trying to get as much out of the ground now before the price does hit $55. If that farks FMG, then so be it.

  13. @KarenMMiddleton: Asked if Tony Abbott had shirt-fronted the Russian President, a Kremlin spokesman is quoted as saying: “lt appears he did not try.” #APEC

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