Seat of the week: Hotham

This safe Labor seat in south-eastern Melbourne was long held by Simon Crean, who was succeeded upon his retirement at the 2013 election by Clare O’Neil.

Hotham has covered a shifting area of Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs since its creation in 1969, and presently encompasses suburbs on the southern side of the Nepean Highway from Bentleigh East and Oakleigh South to Cheltenham and Dingley Village. Labor’s strength in the electorate is concentrated in its south-east around Springvale South and Clayton South, with areas nearer the city being more marginal. Springvale’s development as a focal point of the Vietnamese community helps explain its shift from being Liberal-held for the first 11 years of its existence, to safe for Labor today. The seat was largely the successor to abolished Higinbotham, which extended to the coast at Sandringham, Black Rock and Beaumaris, and was in Liberal hands from its creation in 1949. Don Chipp succeeded inaugural member Frank Timson in 1960, and famously parted company with the Liberal Party to found the Australian Democrats in 1977, at which point he moved to the Senate. Labor picked up a 6.0% swing in the seat amidst its otherwise poor result at the 1977 election, but it was not until 1980 that it permanently shifted to the Labor fold with the election of Lewis Kent.




Kent vacated the seat in 1990 after redistribution weakened the position of his Left faction in the electorate, causing him to make an unsuccessful run for the short-lived new seat of Corinella on Melbourne’s south-eastern fringe. Simon Crean then inaugurated the Right’s hold on the seat, serving as member until his retirement at the 2013 election. Crean held the remarkable distinction of serving on the front bench for all but the final months of his 23-year parliamentary career, which climaxed with a tenure as Opposition Leader that began in the wake of the 2001 election defeat. He went on to resign in November 2003 when it became apparent he had lost the party’s support, making him the first leader of the federal ALP to be replaced without contesting an election. Prior to the 2007 election he saw off a determined but ultimately anti-climactic preselection challenge from Martin Pakula, then the state secretary of the National Union of Workers and now the Victorian Attorney-General. Crean’s tenure as a front-bencher finally came to an end in March 2013 when he called for a leadership spill in order to flush out Kevin Rudd, offering to serve as his deputy while criticising him for conducting a subterranean campaign against Julia Gillard. The challenge failed to eventuate when Rudd determined it would not succeed, and Gillard dismissed him for disloyalty. Crean unsuccessfully stood for the deputy leadership when Rudd finally toppled Gillard in late June, and then became one of a number of senior party figures to announce he would not seek another term.

Labor’s initial nominee to succeed Crean was Geoff Lake, a Minter Ellison who emerged the winner in a preselection process that pitted long-standing Right allies Stephen Conroy and Bill Shorten against each other, with the former backing Lake and the latter favouring disability worker Rosemary Barker. However, Lake’s run came to an ignominious end early in the election campaign when it emerged he had called a wheelchair-bound colleague a “bitch” and a “slut” while serving on Monash Council in 2002, at which time he was 22. The reports were said to have emerged on the initiative of Right faction foes of the National Union of Workers grouping, although the preselection remained in the NUW fold when the national executive replaced him with Clare O’Neil, a management consultant who had become Australia’s youngest ever female mayor with her election in Greater Dandenong in 2004.

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.

24 comments on “Seat of the week: Hotham”

  1. Hi William, I think you meant South-Eastern suburbs – rather than South-Western – in your first sentence of the first paragraph?

  2. Interesting from the map above that it is very much a seat of two halves – a marginal western side – which the libs would probably do better in if they they thought they could actually win the seat. And a very strong Labor eastern side that delivers the comfortable Labor majorities.

  3. The biggest and only threat to the ALP here will be the next Victorian Federal redistribution.

    Hotham (along with a range of seats in Melbourne’s SE are way under quota…Hotham is -4.78%, neighboring Chisholm -6.5%, Bruce -7.35%). In the North and west McEwen is +16.7% over quota, +12.7, in fact every seat bar JagaJaga (-1.8%) is over quota in the north and west. So we are now at the point recognised by recent Victorian state redistribution where a seat in Melbourne’s southeast has to be abolished with a new seat created in the northwest of Melbourne thereby catering for Melbourne’s westward stretch since the mid 1990’s.

    Hotham along with neighboring Goldstein, Isaacs, Higgins and Chisholm are the non Prime Minister seats in the E/SE, and as the AEC has an aversion to abolishing federations seats (Kooyong, Melbourne Ports) and PM seats, directly or indirectly Hotham will be directly affected by the outcome.

  4. Louis Davis and blackburnpseph

    Hotham is very much a seat of two halves.

    With the next redistribution, I would be incline to push Hotham north, to cover all of Murrumbeena and to take up some of or all of Carnegie/Caulfield currently in Higgins. While moving the south eastern corner into Holt.

    Would shift Higgins north to cover all of Hawthorn, this would allow all of Glen Iris and Camberwell to be moved back to its old home in Kooyong.

    I might even go further and add Kew to a new Higgins, in turn pushing Kooyong eastward to cover all of Mont Albert currently in Chisholm.

    I don’t see the AEC abolishing Hotham as it covers a large chunk of the south eastern suburbs, Goldstein historically has stayed closer to the beach and I don’t see that changing, except the AEC may move it north to cover St Kilda, and in turn move the Glen ira area into a new Hotham or Higgins, with a new seat stretching from the northern part of Port Phillip and covering Stonnington.

  5. The other possibility is that they do indeed abolish Hotham, moving the Springvale/Clayton/Oakleigh area into a new Bruce which covered the southern half of the current Bruce.

    This would require a reworking of the eastern suburbs which would then allow for some of what I suggested above.

  6. Creating a new seat in the north-west is a no brainer, and I was disappointed the AEC basically squibbed it last time. I would have thought abolishing a rural seat was the way to go, but the chronic shortage in the eastern suburbs is becoming a concern.

    Logically Chisholm is probably the best candidate to go, since it’s a long skinny north-south Division when all the major communication links run east-west. It links a bunch of disparate areas that you could easily add to Kooyong, Deakin, Bruce, and Hotham.

    I would move Hotham north to unite all of Oakleigh, Clayton, and Springvale (currently split). The Bentleigh/Cheltenham area can top up Goldstein or maybe Isaacs.

    McEwen will probably get pushed into the Yarra Valley or outer eastern suburbs….that will get pretty messy I think.

  7. I agree under an abolition scenario that Chisholm is the most likely candidate to be abolished, but the an alternative route the AEC could adopt is push Casey into Nillumbik shire towards Hurstbridge which originally was part of Casey back in the 1970 and 1980’s, but you can never tell with the AEC given the hashed job of Victoria back in 2010.

    The other two thing to remember Firstly, Melbourne Ports has been stubbornly below enrollment since 2010 and is likely to push Higgins further into Oakleigh anyway, this is further likely if the AEC decided to keep Kooyong’s changes to within Boorondara’s boundary.

    The other is Hotham’s use of rail lines as a boundary. This will have to change (along with all the other seats in Melbourne)

    Changes in Melbourne planning laws over the years in encourage urban density around public transport hubs and less at the urban fringe have combined with the recent move to remove railway crossings has encouraged new residential dwellings to be built over rail stations and railways line.

    This has been in the wind for a while but now it’s gaining traction as it appears from the drawings the current grade separations at Bentleigh and McKinnon stations will be the first two station to be built over and this style of development is expect to be rolled out along first both the Dandenong and Frankston rail lines, in short Hotham’s boundaries.

    Bear in mind that AEC originally was proposing to use the Frankston line through Bentleigh and Mckinnon as teh Goldstein/Hotham boundary and it was only through the objection process the issue of building over rail stations was raised which resulted in the Goldstein/Hotham boundary being left at Tucker Road.

    So, the way I see it based on that precedent AEC is quite likely to either move Hotham north and use Dandenong road or the SE freeway as an electoral boundary, or abolish it and bring Chisholm and Bruce southwards probably to the recently completed Dingley Bypass. Then Isaacs would move north into Bentleigh and Cheltenham, Dunkley north also into Aspendale and Carrum, Deakin would cover the city of Whitehorse.

  8. markmulcair

    The only issue with McEwen being pushed into the Yarra Valley is that it would need to jump over Jaga Jaga. the western end of McEwen is now divided between Indi and Casey.

  9. Markmulcair,

    Considering that’s where McEwen used to sit prior to the last election that’s interesting… Couldn’t they move McEwen to take in more of the growing outer northern suburbs it currently holds? Casey could maybe shift north to take in Kinglake, Christmas Hills and St Andrews?

  10. Bugler

    Jaga Jaga currently covers St Andrews (maybe I’m wrong), Kinglake is just inside the boundary of Indi. I gather McEwen will move further into the northern or northern west suburbs, this might allow the AEC to avoid creating a new seat.

  11. I agree with the above that the 2010 boundaries are a hotchpotch. Looking at current enrolment figures, it would seem sensible if there was some sort of Sunbury/ Gisborne seat and if La Trobe became a Berwick/ Pakenham seat. There are lots of seats that could theoretically be abolished – Chisholm, Hotham, Dunkley, Bruce, Isaacs or Holt – one of which could theoretically be dispensed with. Makes a lot of sense if one of those goes to allow for more rational boundaries elsewhere.

  12. Kent didn’t really retire in 1990 rather after redistribution Left lost numbers in Hotham. Kent ran in new electorate of Corinella but lost to Russell Boradbent. I think that when boundaries were announced Jenny Acton of ACTU was considered likely candidate but when Crean made a late-ish decision to leave ACTU Acton was pushed aside & received compensation of an Industrial Relations Commission position.

  13. @ 9, 10

    I still think abolishing a rural seat (prob Murray or Indi) will be the way to go. Seats like Scullin, Jagajaga and maybe Casey can expand further into McEwen’s urban fringe territory, and that should be enough to top up all the eastern surburbs seats further south. It just seems too messy in rural Victoria to keep all the existing seats, plus how do you draw McEwen?

    Hotham certainly is a seat of two clear halves, with Warrigal Road and the Dingley arterial basically being the dividing line between the middle class south/west and working class north/east. As long term inner city growth continues, it might eventually get dragged closer to the city (Ormond, Bentleigh, Caulfield) and become marginal again. But we’re probably talking decades here.

  14. markmulcair

    I think you might be looking at an old map or just referring to the old boundaries as the last redistribution means that Casey is no longer bordering McEwen.

    If Sophie or the Liberals failed to win Indi then the chance of Indi or Murray begin abolished would increase but I am not sure it would be good to see one seat in effect take up all of northern and north eastern Victoria.

  15. @16

    On current trends by 2017 (roughly when I’m expecting the next redistribution to be called) the East and Southeast is projected to be circa 82,000 voters short, the North and West will be circa 80,000 over quota, Northern Victoria will be about circa 20,000 under quota. So I think the action will be in the east/southeast.

    I don’t disagree with you outline for Northen Victoria, I just see it happening in 6/8 year time. My rationale is Victoria has only a tenuous hold on it’s 37th seat (it’s sat around 36.6 seat for near 20 years now) and with the jobs shock on the horizon for the 2017-2019 time frame it’s hard to see how Victoria will keep that 37th seat. Hence I see the scenario you outline being more of a 2021-2023 time frame and agree that it will unfold much as you outline with Murray the likely target.

    But actually having read some of the points raised, I’m now leaning to Hotham being abolished instead of Chisholm. Chisholm maybe an awkwardly designed seat, but it actually has two cores, Oakleigh and Box Hill.

    Hotham is literally nothing more than a random set of polling booths divided by a green wedge and with the major community hubs all on the electoral boundaries. It seems like an afterthought and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out whether this or Isaacs is the last seat to be drawn in Victoria. I also don’t see how it meets the “community of interest” criteria. Most seat in Melbourne are based on a municipal boundary for example, Goldstein is based on the city of Bayside, Jagajaga on the city of Banyule, Menzies on Manningham, etc., where as Hotham has four, Chisholm has two.

  16. 14

    Inner-city growth in Melbourne is unlikely to drag Hotham inward for many years yet. Above average growth is limited to the City of Port Phillip and to a lesser extent, the former City of Prahran part of Stonnington. Higgings and Goldstien can absorb a lot, with their lower population growth due to tighter development restrictions in many of their suburbs, before needing to drag Hotham in.

  17. 17

    It is probably time Parliament was enlarged. 14 Senators per state would be good. It could be done in two lots, with one per state per election over two elections, avoiding having to elect a senator in each state for only a short term (this is constitutional because the Senators for each state only have to be divided into as near as practicable half, not exactly half). The main cost would be a maximum of 5 extra redistribution, one in each mainland state (For an enlargement of Parliament to expand Tasmania`s representation, without adding any states or adding the territory`s populations and parliamentary representation to the calculation of the size of the House of Reps quota, would require 20 Senators per state) that does not have the comparative population growth or shrinkage to justify another redistribution after only a single term.

  18. Louis @ 17

    As of September 2014, Victoria was the second fastest growing state. The seat quota for Victoria is now about 36.9. South Australia is most likely to lose a seat next – it is now at 10.6 – and the double whammy of a decline in both mining and manufacturing mean that its population will not increase much at all. The loss of the 11th seat would be imminent in 2018 (when next due) or possibly before.

  19. @18

    Development close to the city is still going strong, Melbourne Ports had to lose electors last time. But I agree, any excess can probably be absorbed by Higgins (Sth Yarra, Prahran) and Goldstein (Caulfield, Elsternwick) for a while to come.


    It’s been 30 years since the last expansion, so I’m surprised it hasn’t been done sooner. All the parties would love it, as would election/redistribution nerds like myself(!).

  20. Tom @ 19 and Mark @ 21

    As fascinating from psephological as increase in parliament size would be, it is unlikely that a government would be ‘courageous’ (in the best Sir Humphrey sense) enough to embark on such a course in the current political environment. I cannot recall how it was sold in 1984.

  21. Mark @ 21

    There is also the possibility that either Melbourne or Melbourne Ports could cross the river – the first into Southbank or down St Kilda Road, or the latter into Docklands. Either could be fairly easily justified.

    Mark @ 14

    The country Victoria issue can probably be fairly easily solved by McEwen becoming an outer Melbourne seat and Murray and Indi eating away at the current Northern boundary. That would also allow Indi to be pushed back out rather than nudging outer Melbourne as it currently is.

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