Seat of the week: Mallee

The seat that encompasses Mildura and the surrounding territory in Victoria’s north-western corner was retained for the Nationals by Andrew Broad, after the retirement of John Forrest in 2013.

The electorate of Mallee covers the north-western corner of Victoria, including the southern bank of the Murray River from Mildura and Swan Hall, and further territory south to Horsham. It is one of two seats in Victoria remaining to the Nationals, together with Gippsland. Andrew Broad retained the seat for the party in 2013 upon the retirement of John Forrest, the member since 1993, in the face of a determined challenge from the Liberals.

Mallee was created as an electorate with the expansion of parliament in 1949, prior to which the north-western corner of Victoria was accommodated by the electorate of Wimmera. Wimmera continued as an electorate immediately to the south of Mallee, encompassing Horsham and Stawell, but such was rural population decline that it was abolished in 1977, at which point Horsham was absorbed by Mallee and its territory further to the east was accommodated by a radical redrawing of Bendigo. Mallee has since been required to expand further, gaining 6000 voters in and around Stawell at the redistribution before the 2013 election.




Mallee has always been held by the National/Country Party, although Wimmera had a somewhat more complex time of it, being held by the Liberal Party from 1949 to 1958, and several varieties of conservative at other points since federation. However, John Forrest was only narrowly successful in accounting for Liberal challenger Adrian Kidd when his predecessor, Peter Fisher, vacated the seat at the 1993 election, overcoming a 59-41 flow of Labor preferences in favour of the Liberals to prevail by 0.5% at the final count.

The election emerged as a contest between Andrew Broad for the Nationals, a former president of the Victorian Farmers Federation, and Chris Crewther for the Liberals, a 29-year-old lawyer and adviser to Senator Michael Ronaldson. The state Liberals’ determination to field a candidate caused considerable friction between the coalition parties, and was in defiance of the express wishes of Tony Abbott. Broad declared that any opponent the Liberals might field against him would be “another Liberal Party muppet run out of Melbourne”, causing Liberal state director Damien Mantach to accuse him of a “shrill outburst”. It was reported that the dispute motivated some Nationals to assist conservative independent Cathy McGowan in her successful run against Sophie Mirabella in the neighbouring seat of Indi.

In the event, Broad prevailed by a comfortable 6.2% after preferences, his dominance in the rural parts of the electorate overwhelming modest Liberal majorities in the Mildura and Stawell booths. Labor had sought to stir the point by directing preferences to the Liberals, but their vote in fact split evenly between the two candidates. Katter’s Australian Party and Palmer United Party preferences favoured Crewther, but were well short of what he needed to wear down Broad’s 11.5% lead on the primary vote.

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.

5 comments on “Seat of the week: Mallee”

  1. The Nationals shouldn’t have any trouble retaining this one. Traditionally a very conservative agricultural electorate. But I have family in Milburn, they dislike Abbott strongly and apparently are not alone in that view

  2. Mallee maybe beyond the range of the ALP but it’s prone to falling a strong independent candidate.

    Mildura used to send Russell Savage as an independent MLA to Spring Street, so an independent is not unprecedented, and the loss of Indi at the past Federal election and Shepparton at the recent state election point to a real alienation in the conservative heartland along the Murray, which to be honest the Nats and Libs appear to have done little to address.

    I think the Nats and the Libs will through the kitchen sink at Indi and the re-diversion of scarce resources could consequently make any one of: Mallee, Murray or possibly even Gippsland vulnerable.

    Watch for a strong independent in any one of these three electorates to emerge prior the federal election and it could be “game on”.

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