Seat du jour: Bruce

The retirement of Labor’s Alan Griffin may have created an opening for the Liberals in a south-eastern Melbourne seat that has remained outside their grasp for two decades.

The electorate of Bruce covers an area of south-eastern Melbourne about 20 kilometres from the city centre, and is to be vacated at the election by the retirement of Alan Griffin, who has held it for Labor since 1996. It encompasses Glen Waverley and Wheelers Hill in the north, Mulgrave and most of Springvale in the centre, and most of Dandenong in the south. Distinguishing demographic features include concentrations of Vietnamese in Springvale and Italians and Greeks in Dandenong, along with a rapidly growing Chinese presence in Glen Waverley. The Monash Freeway neatly cleaves the electorate into a Labor-voting south-west and a Liberal-voting north-east. The former has consistently outweighed the latter on Griffin’s watch, but he leaves the seat with a tenuous margin of 1.8%.




Bruce was created in 1955 to accommodate rapid post-war growth, from territory that had been covered by La Trobe since 1949 and Flinders beforehand. Initially it extended north to Burwood and south to Cranbourne and Berwick, but the 1969 redistribution drew it westwards into middle suburbia. With Mount Waverley as its focal point, the seat was secure for the Liberals through to the redistribution of 1996, when Mount Waverley was exchanged for Noble Park and Dandenong North. The member from 1955 to 1983 was Billy Snedden, who led the Liberals in opposition from the 1972 election defeat until Malcolm Fraser deposed him in March 1975, and went on to serve as Speaker throughout the period of Fraser’s government. Snedden retired after the 1983 election defeat and was succeeded at a by-election by Kenneth Aldred, who had held the since-abolished eastern suburbs seat of Henty for the Liberals from 1975 until his defeat in 1980. Aldred was defeated for Liberal preselection in 1990 by Julian Beale, whose seat of Deakin had been made notionally Labor by redistribution. Aldred then ran for Deakin himself, and was able to retain it for the Liberals on the back of a statewide backlash against Labor.

The 1996 redistribution was a watershed for the seat, which was held at all times beforehand by the Liberals, and all times thereafter by Labor. Julian Beale needed a swing in favour of 1.6% to retain his seat at the 1996 election, but he was able to manage only half that as Victoria largely resisted the national tide to the Coalition. Labor’s successful candidate was Alan Griffin, who was seeking refuge in the seat after the abolition of Corinella, which extended from southern Dandenong to Westernport Bay and around to Phillip Island. Griffin had gained Corinella for Labor in 1993 from Russell Broadbent, later to return as member for McMillan. A figure of influence in the Socialist Left faction, Griffin served as Veterans Affairs Minister for a term after the 2007 election victory, then stood aside citing personal leaders. From the back bench, he emerged as one of the most energetic backers of Kevin Rudd’s return to the leadership.

Griffin first announced his intention to bow out of politics in August 2011, then he changed his mind again a year later and ran again in 2013. A second retirement announcement, made in February 2015, has proved more durable. Labor’s candidate to succeed him is Julian Hill, an executive with the Victorian government’s Department of Economic Development and former mayor of Port Phillip, who won preselection without opposition. Hill faces an experienced Liberal opponent in Helen Kroger, who was elected to the Senate in 2007 but lost out after being demoted from second to third on the party’s Victorian ticket in 2013. Kroger won the Bruce preselection ahead of Emanuele Cicchiello, Lighthouse Christian College deputy principal and the party’s candidate in 2013. She is the ex-wife of Michael Kroger, the president of the party’s Victorian branch and a factional figurehead of long standing.

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.

8 comments on “Seat du jour: Bruce”

  1. This is a seat, in an area, which is ripe for a good boundaries clean up by the AEC at the next redistribution. Community of Interest seems to have become a foreign concept with all of the boundaries in the area lumping unrelated areas together – Chisholm, Bruce, Isaacs are all instances of this. It is is ridiculous that Dandenong be split across three seats – Bruce, Holt, Isaacs. Why not take Dandenong as a focus.

    As South East Melbourne has a real cluster of seats with low enrolments, it is likely that one seat will probably have to go and be replaced by a seat in Northern or Western Melbourne.

  2. I agree that change is coming But I think Bruce will be retained (along with Deakin and Menzies) simply because its named after a prime minister.

    I agree the City of Dandenong should be in one seat, that seat should be Bruce. The only electorate with falling enrollment in Victoria is Menzies and by the time the redistribution is called in 2018 it will be the seat most under quota. The other seat which reports falling enrollment is Hotham. If the AEC sticks to its community of interest then we should see this:

    Kooyoong – Rest of the City of Booroondara.

    Deakin – Rest of the city of Whitehorse.

    Chisholm -The rest of city of Monash.

    Bruce – Rest of Dandenong.

    Isaacs – the rest of Kingston

    Aston – The rest of Knox

    Menzies – Manningham/ more of Maroondah

    Casey – Yarra Ranges/less of Maroondah/Nillumbik

    Higgins – Further Southwards into Glen Eira.

    Dunkley – Northwards absorb all of the city of Frankston.

    La Trobe/Mcmillan/Holt to be split the Shire of Cardinia/City of Casey.

    Flinders – absorbs all of Mornington Shire

    For those of you unfamiliar with Melbourne’s metropolitan councils, Page 2 will allow you to visualise how this would play out:

  3. Wouldn’t doing the above make each of those seats very safe seats for each of the parties though? I would prefer that they stay marginal, plus them having a wide demographic sort of prevents a certain type of pork barrelling. At least, from my point of view.

  4. IF you were going to abolish a seat in this area, the most logical candidate is Chisholm, which can be neatly divided in three: Box Hill and Burwood into Deakin, Mount Waverley into Bruce, and Clayton/Oakleigh into Hotham.

    I still think a rural seat will be abolished next time though, with a new seat created in the booming outer western/northern suburbs. Basically, what the Committee tried to do last time before reversing themselves. This arrangement just works much better.

    @4 I grew up in the eastern suburbs, and yes the freeway was very much seen as a stark demographic divide. Drive south along Springvale or Blackburn Roads, and it’s pretty much an instant change from middle class suburbia to industrial/commerical sprawl as soon as you cross the freeway.

  5. @Raaraa – AEC is not allowed to consider the political consequences of redistributions (margins etc), though. As 1 points out, many seats in Melbourne’s SE don’t seem to have a coherent community of interest, which is supposed to be their prime concern.

  6. Raaraa, The reverse. Melbourne’s east would return to what it was in the 1970’s to mid 1990’s key electoral battle ground.

    I would expect, Deakin adding Box hill keeps it marginal but slightly better for the ALP, but still a lib hold, Bruce is still a swinger with ALP voting Clayton/Oakleigh being swapped for ALP voting Dandenong, but a better for the libs but not by a lot. Isaacs and Dunkley would cover most of the battle ground that decides Victorian state elections becoming keyt swingers, Aston adding ALP voting Ferntree Gully/Belgrave makes it more marginal and an ALp gain on a landside, la Trobe would stay marginal. I would expect only voter in Menzies and a seat based on Dandenong and possibly Goldstein would end up in safer seats.

    Mark – We actually both see it playing out fairly similarly. Same boundaries for Deakin. Your “Bruce” is similar to my “Chisholm” except I use Center road as a boundary hence Oakleigh/Clayton go to my “Chisholm”. My “Bruce” is actually fairly similar to your “Hotham” essentially our point of difference stems from where you put Oakleigh/Clayton.

  7. Joe@6

    @Raaraa – AEC is not allowed to consider the political consequences of redistributions (margins etc), though. As 1 points out, many seats in Melbourne’s SE don’t seem to have a coherent community of interest, which is supposed to be their prime concern.

    I understand, and this is the way I prefer it to be.

    The commission just adds to and remove from blocks of voters of surrounding electorates to keep the number within a range which is acceptable. From what I hear, they try to keep it within certain boundaries such as rivers, highways, etc, but sometimes just not possible.

    In doing so cities may get split. That being said, Dandenong central for example are in contrast with places like Clayton in terms of demography and if lines are drawn between the two, you’ll see a lot of “rich” and “poor” electorates which I rather avoid. There are of course unavoidable scenarios where a big chunk of an area may be of a certain demography, e.g. Kooyong.

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