Seat du jour: Chisholm

The only seat Labor lost to the Coalition at the 2016 election, the Melbourne seat of Chisholm is a must-win for for them if they are to prevail in 2019.

Welcome to episode seven of Seat du jour, an opportunity for you to read about and (hopefully) discuss the individual contests that will determine the May 18 election. Earlier instalments covered Reid, Bass, Pearce, Lindsay, Gilmore, Dickson and La Trobe. Today is the turn of the eastern Melbourne seat of Chisholm, for which the Poll Bludger election guide entry can be found here.

Chisholm was the only seat in the country to go from Labor to Liberal in 2016, and is considered perhaps the single seat most likely to go back the other way this time, not counting the redistribution-affected seat of Dunkley. Among the weights in the Liberal saddlebag are the departure of the victor of 2016, Julia Banks, who, disaffected by the coup against Malcolm Turnbull, quit the party in November and announced in January she would run against Greg Hunt in Flinders. The two new major party candidates are, notably, both of the Chinese community, which over the past decade has grown dramatically in the middle suburban area covered by the electorate. The seat now boasts the nation’s second highest proportion of Chinese language speakers after Bennelong in Sydney, and is further distinguished by its concentration of persons in their thirties, reflecting the presence of Deakin University’s Burwood campus.

Chisholm has existed in name since the enlargement of parliament in 1949, but it was initially based in areas further west that now bolster the Liberals in Higgins and Kooyong. The seat became competitive after the 1969 redistribution, but Labor would not prevail until 1983. Early Howard government Health Minister Michael Wooldridge held teh seat for the Liberals precariously from 1987 to 1998, when he jumped ship for the safer seat of Casey. It was then won for Labor in his absence by Anna Burke, whose margin peaked at 7.4% in 2007 before wearing away to 1.6% in 2013. With Burke’s retirement in 2016, the seat was gained for the Liberals by Julia Banks, a lawyer for George Weston Foods, who accounted for the narrow margin with a 2.8% swing.

The new Liberal candidate is Gladys Liu, director of Blue Ribbon Consultancy and a conservative party activist whose energy is acknowledged even by her opponents. However, Liu has had a difficult campaign, having struggled to finesse media probing of her record as a campaigner on against same-sex marriage and gender fluidity. Labor’s candidate is Jennifer Yang, a former adviser to Bill Shorten and mayor of Manningham who ran second as a candidate in last year’s Melbourne lord mayoral election in May, finishing 3.0% behind winning candidate Sally Capp after preferences.

Media reports throughout the campaign have persistently indicated that both sides regard the seat as likely to go to Labor, although Scott Morrison made the effort to visit shortly after the election was called to launch Liu’s campaign. Pessimistic noises from the Liberals featured in reports on the state of play in The Australian and The Age in the first week of the campaign. In the weeks that followed, the Financial Review listed it as one of four near-hopeless cases that the Liberals hoped to balance with gains elsewhere, and the ABC’s Michael Rowland related that a senior Liberal minister had told him the seat had been written off.

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.

4 comments on “Seat du jour: Chisholm”

  1. Gladys Liu has vanished off the map. I wonder whether she will even be sighted at the launch of the “Morrison Coalition Team” this Sunday. The Liberals used her as an ‘attack dog’ in the local Chinese-Australian community in Julia Banks’ campaign – but those same lines have come back to bite her as candidate.

  2. If the seat wasn’t marginal enough, Gladys Liu has made the situation impossible for the Coalition when it was revealed that considered LGBTI issues as “ridiculous rubbish”, then tried to claim it was “fake news” even though it was recorded, and then tried to say that it was the views of the Chinese community.

    It was an impressive effort to reveal one as homophobic, then to lie about what you said, and then to smear the entire Chinese community as being as homophobic.

    You know what its called when you use a generalised smear against a community? That’s racism. It’s pretty impressive to be racist against a community you claim to be speaking for.

    (FWIW Labor candidate for Chisolm, Jennifer Yang, does not seem to suffer the same assumptions about her own community)

  3. This is my seat and the campaign has gone really cold from both sides over the last few weeks after a flying start from both sides. There has been no letterbox material and the campaigning has disappeared from the station. Gladys Liu has given it a real crack considering almost else would have written the seat off.

    In the northern part of the electorate, Gladys Liu seems to have a lot more corflutes out – and definitely more than previous elections. Further south in Mount Waverley, the numbers seems to be more even – though some business and houses have both out!!

    On the ground, it is actually very hard to get a feeling of what is actually going on.

  4. I suspect campaign resources have been diverted to seats like Higgins, which is getting a lot more fliers than usual.

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