Call of the board: outer Melbourne

The latest instalment in our slow-moving journey through the 2022 federal election result covers 17 seats in Melbourne’s suburbs and outskirts.

The latest instalment of Call of the Board takes us to Melbourne’s outer suburbs and hinterland, complementing the previous episode on inner Melbourne. Earlier entries covered New South Wales in four parts (inner Sydney, outer Sydney, the northern coast and the remainder) and the Northern Territory in one.

As always, the results are illustrated with colour-coded maps indicating the pattern of polling booth results both in terms of the two-party preferred vote and swing, which you can click on to view enlarged images. The first of these shows the seats that can plainly be regarded as part of Melbourne proper, including those covered in the previous post so as to illustrate the broader themes that will emerge throughout the seat-by-seat review below, namely that the wealthier parts of Melbourne moved to Labor and the less wealthy parts went the other way. The second of the two map images, and the second part of the post, covers six seats further afield on the fringes of Melbourne.

As will repeatedly be noted below, the two-party preferred results represented in the maps obscure various broader trends on the primary vote, on which both major parties tended to lose ground. Absent the teal independents who devastated the Liberals in inner urban areas, this manifested in higher votes for the Greens and, particularly in lower-income parts of Melbourne where the effects of the lockdowns were felt most keenly, what I will repeatedly lump together as the “right-wing minor parties” – the United Australia Party, whose anti-lockdown message found an audience in Melbourne like nowhere else, together with One Nation and Liberal Democrats, who contested many more seats this time than last.

Aston (Liberal 2.8%; 7.3% swing to Labor): Labor’s by-election win on April 1 was preceded by a significant softening up at the federal election, at which now-departed Liberal member Alan Tudge’s primary vote fell 11.6% – almost matching Goldstein, where teal independent Zoe Daniel unseated Tim Wilson, as the party’s worst result in the state. Future Labor member Mary Doyle added 2.7% to the Labor primary vote, a feat that eluded the party in most Victorian seats, with the Greens up 3.2% to 12.1%. The United Australia Party had a particularly strong result for some reason, their 6.1% comparing with 2.8% in neighbouring Deakin.

Bruce (Labor 6.6%; 0.7% swing to Liberal): Similar to neighbouring Holt, though in lesser degree, the result in this south-eastern suburbs seat had more of the character of western and northern than eastern Melbourne, though with less damage to Labor who suffered only a slight two-party swing. This reflected the fact that both major parties were well down on the primary vote, Labor member Julian Hill by 6.6% and the Liberals by 5.4%. As in the north and west, there was strong movement to right-wing minor parties, with the United Australia Party (whose candidate was Matt Babet, brother of the party’s soon-to-be-elected Senator Ralph Babet) more than doubling their share to 8.7% and the Liberal Democrats and One Nation scoring nearly 10% between them, while the Greens also gained by 2.1% to 9.7%.

Calwell (Labor 12.4%; 7.2% swing to Liberal): The result here was of a piece with Labor’s other strongholds in Melbourne’s outer north and west, Gorton and Scullin, in that the Labor vote fell heavily — incumbent Maria Vamvakinou down in this case by 9.6% to 44.8% — without producing a dividend for the Liberals. Instead, strong gains were made by the right-wing minors, with the United Australia Party vaulting 5.5% to 8.9% despite One Nation entering the field and polling 7.0%. As elsewhere, there was room left for a strong lift for the Greens, who were up 3.0% to 9.7%.

Deakin (Liberal 0.2%; 4.5% swing to Labor): The result in this seat in Melbourne’s middle eastern suburbs was the latest in a long line of near-misses for Labor in a seat they have only won three times in a history going back to 1937, Liberal member Michael Sukkar making it home by 375 votes after shedding 6.2% on the primary vote. Reflecting the pattern throughout eastern Melbourne, Labor’s primary vote was little changed from 2019, the Greens were well up (by 4.6% to 13.9%) and a full suite of right-wing minor party candidates (United Australia Party, One Nation, Liberal Democrats) all failed to clear 3%.

Dunkley (Labor 6.3%; 3.6% swing to Labor): Peta Murphy gained Dunkley for Labor in 2019 after a redistribution turned a 1.4% Liberal margin into a notional Labor margin of 1.0%, to which she added a 1.7% swing against the trend of that election. This time she added a further 3.5% to a margin that now seems to present a case study of Victoria’s electoral turn to the left. Murphy also recorded a relatively strong 1.7% primary vote gain, perhaps reflecting a sophomore surge effect, while the Liberals plunged 7.4%, which as elsewhere was absorbed by a range of right-wing minor parties, with the Greens also up by 2.0%.

Gorton (Labor 10.0%; 4.3% swing to Liberal): Labor’s Brendan O’Connor copped a 10.1% hit on the primary vote, which was Labor’s second worst result after Scullin out of the seats that did not feature major independent entrants (three of which recorded double-digit falls in the Labor primary vote). One Nation’s 7.3% was their best result in the greater Melbourne area, aided by the absence of competition from the Liberal Democrats. The United Australia Party as well as the Liberals trod water, while the Greens were up 1.6% to 9.0%.

Holt (Labor 7.1%; 1.8% swing to Liberal): Centred around the south-eastern Melbourne fringe centre of Cranbourne, this seat followed similar patterns to the low-income suburbs of Melbourne’s north and west, with both major parties well down on the primary vote and the United Australia Party polling strongly, surging 3.5% to 9.7% to reduce the Greens to fourth place, despite their gaining 1.4%. The UAP also had to reckon with newly acquired competition for the right-wing vote from One Nation and the Liberal Democrats, who respectively scored 4.8% and 2.7%. The 9.7% drop in the Labor primary vote may have been influenced by the retirement after 23 years of Anthony Byrne. However, it only translated into a two-party swing of 1.8% against Labor newcomer Cassandro Fernando, with the Liberals also down 6.2%. Significantly, the Liberal swing did not carry over to the semi-rural southern end of the electorate on Westernport Bay.

Jagajaga (Labor 12.3%; 6.5% swing to Labor): Jagajaga produced a result characteristic of the otherwise Liberal-held seats of the eastern suburbs in swinging heavily to Labor, with Kate Thwaites boosting her margin from 6.6% to 12.3% at her sophomore election without gaining on the primary vote. The dividend from a 10.0% collapse in the Liberal primary vote was widely dispersed, with the Greens gaining 2.3%, the Liberal Democrats’ entry accounting for 3.7%, and the United Australia Party and One Nation failing to make serious headway.

Lalor (Labor 12.8%; 0.4% swing to Labor): The stability on two-party preferred conceals a big shift to neither-of-the-above, with Labor member Joanne Ryan down 7.5% on the primary vote and Liberal down 5.1%. Most of this was gained by right-wing minors, with the United Australia Party up 2.3% to 7.2% despite newly acquired competition from One Nation and the Liberal Democrats on 3.9% and 3.8% respectively. But the Greens were up solidly as well, gaining 2.4% to 10.4%, the first time they had reached double figures in this seat.

Menzies (Liberal 0.7%; 6.3% swing to Labor): The anti-Liberal wave in eastern Melbourne came close to delivering a boilover in a seat the Liberals have held since its creation in 1984, with Liberal debutant Keith Wolahan suffering an 8.8% drop in the primary vote. Contributing factors may have been the loss of long-serving member Kevin Andrews’ personal vote and the backlash against the Liberals among the Chinese community, who populate this seat in larger numbers than other eastern Melbourne seats a comparable distance from the city. As elsewhere in the eastern suburbs, right-wing minor parties performed only modestly, with Labor up 2.8% and the Greens up 4.0%.

Scullin (Labor 15.6%; 6.1% swing to Liberal): While not Labor’s worst result in two-party swing terms, Scullin was quite substantially so on the primary vote out of any seat not won by independents, Andrew Giles falling fully 14.2% from a high base of 60.4%. The two-party swing was blunted by the fact that an unusually high share of it went to the Greens, up 4.2% to 10.9% in another seat where they had never before reached double digits. As elsewhere though, the main gains were by the minor party right, with the United Australia Party up 3.1% to 8.2% despite the entry of One Nation and the Liberal Democrats on 6.5% and 3.8% respectively.

Casey (Liberal 1.5%; 3.1% swing to Labor): Labor had hopes of nabbing this seat beyond the eastern fringe of Melbourne with the retirement of Tony Smith, who had held it since 2001, but the 3.1% swing landed short of the required 4.6%. Liberal debutant Aaron Violi dropped 8.7% on his party’s primary vote, but Labor was also down 3.8% in the face of a field that included a strongly performing independent in Claire Ferres Miles, who scored 8.3%. The Liberal vote was also sapped by the right-wing minor party insurgency, which as in so many other places saw the United Australia Party vote increase despite competition from One Nation and the Liberal Democrats, though none of the three cleared 5%.

Corio (Labor 12.8%; 2.5% swing to Labor): The pattern of the swing in the Geelong seat of Corio reflected that of Melbourne in miniature, with the working class suburbs of the city’s industrial north swinging to the Liberals and the core going the other way. All told though, the most striking aspect of the result was a 9.3% drop in the Liberal primary vote, though this partly reflected an expansion in the field of candidates from four to nine, which also fed into a 5.5% drop for Labor incumbent Richard Marles. It also presumably explains a small drop for the United Australia Party, who had to contend with One Nation on 3.9% and the Liberal Democrats on 3.5%.

Flinders (Liberal 6.7%; 1.1% swing to Liberal): Despite Greg Hunt making way for Zoe McKenzie as Liberal member, this seat produced a relatively static result, with two independent candidates polling 12.5% between them to largely account for the 13.8% former Chisholm MP Julia Banks scored as an independent in 2019. Liberal and Labor were both down a little over 3.0% on the primary vote, with the Greens up 2.6% and only modest gains for right-wing minor parties.

Hawke (Labor 7.6%; 2.6% swing to Liberal): The pattern of western Melbourne carried over to this new seat beyond the metropolitan fringe, where Labor’s Sam Rae suffered a 7.4% drop on the primary vote that came out at 2.6% after preferences, with the Liberals also down 3.0% on the primary vote. A distinctive feature in this case was a creditable 7.9% for professional snake catcher and independent candidate Jarrod Bingham, who went on to get lost in the crowd as a candidate for the over-hyped seat of Melton at the November state election.

La Trobe (Liberal 8.7%; 3.2% swing to Liberal): After providing Labor with one of its two Victorian gains of the 2010 election, this seat on Melbourne’s eastern fringe has been drifting out of their reach since Jason Wood recovered it for the Liberals in 2013. Two redistributions have played a part, but Wood has further enjoyed consecutive swings of 1.3% and now 3.2%. To some extent this can be seen as an extension of the swing in Melbourne’s outer south-east, also observable in Bruce and Holt. Even so, Wood did well to all but break even on the primary vote, with right-wing minor parties recording relatively modest gains. Labor meanwhile sank 7.5%, seemingly losing support to the Greens who were up 3.3% to 10.9%.

McEwen (Labor 3.3%; 2.0% swing to Liberal): After falling 27 votes short on his first attempt in 2007, Labor member Rob Mitchell has held this seat on Melbourne’s northern fringe on dramatically fluctuating margins since 2010, the 3.3% left to him after a 2.0% swing at this election being his second narrowest margin after his 313-vote win in 2013. That aside, this was an unusually static result by Victorian standards, aside from a 4.7% spike in the Greens vote 14.1%, part of which would have reflected a 3.0% Animal Justice vote from 2019 being up for grabs.

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 “Call of the board: outer Melbourne”

  1. I know this isn’t really related, but I’m pretty sure you skipped over Macquarie when you did the NSW electorates

  2. This doesn’t look good for the next election for the libs either. A significant cohort of that shift in votes to right wing parties was the cooker vote. Centred around North/Northwest Melbourne. They’re just not a large enough group and they’re in “safe” ALP seats. If they had been sourced from the traditional liberal seats, they might have held on.

    I don’t see how the strategy of the libs has changed.

  3. Menzies, Deakin, Casey and probably Monash and Nicholls are in play next election. Cannot see Liberals winning back any. Victoria has the potential to turn into a sort of Qld in reverse

  4. @MelbourneMammoth: I can see a few possibilities.

    McEwen is currently held on 2.0%, and is comprised of demographics which have been moving toward the Liberals (two-job households with kids, paying high mortgages). The dozen or so rate rises the RBA has rammed through since the election will leave those electors feeling the pain, and linking the two in their minds. If the Libs can get their stuff together, I’d tip them to pick up McEwen in the next election rather handily.

    Goldstein: Zoe Daniel did very well to take this seat from the odious Tim Wilson; however, you can bet that the Coalition and their press-gallery stooges will be targeting her heavily in this election and every election, if only from an outraged sense of entitlement that she “stole” “their” seat. When she either retires or is defeated, it’s almost certain that the Coalition will regain the seat.

    Kooyong: See above; while the underlying landscape is less slightly Liberal-tilting than Goldstein, Kooyong is a Federation seat and had been held by the Coalition parties (or their predecessors) since 1901 without interruption. It was Menzies’ seat, and Andrew Peacock’s, and John Latham’s, and so on – an ultra-safe parachute target. The Coalition will stop at nothing to get it back, and I expect them to succeed – if not by beating Monique Ryan, then when she retires.

    Higgins: With a margin of 2.1%, it wouldn’t take much of a redistribution to properly sink Labor’s chances of keeping their new acquisition – every block removed from the western end of the electorate, or added to the eastern end, would tilt the demographics in the Coalition’s favour.

    There’s just four examples of seats the Coalition could fairly easily regain in 1-2 elections.

    However, exploiting any of these would require the Coalition to (1) Perceive a path to 50.1% TCP which doesn’t carry an unacceptable cost elsewhere, (2) Be correct in their perception (as opposed to another Katherine Deves culture-war episode), and (3) Properly organise and follow-through on their strategies to do so.

    Given the massive ascendancy of the hard-Right in both of the Coalition parties, I’m not at all sure that they can and will do what it takes to regain these seats.

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