Margin: Labor 7.7%
Location: Eastern Melbourne, Victoria
In a nutshell: Labor has held Bruce without interruption since it was substantially redrawn in their favour before the 1996 election, the member since that time being key Kevin Rudd backer Alan Griffin.
The candidates (ballot paper order)
PAUL ROBERT JOSE TUYAU
GERALDINE MARIE ANTOINETTE GONSALVEZ
ROBERT GEORGE WHITE
Bruce covers suburbs in eastern Melbourne from Glen Waverley and Wheelers Hill south to Dandenong and Springvale, the latter suburb being home to substantial Vietnamese and Chinese communities. The Monash Freeway bisects the electorate from north-west to south-east, serving as a rough divider between a strongly Labor-voting south and a broadly marginal north with pockets of strong Liberal support around Wheelers Hill. The redistribution has added around 7500 voters from those parts of Glen Waverley that were previously in Chisholm, which has garnished Labor’s margin from 8.1% to 7.7%.
Bruce was created in 1955 but has been substantially altered over time by redistribution, its original boundaries extending far beyond the city limits to Cranbourne in the east and Berwick in the south. The inaugural member was Billy Snedden, who went on to lead the Coalition in opposition from the 1972 election defeat until Malcolm Fraser deposed him in March 1975, and then served as Speaker throughout the period of Fraser’s government. Snedden retired following the 1983 election defeat and was succeeded at the ensuing 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.
Suburban expansion meanwhile caused Bruce to be drawn into its long-term base of Glen Waverley, and it assumed roughly its current dimensions when it acquired Labor-voting Noble Park and Dandenong North in 1996. This proved a watershed moment electorally, the Liberals having held the seat without interruption previously and Labor having done so since. The notional Labor margin going into the 1996 election was 1.6%, which Beale was required to overcome in order to retain his seat. In the event he could manage only 0.8%, a rare disappointment for the Liberals in the context of that election. The winning Labor candidate was Alan Griffin, who had previously held the abolished seat of Corinella. Bruce has since swung substantially according to the prevailing political winds, but has nonetheless remained fairly secure for Labor, the narrowest margin after 1996 being 3.5% in 2004.
A noted figure of influence in the Socialist Left faction, Griffin served as Veterans Affairs Minister in the first term of the Rudd-Gillard government before standing aside after the 2010 election. Griffin cited personal reasons for this decision, but he would soon emerge as a numbers man for Kevin Rudd’s ongoing campaign to return to the leadership. Griffin announced he would not seek re-election in August 2011, before changing his mind in July 2012. He had earlier been fortunate to survive a preselection challenge before the 2007 election from Matt Carrick of the Right, who was reportedly thwarted by a single Transport Workers Union delegate who split from his faction’s line out of animus towards Carrick’s backers in the National Union of Workers.
The Liberal candidate is Emanuele Cicchiello, Knox councillor and deputy principal of Lighthouse Christian College.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.