Margin: Labor 24.1%
Location: Western Melbourne, Victoria
Outgoing member: Nicola Roxon (Labor)
In a nutshell: Nicola Roxon will bow out at the election after a 15-year parliamentary career, bequeathing her unloseable western Melbourne seat to Telstra executive Tim Watts.
The candidates (ballot paper order)
DWAYNE ROBERT SINGLETON
Located directly to the west of the Melbourne city centre, Gellibrand includes the solidly working class and immigrant suburbs from Footscray near the city south to Williamstown on the bay, extending south-west to Altona. The only time Labor has not held the seat since its creation in 1949 was when John Mullens quit the party during the Labor split of 1955, becoming one of six ALP (Anti-Communist) members who failed to hold their seats at the subsequent election. Nicola Roxon succeeded two-time Treasurer Ralph Willis as member in 1998 from a background with the National Union of Workers and as an industrial lawyer for Maurice Blackburn after winning the backing of the Right. After serving as Health Minister from the election of the Rudd government until December 2011 and Attorney-General thereafter, Roxon resigned from cabinet in February 2013 and announced she would bow out of politics at the election.
A hotly contested preselection to replace Roxon was won by Tim Watts, a Telstra executive who ran with the backing of Right faction powerbroker Senator Stephen Conroy, for whom he once worked as a staffer. Watts’ opponents included Katie Hall, a former adviser to Roxon who ran with her backing, and Kimberley Kitching, a former Melbourne councillor and current acting general manager of the Health Services Union No. 1 branch, who would again emerge empty-handed when she later sought berths for Julia Gillard’s seat of Lalor and the Senate ticket. Watts secured 126 votes in the local party ballot to 105 for Kitching and 87 for Hall, which gave Watts a decisive lead ahead of the vote of the party’s public office selection committee, at which support for Watts was assured by the stability pact in place between majority elements of the Right and Socialist Left. Kitching had reportedly hoped to prevail with support from Turkish community leaders, but was thwarted when the “Suleyman clan” (referring to an influential family in western suburbs politics) defected to Watts as part of a deal which Natalie Suleyman support in her bid for a state upper house berth.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.