The Poll Bludger



Margin: Labor 13.9%
Region: Northern Melbourne, Victoria

In a nutshell: Held for Labor since 2001 by Maria Vamvakinou, the northern Melbourne seat of Calwell tends not to get much attention on election night.

Candidates in ballot paper order




Liberal (centre)

Labor (top)

Greens (bottom)

Animal Justice Party


Calwell covers suburbs around Melbourne Airport in the city’s north-west, including Keilor, Sydenham and Taylors Lakes to the west, Tullamarine to the south, and from Broadmeadows north along Sydney Road to the southern part of Craigieburn. The seat was created with the expansion of parliament in 1984 but at that time the electorate was oriented further to the west, with only the Keilor and Sydenham area west of the Maribyrnong River carrying over to the electorate in its current form. The redistribution which took effect at the 1990 election shifted it eastwards to include Broadmeadows, which it has retained ever since. Substantial changes at the 2004 redistribution saw the electorate lose the areas west of the river to the new seat of Gorton while gaining Sunbury and Craigieburn to the north from abolished Burke, but these were reversed at the 2013 election, when Sunbury and most of Craigieburn were transferred to McEwen and Keilor and Sydenham were returned from Gorton.

Calwell has been won by Labor at each election since its creation by margins ranging from 7.1% in 1990 to 19.7% in 2010, which were respectively the worst and best elections for Labor in Victoria during the period in question. The seat’s inaugural member was Andrew Theophanous, who had been member for Burke from 1980. Theophanous quit the ALP in April 2000 after claiming factional leaders had reneged on a deal in which he was to be succeeded by his brother Theo, who served in the Victorian state upper house from 1988 to 2010 and as a minister from 2002 to 2008. Andrew Theophanous was facing criminal charges at the time of his departure from the party for receiving bribes and sexual favours from Chinese nationals seeking immigration assistance, for which he would eventually be sentenced to four years’ imprisonment, which was halved after one of the major charges was quashed on appeal.

Labor’s new candidate at the 2001 election was Maria Vamvakinou, who shared Theophanous’s Greek heritage and background in the Socialist Left faction, having spent the eight years before her entry to parliament as an electorate officer to factional powerbroker Senator Kim Carr. Vamvakinou went entirely untroubled by Theophanous’s forlorn bid to retain his seat as an independent, which scored him 9.6% of the vote. Vamvakinou had her 17.7% margin at the 2001 election pared back 1.6% by redistribution and 6.9% by a swing to the Liberals at the 2004 election, before enjoying a thumping 11.1% swing in 2007 and a further 0.4% swing in 2010. The redistribution before the September election increased her margin another 0.4%, but she went on to suffer a 6.2% swing that was slightly above the statewide 5.1%, reducing her margin to its present 13.9%. Vamvakinou has remained on the back bench throughout her time in parliament.

Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.

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