The Poll Bludger



Margin: Liberal 11.0%
Region: Southern Melbourne, Victoria
Outgoing member: Andrew Robb (Liberal)

In a nutshell: Tim Wilson stands to inherit the Liberal Party heirloom of Goldstein, covering an affluent area of Melbourne’s inner south whose voters don’t swing much.

Candidates in ballot paper order




Greens (bottom)

Family First Party

Animal Justice Party

Drug Law Reform

Liberal (top)

Labor (centre)

Goldstein covers affluent areas of bayside Melbourne around 15 kilometres south of the city centre, and is to be vacated at the election by the retirement of Andrew Robb, who has held it for the Liberals since 2004. The electorate extends coastally from Brighton in the north through Hampton, Sandringham and Black Rock to Beaumaris, and inland in the north beyond the Nepean Highway to accommodate Caulfield South and Bentleigh. The more inland areas are naturally marginal, but the affluence of the coastal suburbs has kept the seat in Liberal hands by stable margins ranging from 5.5% in 1993 to a new high of 11.0% in 2013.

The electorate was renamed from Balaclava in 1984, the two seats between them having been held by the dominant conservative party of the day since two-party system solidified in 1910. Balaclava was created at federation and drifted over time in its centre of gravity from St Kilda to Brighton. Other parts of the electorate were variously covered by Liberal-held Higinbotham from 1949 to 1969, and marginal Henty until its abolition in 1990. Beaumaris and Black Rock were placed in the new seat of Isaacs in 1969, and remaind there when Goldstein was created in 1984, which at that point extended northwards to St Kilda East. Goldstein assumed a more familiar form when it absorbed Beaumaris in 1996, greatly reducing the Liberals’ competitiveness in Isaacs.

Balaclava and then Goldstein were held from 1974 to 1990 by Ian Macphee, a leading figure of the party’s moderate tendency, identified at the time as the “wets”. Macphee was ultimately defeated for preselection ahead of the 1990 election by David Kemp, an intellectual leader of the competing neo-liberal “dries”, which provided a catalyst for Andrew Peacock’s successful challenge to John Howard’s leadership in May 1989. Kemp went on to serve in the Howard cabinet from October 1997 until his retirement at the 2004 election, as Education Minister until 2001 and Environment Minister thereafter.

With Kemp’s departure in 2004, the seat became available to Andrew Robb, the party’s federal director of the party through the election campaigns of 1990, 1993 and 1996. Robb had risen through Liberal politics via a role as executive director of the National Farmers Federation, an assertive voice at the time for labour market deregulation, and set up the marketing company Acxion for Kerry Packer after his stint as federal director. Robb had been promoted to the outer ministry by the final year of the Howard government, and unsuccessfully contested the deputy leadership after the defeat in 2007. He served as Trade and Investment Minister from the 2013 election victory until February 2016, when he announced his retirement. Robb was public in his support for Tony Abbott during the September 2015 leadership challenge.

A fiercely contested preselection to replace Robb was won by Tim Wilson, who had been appointed Human Rights Commissioner by the Abbott government in February 2014 after establishing a high profile through his role at the Institute of Public Affairs. Wilson emerged with a paper-thin winning margin of 142-140 in the final round over Denis Dragovic, a manager at Australian Red Cross and former consultant to the United Nations. Those eliminted earlier included Georgina Downer, lawyer, former diplomat and daughter of Howard government minister Alexander Downer.

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

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