Margin: Liberal 0.4%
Region: South Eastern Metropolitan
Candidates in ballot paper order
MERVYN K. VOGT
2010 BOOTH RESULTS MAP
RESULTS MAP: Two-party preferred booth results from 2010 state election showing Liberal majority in blue and Labor in red. New boundaries in thicker blue lines, old ones in thinner red lines. Boundary data courtesy of Ben Raue of The Tally Room.
PAST RESULTS: Break at 1999 represents effect of the subsequent redistribution.
DEMOGRAPHICS: Based on 2012 census. School Leavers is percentage of high school graduates divided by persons over 18. LOTE is number identified as speaking language other than English at home, divided by total population.
Frankston was one of the twelve Coalition gains that decided the 2010 election, and it has since been the creaky hinge of the Baillieu-Napthine governments hold on power, owing to the erratic conduct of Liberal-turned-independent member Geoff Shaw. The seat takes its name from a major commercial centre on the Mornington Peninsula 40 kilometres south-east of central Melbourne, its boundaries as redrawn by the redistribution aligning almost precisely with the suburbs of Frankston, Frankston North and Frankston South. Low-income Frankston North and a small part of neighbouring Seaford have been gained from Cranbourne in the redistribution, adding 3500 new voters and all but eliminating the Liberal margin, which is cut from 2.1% to 0.4%.
The electorate of Frankston was created in 1967 but abolished between 1985 and 1992, concurrent with the existence of an electorate called Frankston North. Labor gained Frankston for the first time in 1982, but it was a safe seat for the Liberals on the boundaries drawn for it ten years later by virtue of its extension southwards into blue-ribbon Mount Eliza. The more accommodating territory for Labor was contained within Frankston East, which Peter McLellan won for the Liberals on narrow margins amid Jeff Kennetts victories in 1992 and 1996. McLellan resigned from the Liberal Party in 1998 and intended to seek re-election as an independent, but he died suddenly on the day of the September 1999 state election. This caused the poll for Frankston East to be deferred at a time when the Kennett governments fate was hanging in the balance, and Labors win at the special election a month later proving decisive in tipping it over the edge.
Frankston meanwhile was won for the Liberals in 1992 by Graeme Weideman, who had been the member from 1976 until his narrow defeat in 1982, and then held from 1996 to 2002 by Andrea McCall. The Liberal margin was in double figures throughout this period, but this changed with the 2002 redistribution, in which Mount Eliza was transferred to Mornington and Frankston absorbed most of the territory of an abolished Frankston East. McCalls margin was cut all the way down to 3.3%, considerably less than she needed to hold off the ensuing 9.6% swing to the 28-year-old Labor candidate, Alistair Harkness. A 2.6% swing at the 2006 election pared Harknesss margin back to 3.2%, which was more than accounted for by a 5.3% swing in 2010.
The Liberals’ win brought to parliament Geoff Shaw, a local accountancy business owner who was preselected after the party’s first choice, former Frankston mayor Rochelle McArthur, withdrew citing personal reasons. Shaw promptly emerged as the new governments loosest cannon, on account of his socially conservative enthusiasms and apparent weakness for getting involved in physical altercations. However, his biggest trouble emerged in 2012 when an Ombudsman’s report found he had misused his parliamentary car to pursue business activities, and that his actions constituted contempt of parliament. As a police investigation proceeded, Shaw announced his resignation from the Liberal Party in March 2013, declaring both himself and the electorate at large to be dissatisifed with Ted Baillieu’s leadership. This deprived the Coalition of its majority on the floor of parliament, and precipiated Baillieu’s resignation as Premier the following day.
Charges against Shaw in relation to the parliamentary car were dropped the following December, but the matter continued to be pursued by the parliament’s privileges committee. The committee’s report the following May recommended that Shaw be required to repay nearly $7000 and apologise to the parliament, but a minority report by its Labor members called for his expulsion, which would have initiated a by-election with the potential to bring down the government. The government’s applecart was then upset when Liberal MP Ken Smith, who had launched a blistering attack on Shaw when he resigned as Speaker a few months earlier, said he would vote with Labor in finding Shaw in contempt. Shaw accused Smith of acting with Napthines connivance and declared he would support a no-confidence motion against the government, although this failed to find backing from Labor.
The government resolved its problem by moving to suspend Shaw from parliament for eleven days, to be followed by expulsion if he failed to repay the money by early September. This placated Smith, and extended the time frame for Shaw’s expulsion beyond the point at which a by-election would have been required. Shaw duly delivered his apology upon returning from suspension in early September, but the saga had a final twist when Shaw told a newspaper reporter the process had been a farce. This prompted Napthine to move an expulsion motion on the grounds that Shaw had failed in delivering an appropriate apology, but Labor reversed its earlier position by voting down the motion, which Daniel Andrews dismissed as a cheap stunt.
Labor has not been without troubles of its own in Frankston, having lost its first choice of candidate in June. The party initially preselected Helen Constas, a local lawyer and Socialist Left faction member who ran unsuccessfully for the federal seat of Dunkley in 2004 and 2010. However, Constas was obliged to stand aside when it emerged she had reached a confidential court settlement in relation to claims of bullying in her capacity as chief executive of the Peninsula Community Legal Centre. The matter of her replacement was then taken in the hands of Labor’s administrative committee, which bypassed a rank-and-file ballot to anoint Paul Edbrooke, an organiser with the United Firefighters Union. This also required the waiving of the partys usual requirement that candidates be party members of one years standing. Other hopefuls were Frankston councillors Colin Hampton and James Dooley, the latter of whom was reportedly told not to stand as the decision to endorse Edbrooke had already been settled.
The Liberal candidate is Sean Armistead, a manager at Crown Casino, who won preselection ahead of Frankston mayor Darrel Taylor and policeman Michael Lamb. Shaw plans to seek re-election as an independent, although a reported Labor internal poll had support for him at 4%.
The general view to emerge from reportage in the first two weeks was that while there are varying degrees of doubt about the other sandbelt marginals of Bentleigh, Carrum and Mordialloc, both sides acknowledge Labor to be ahead in Frankston. However, the verdict from the Liberal camp related on the morning of the election was that they considered themselves a strong chance. For what little it’s likely to be worth to them, the Herald-Sun reported that Geoff Shaw is likely to direct his preferences to the Liberals.