Margin: Nationals 13.3%
Region: Eastern Victoria
Federal: Gippsland (87%)/McMillan (13%)
2010 BOOTH RESULTS MAP
The Latrobe Valley electorate of Morwell looms as one of the most interesting contests of the coming election, given its volatile electoral history and the major local issue of the Hazelwood coal mine fire, which caused a large part of the electorate to be affected by smoke and ash through February and early March, requiring the relocation of Morwell South residents vulnerable to its attendant health risks.
Together with its Latrobe Valley neighbour Narracan, the seat has undergone an electoral transformation in recent times, going from Labor-held to safely conservative within the space of a decade. The shift away from Labor has reflected the decline of the areas electricity industry, which has been reflected by the addition of new territories in the redistribution. The 5500 voters of Newborough amount to a newly acquired Labor redoubt at the eastern end of the electorate, whose inclusion cuts the Nationals margin by 3.0%.
The electorate continues to be centred on Morwell itself, located 140 kilometres east of Melbourne, from which it extends into 1,640 square kilometres of surrounding territory including Traralgon to the east, Toongabbie in the north and Churchill in the south. The inclusion of Newborough adds further to an already diverse picture of electoral support, with Morwell and Churchill leaning only slightly to the Nationals, who recorded two-party votes in the seventies and eighties in Traralgon and the rural booths.
Labors defeat in 2006 ended a hold on the electorate which went back to 1970, prior to which it had been held by the Liberals since its creation in 1955. Latrobe mayor Brendan Jenkins succeeded Keith Hamilton as Labors member at the 2002 election, but the electorate went strongly against the statewide trend in swinging against him by 4.4%. Along with the unfavourable demographic trend, Labor had been handicapped by local internal trouble, with former local member Derek Amos among those who quit the party.
Whereas Narracan fell to the Liberals, the winning candidate in Morwell was Russell Northe of the Nationals. Well known locally as a veteran player and coach for the Traralgon Football Club, Northe increased the Nationals vote from 12.3% to 27.6%, while the Liberals went backwards from 19.3% to 14.0%. Northe ultimately prevailed over Jenkins at the final count by 2.1%, and went on to enjoy the biggest swing of the 2010 election, when his margin blew out to 16.3%.
With the election of the Baillieu government, Northe assumed the position of parliamentary secretary for small business, supplemented by tourism in the April 2013 reshuffle that followed Ted Baillieus resignation. Shortly after the coal mine fire of February and March, he received an interestingly timed promotion to Energy and Resources Minister. His Labor opponent at the election will be 24-year-old Jadon Mintern, who has worked as an electorate officer for MPs including Labors upper house leader John Lenders.