Archive for June, 2010

Seat profile #131: Lalor

Lalor is a safe Labor seat on the western fringe of Melbourne. The seat has been held in the past by a series of prominent Labor figures:  former Chifley government minister Reg Pollard, Whitlam-era Deputy Prime Minister Jim Cairns and Hawke government minister Barry Jones.

The seat has been held by Julia Gillard since 1998. Gillard was recently elected Prime Minister after serving as Deputy Prime Minister since the 2007 election.

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Seat profile #130: Calwell

Calwell is a very safe Labor seat in the outer northern suburbs of Melbourne. Calwell covers most of Hume council area, and includes the suburbs of Broadmeadows, Craigieburn, Sunbury and Tullamarine.

The seat has been held by Maria Vamvakinou since 2001, who won the seat off Andrew Theophanous, who had been a Labor member until he was accused of allegations of migration fraud in 2000 and became an independent MP.

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Seat profile #129: Gorton

Gorton is a very safe Labor seat in the western suburbs of Melbourne. The seat was only created at the redistribution before the 2004 election, named after former Prime Minister John Gorton.

The seat is held by Brendan O’Connor, who had previously won the seat of Burke in 2001. O’Connor is a junior minister in the Labor government, and should win re-election with ease.

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Seat profile #128: Gellibrand

Gellibrand is a very safe Labor seat in western Melbourne. Gellibrand covers most Maribyrnong and Hobsons Bay council areas, which covers the suburbs immediately to the west of the centre of Melbourne and those along Port Phillip Bay. Key suburbs include Altona, Seaholme, Williamstown, Newport, Spotswood, Kingsville, Yarraville, Seddon, Footscray, Tottenham, Braybrook and Maidstone.

Gellibrand has been held by Health Minister Nicola Roxon since 1998.

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Seat profile #127: Maribyrnong

Maribyrnong is a safe Labor seat in western Melbourne. The seat is held by Bill Shorten, who won it in 2007 after a successful preselection challenge to the sitting member, Bob Sercombe. The seat has almost always been held by the ALP, with the exception of a decade in the 1950s and 1960s when it was held by a Liberal with the help of high levels of preferences from the Democratic Labor Party, and one term in the 1930s.

The seat covers the suburbs of Sunshine, Albion, Kealba, Essendon, Aberfeldie, Moonee Ponds, Niddrie and Keilor.

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Seat profile #126: Wills

Wills is a safe Labor seat in northwestern Melbourne. The seat has been won by the ALP at almost every election, except for the 1992 by-election and the following election in 1993, when the seat was won by left-wing independent and former footballer Phil Cleary. He won the seat following the retirement of former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, who had held the seat since 1980. The seat is now held by Kelvin Thomson, who won the seat off Cleary in 1996.

There is also a high vote for the Greens in southern parts of the seat.

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Seat profile #125: Holt

Holt is a safe Labor seat in southeastern Melbourne. The seat has nearly always been held by the ALP, including a number of prominent party figures. The seat was held by Michael Duffy from 1980 to 1996. Duffy served as a federal minister in the Hawke/Keating government for ten years.

He was succeeded by Gareth Evans, who had been a senior Hawke/Keating minister from the Senate, and served as Shadow Treasurer and deputy Labor leader for the first term of the Howard government. The seat has been held by Anthony Byrne since Evans’ retirement in 1999.

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What will Julia do?

From media reports, it appears that Julia Gillard is set to be comfortably elected as Labor leader and Prime Minister tomorrow morning. The question then becomes: what does she do about the impending election?

She will surely be planning some changes of key policies, possibly dropping the Resources Super Profits Tax or toughening the government’s stance on asylum seekers. Having said that, she can’t exactly distance herself from the Rudd agenda, considering how deeply she has been involved.

On the surface, it seems an act of crazy-brave recklessness. Despite the media campaign against Rudd, he had only lost a single poll. On a two-party preferred vote Rudd was still on 52%. Bear in mind that Howard was behind in the polls before the 1998, 2001 and 2004 elections. It’s possible that this is just the jumpy nature of the modern Labor Party powerbrokers. There are, however, two behind-the-scenes factors that may have triggered this: Rudd’s leadership could have been as incompetent and isolated as David Marr painted it in his recent Quarterly Essay, and internal polling by unions and the ALP showing Rudd destined for defeat, and with Gillard able to beat Abbott.

You’d expect a surge in the polls for Gillard. She is very popular, and despite being integral to the government she doesn’t have Rudd’s baggage. After all, despite all of Rudd’s problems, Abbott has failed to dominate in the way that Latham and Rudd had done over Howard. A more popular Labor leader should be able to dominate.

Yet that could slip quickly. The charge of ‘unelected leader’ will hurt, particularly when people haven’t anticipated such a sudden transition in the way they would have with Paul Keating, Gordon Brown or even Peter Costello. In addition, it seems unclear that she can distinguish her party in terms of policies as she has to govern. Can she really resurrect the CPRS? Will she produce a completely new climate policy? What about refugees? It seems to me that, the longer she waits, the harder it will be to win the election. It’s not like she isn’t already known¬†in the electorate, and her popularity will be hard to sustain at the head of a government which has already lost its shine.

In terms of election dates, it is difficult to hold an election between September 18 and October 9, due to school holidays, the AFL and NRL finals, and the timing of parliamentary sittings. If Gillard chooses to go later, it makes sense to go around October 16 or October 23, any later and you clash with the Victorian election.

We are one week away from Thursday, 1 July. After 1 July it is possible to call a half-senate election, along with an election of the House of Representatives. If Gillards wants to, she could call an election before Monday, 5 July, to be held on 7 August.

An election on 7 August would allow Gillard, after about ten days in office, to call a new election asking for a mandate from the voters. She would likely go to the polls well ahead of Tony Abbott, and her honeymoon could well last right through to election day.

It remains to be seen how she will move the ALP’s policy agenda, whether to the left or right. You would expect her to make a dent in the growing Greens vote, but it’s yet to be seen if her reputation as a supposed ‘left-wing’ candidate (despite the institutional support of the Labor Right), but we’ll wait to see if this will be enough to stave off the threat of Green gains in the House of Representatives and a swag of extra Senate seats.

Of course, there is another possible outcome, that could reflect another jurisdiction in Australia. Just over six months ago, another Labor leader gave a defiant speech before his execution, labelling his rival as a puppet of the factions. Despite personal popularity and a change in image, she failed to turn around her government’s popularity, and just five days ago lost the Penrith by-election in a massive landslide. Is it possible that Labor’s problems are deeper than Kevin Rudd, and his execution simply exposes the chaos of the government, allowing Tony Abbott to win the election. I don’t think that’s likely, but it reveals the massive risk Labor powerbrokers are taking in knocking off Rudd.

Seat profile #124: Isaacs

Isaacs is a relatively safe Labor seat on the southeastern fringe of Melbourne. Isaacs was a traditional marginal seat, but a redistribution before the 1996 election solidified the ALP’s hold on the seat. The seat was won by Mark Dreyfus in 2007 after sitting MP Ann Corcoran was pushed out in a contested preselection despite winning a majority of votes among local ALP members. The seat was also previously held by Greg Wilton, who is the only member of the House of Representatives to die by suicide, when he died in 2000.

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Seat profile #123: Chisholm

Chisholm is a relatively safe Labor seat in eastern Melbourne. The seat has been held by Labor MP Anna Burke since she won it in 1998. Before that it was held by Liberal minister Michael Wooldridge. The seat had a long history of being won easily by the Liberals, and then became more marginal in the 1980s, although Burke has solidified her position over the last decade.

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