Hillary reviews Victoria’s Labor seats in Part 1 of Victoria’s election guide, to see how they might fair on November 30.
They think it’s all over – well it is now. Is it? After the Dean fiasco
and a comprehensively ghastly Saulwick poll on Monday, the Libs would be
forgiven if they left the field (and who’d be a Dem on just two per cent?).

Still, the show must go on. In the wake of a redistribution, Labor has to
do better than last time outside Melbourne just to hold onto its seats. It
needs to win seats in Melbourne’s east and south-east if it wants a second
term of government. And the Libs can draw some encouragement from the
experience of 1985 when, despite a massive lead over Jeffrey K in the
opinion polls, John Cain failed to win as many seats as predicted.

Here are the seats the Libs and their country cousins will be gunning for –
the Labor marginals:

Mitcham (ALP 0.02 per cent) Runs along the Maroondah Highway in Melbourne’s
eastern suburbs, taking in the suburbs of Blackburn, Blackburn North, and
parts of Mitcham, Nunawading, Forest Hill and Vermont. Originally won by
the Libs in 1992, Liberal MP Roger Prescott clashed with Jeff and after
being dumped from the Cabinet in 1996 quit in spite the following year.
Labor’s Tony Robinson won the by-election with a 16 per cent swing and just
hung on in 1999 to give Labor its only win in the eastern suburbs. The
redistribution has made the margin wafer thin, and Robinson will have to see
off Liberal Russell Hannan if the Bracks Government is to survive.

Seymour (ALP 0.03 per cent) Rural electorate in central Victoria north and
north-west of Melbourne that includes the towns of Healesville, Kilmore,
Wallan, Yea, Alexandra, Seymour and Broadford. One of the upset seats of
1999, Seymour was held by Kennett Government minister Marie Tehan before
being picked up by local schoolteacher Ben Hardman for the ALP. Like
Mitcham, it has seen a narrow Labor majority eroded by the redistribution,
putting Liberal Michael Dalmau in striking position if Victorian RARAs drop
their flirtation with Labor.

Benalla (ALP 1.1 per cent) Central Highlands seat between Melbourne and
Wodonga, taking in Benalla, Euroa, Nagambie, Violet Town, Glenrowan,
Mansfield, Myrtleford and Bright, as well as the ski resorts of Mt Buller,
Mt Hotham, Falls Creek and Mt Buffalo. Benalla was a National Party
stronghold, held by party leader and Deputy Premier Pat McNamara from 1982
until his resignation in the wake of the 1999 disaster, when it went to
Labor’s Denise Allen. The Nats want it back, but the presence of a Liberal
candidate will keep the contest up in the air.

Carrum (ALP 1.3 per cent) Bayside seat in Melbourne’s outer south-east,
extending along Port Phillip Bay west of the Mornington Peninsula Freeway
from Aspendale to Seaford. Carrum was one of the surprise Labor holds of
1992, but became the only seat the Libs gain from Labor at the 1996 election
before Jenny Lindell won it back for the ALP in 1999 election. The
redistribution has increased the margin from a shaky 0.2 per cent to 1.6 per
cent.

Ballarat West (ALP 1.4 per cent) A Ballarat township based seat that takes
in the western (D’oh!) and northern parts of the regional city, including
Ballarat North, Black Hill, Wendouree, Alfredton, Delacombe, Redan and
Sebastopol that has traditionally been a Liberal seat before Labor’s Karen
Overington made it one of the upset wins of 1999. The redistribution has
increased Labor’s margin from 1.0 per cent to 1.5 per cent – but the former
Liberal member Judy Verlin wants it back.

Cranbourne (ALP 1.5 per cent) A predominantly urban seat on the outer
south-east fringe of the Melbourne metropolitan area, covering the rapidly
growing housing estates around (surprise, surprise) Cranbourne, such as
Carrum Downs, Seaford and Langwarrin. The seat has been radically redrawn
by the redistribution, with rural areas east and south of Cranbourne
replaced by more urban areas near Frankston, making it a notional Labor
electorate. Sitting Liberal MP Garry Rowe has held the seat since 1992, and
will face off against his Labor opponent from 1999, Jude Perera. While the
fight will be uphill, he may yet prevail.

Ripon (ALP 1.8 per cent) A rural electorate west of Ballarat, Ripon takes
in the towns of Ararat, Maryborough, Avoca, Stawell and Skipton and was
another upset Labor win in 1999. Sitting MP Joe Helper has had his margin
cut by around one per cent in the redistribution, and the Libs have high
hopes for their candidate Rob de Fegely, the son of a former MLC for
Ballarat Province.

Bendigo East (ALP 2.9 per cent) The smaller of the two Bendigo seats,
covering the metropolitan area of Bendigo east and north of the main railway
line, as well as nearby rural areas – and yet another of the 1999 Liberal
losses that cost Jeff his crown. Will sitting MP Jacinta Allan stay lucky?

Oakleigh (ALP 2.9 per cent) Narrow east-west aligned electorate in
Melbourne’s inner south-east taking in Carnegie, Ormond, Glen Huntly,
Murrumbeena, Chadstone, Oakleigh and Mount Waverley. Oakleigh was one of
the suburban gains that put Labor into office in 1999 with the victory of
Ann Barker. The redistribution has been kind, and she should see off
Liberal Peter Goudge.

Ballarat East (ALP 3.3 per cent) Covering the southern and (yes, you
guessed it) eastern suburbs of Ballarat, this a dream seat for political
hacks. Frank Sheehan held the seat for Labor from 1982 until 1992, and then
came within 27 votes of winning it back in 1996. Labor took it back in 1999
when former Ballarat Mayor Geoff Howard picked up a 3.7 per cent swing, and
the bruvvers should be able to hold their ground against Liberal Gerard
Fitzgerald.

Mulgrave (ALP 4.3 per cent) Outer south-east suburban seat that takes in
Mulgrave and parts of Wheelers Hill, Springvale, Noble Park and Dandenong
North. Mulgrave has picked up much of the abolished electorate of Dandenong
North – but with a much narrower margin. The Member for Dandenong North,
Finance Minister John Lenders, has is doing a runner and going for an Upper
House seat, leaving Daniel Andrews to fight off Liberal Chris Kelly.

Burwood (ALP 4.6 per cent) Inner eastern suburbs of Melbourne, including
Alamein, Ashwood, Ashburton, Burwood, Glen Iris, and parts of Surrey Hills,
and Camberwell. Burwood, of course, was Jeff’s old seat until Labor’s Bob
Stensholt won the seat in the by-election after the great man threw in the
towel. Di Rule should win it back for the Libs.

Albert Park (ALP 6.6 per cent) What will yuppification – not to mention the
arrival of the Crikey family – do for this inner city seat? Albert Park has
been Labor held for more than half a century, but urban re-generation is
seeing some older working class districts associated with local industry and
the Melbourne port district replaced by some very affluent new housing
developments. The electorate stretches along Hobson Bay from Glenhuntly
Road to the mouth of the Yarra generally west of St Kilda and Brighton
Roads, and includes the suburbs of St Kilda, Port Melbourne and South
Melbourne. It has been held since 1992 by Deputy Premier, Health Minister
and gay pin-up boy John Thwaites. The Grand Prix remains a rocky local
issue and the Greens have high hopes for the seat. Add up all that and the
seat becomes one to watch.

Tomorrow: How the Libs measure up

Peter Fray

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