The three areas I’ve covered (here, here and here) so far in this series amount to three-eighths of Victoria, but they contain about three-quarters of the marginal Labor seats. Today we’ll look at the rest of the state, with its small but possibly critical share of marginals.
Beyond Melbourne and the three big provincial cities are the 14 rural and regional seats. After losing Morwell and Narracan last time, Labor now holds none of them, and that state of affairs is expected to continue (although there’s been some talk of a Labor comeback in Morwell). The only real interest centres on the independents: can Gippsland East’s Craig Ingram again hold on against Liberals and Nationals, and will the Nationals hold off a new independent in Mildura?
My guess is “yes” to both, but these contests are notoriously hard to pick.
Then there’s the inner city: nine seats in a ring around the CBD. Labor currently holds them all, but Prahran is on the Liberals’ target list with a margin of 3.6%, in what could be a fascinating three-way contest with the Greens. The Liberals aren’t in the running elsewhere, but the Greens are challenging Labor in Melbourne (2.0%), Brunswick (3.6%), Richmond (3.6%) and Northcote (8.5%).
Labor will be very grateful for Liberal preferences in all four, but probably only in Northcote have they put it out of danger; the Greens remain competitive in the others. If they win any, however, it will not change the election outcome, since the Liberals’ decision has removed any possibility of a deal with the Greens in a hung parliament.
The northern and western suburbs are also solidly Labor: 17 seats with margins ranging up to 31.1% (Thomastown). Only two — Eltham (6.5%) and Yan Yean (7.9%) — have margins in single figures, and there’s no sign of the Liberals having enough momentum to get that far. Ditto for Ivanhoe (10.4%), which has edged onto the radar due to the resignation of its discontented sitting member.
South of the Yarra is a strip of eight safe Liberal seats, stretching from Doncaster to Sandringham. Labor won’t be a threat in any of them (Caulfield on 7.6% is the most marginal), but it will be interesting to see how well the Greens do. In 2006 they topped 15% in Caulfield, Kew and Hawthorn; if they can break 20% this time, they will be within sight of mounting a serious challenge in 2014 with the aid of Labor preferences.
The three Mornington Peninsula seats (Hastings, Mornington and Nepean) can be thought of as a detached extension of the safe Liberal strip; Hastings on 1% is only marginally Liberal, and in different circumstances Labor might be trying hard to win it back, but no-one seems to think that’s likely this time.
Finally, there are four seats that don’t fit neatly anywhere: Macedon and Seymour, which combine rural territory with the northern outskirts of Melbourne; Bass, which does much the same at the south-east; and Gembrook, which contains the bits left over at the end, mostly in the outer eastern and south-eastern suburbs.
Bass is secure for the Liberals, but the rest are on the target list. If the Coalition can’t win Gembrook (0.7%) they should probably just give up now. Seymour (6.7%) and Macedon (8.2%) look tougher, but they were among Labor’s notable 1999 gains (Macedon was then called “Gisborne”) and could be due for a swing back. Both are in bushfire country, and no one really knows how that will affect things.
For the state as a whole, the opposition should be confident of making six or seven gains; if they do well in the key areas — especially the provincial cities — that could blow out to nine or 10. That would be enough to give Labor a fright, but not enough to make Ted Baillieu premier.