May 8, 2012

Poll Bludger: how the Greens could enter Vic’s lower house

A diverting by-election looms in the Victorian state seat of Melbourne, former minister Bronwyn Pike evidently having made the

William Bowe — Editor of The Poll Bludger

William Bowe

Editor of The Poll Bludger

A diverting by-election looms in the Victorian state seat of Melbourne, former minister Bronwyn Pike evidently having made the not unusual decision that opposition is not for her. This electorate is of course a dead zone for the Liberals, such that the parliamentary balance of 45 pro-government and 43 anti-government members is certain to go undisturbed. However, it offers a golden opportunity for the Victorian Greens to achieve what they have never quite been able to manage: victory in a state lower house seat. Bounded to the south by the Yarra River, the electorate of Melbourne extends north through the city centre to the suburbs immediately to the north and north-west. The more easterly part of what is generally considered the inner-city constitutes the equally Greens-friendly seat of Richmond, and the two together constitute most of federal Melbourne. The map below shows two-party Labor-versus-Greens polling booth results from the 2010 election, with the font size varying according to the number of votes cast. As you can see, only in one booth did the Greens score a two-party majority, that being the Carlton booth nearest to the University of Melbourne campus.

Electorally speaking, three tendencies can be observed within the electorate. About 60% of the voters are in the inner northern suburbs (together with the booths in the CBD itself, which are presumably used by many voters who don’t live there), where Labor and the Greens were each worth about a third of the vote and the Liberals roughly a quarter. In Docklands and East Melbourne, high-powered city centre types drive the Liberal vote well into the 40s, although these booths only count for 12% of the total vote. The remaining quarter of the voters are in Flemington and Kensington which, being on the far side of the CityLink motorway, mark the beginning of Labor’s western suburbs heartland -- albeit the gentrification of Kensington has complicated this picture in recent years. Flemington however remains high in public housing and low in median income, and the area collectively shares a voting pattern of weakness for the Liberals (barely 20%) and strength for the Labor (over 40%, and approaching 50% in Flemington).

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