Chisholm covers a band of suburbs in Melbourne’s electorally sensitive east, from Box Hill and Mont Albert in the north through Burwood and Mount Waverley in the centre to Chadstone, Oakleigh and Clayton in the south. Labor is strongest in the far south, with most of the remainder being naturally marginal and the Mont Albert area leaning Liberal. Reflecting the area’s static population, the redistribution that will take effect at the next election has added around 18,000 voters at Blackburn South, Burwood East and Forest Hill in the east (previously in Deakin), balanced only by the transfer of about 8000 voters around Glen Waverley to Bruce and 1500 in Mont Albert North to Kooyong. Antony Green calculates the changes have shaved 0.3% from the Labor margin, which is now at 5.8%.

Chisholm was created with the enlargement of parliament in 1949, but was then based on Camberwell and Glen Iris further to the west. It no longer contains any of its original territory, which now bolsters the Liberals in Higgins and Kooyong. Its progressive drift to the east accordingly made a Labor-leaning seat of what had traditionally been a safe one for the Liberals, its members being Wilfrid Kent Hughes until 1970, Tony Staley until 1980 and Graham Harris until 1983. The Liberal grip was loosened by successive swings in 1977, 1980 and 1983, the Labor candidate on each occasion being Helen Mayer, who succeeded on the third attempt. Early Howard government Health Minister Michael Wooldridge recovered the seat for the Liberals in 1987, and held it precariously until he jumped ship to the more secure Casey in 1998. The current Labor member, Anna Burke, prevailed at the 1998 election with a 2.1% margin that was little changed in 2001 and 2004. She finally achieved a secure margin with a 4.7% swing in 2007, before the seat went slightly against the statewide trend with a 1.3% swing to the Liberals in 2010.

Anna Burke had been an industrial officer with the Finance Sector Union before entering parliament, and is aligned with the Right sub-faction associated with the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association. She has had two spells as Deputy Speaker since Labor came to power in 2007, the interruption coming after the 2010 election when the government partially bolstered its fragile parliamentary position by having Liberal member Peter Slipper take her place. Burke returned to the role after the government appeared to go one better in having Slipper replace Harry Jenkins as Speaker in November 2011, and her national profile received a considerable boost when allegations of sexual harassment and misuse of taxi dockets compelled Slipper to stand aside in April 2012, leaving her the semi-permanent occupant of the chair.

The Liberals have again preselected their candidate from 2010, Vietnamese-born John Nguyen, a partner at Ernst & Young who was five years old when his family fled their native country in 1979. VexNews reports that Nguyen won the preselection ballot ahead of Nicholas Tragas, Telstra executive and Boroondara councillor, and that the two were respectively backed by “the sometimes united Kroger/Costello group” and its traditional rivals associated with Premier Ted Baillieu.