Margin: Liberal 5.1%
Location: Outer Eastern Melbourne, Victoria
Outgoing member: Chris Pearce (Liberal)
In a nutshell: Labor’s failure to win the Aston by-election in 2001 gave a struggling Howard government a morale boost, and scotched a rare opportunity for Labor to win a fairly safe Liberal seat. The victor of the by-election, Chris Pearce, is bowing out at the election, to be succeeded as Liberal candidate by Alan Tudge.
Taking in the outer eastern Melbourne suburbs of Wantirna, Knoxfield, Rowville and Bayswater, Aston is best remembered as the scene of a morale-boosting pre-Tampa by-election win for the Liberals after the death of sitting member Peter Nugent on 14 July 2001, when Labor managed a swing of just 3.7 per cent. The seat has been drifting in a Liberal direction since its creation in 1984, due partly to redistributions and partly to demographic changes. Nugent picked up the seat from Labor’s John Saunderson following the seismic swing to the Liberals in Victoria at the 1990 election, and it has remained with the party ever since. His successor was Chris Pearce, a Knox councillor and managing director of a company specialising in “e-commerce infrastructures”. Typically for an outer suburban seat, there was a heavy swing to the Liberals in 2004, when Pearce added 7.9 per cent to his primary vote and 7.4 per cent on two-party preferred. It was widely noted that this left the seat with a bigger Liberal margin than the famously blue-ribbon Kooyong, part of a national trend that was corrected in 2007 when Aston followed the outer suburban trend by swinging 8.3 per cent for Labor.
Chris Pearce was closely associated with Peter Costello throughout his time in politics, and his announcement he would bow out at the election came hard on the heels of Costello’s. The hotly contested preselection was won by Alan Tudge, a former staffer to Brendan Nelson and Alexander Downer. According to VexNews, Tudge won the final ballot from Neil Angus, a chartered accountant who has since won endorsement for the state seat of Forest Hill, with a further nine candidates excluded in earlier rounds.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.