Margin: Labor 7.4%
Location: Central Western Regional, Victoria
In a nutshell: Ballarat was the only seat in the land to fall Labor’s way in the 2001 election. Labor member Catherine King survived a mild correction in 2004, and was boosted to a comfortable margin in 2007.
Ballarat has existed since federation, the obsolete spelling Ballaarat having been used until 1977. Its inaugural member was Alfred Deakin, who held it until his retirement in 1913. It then fell to Labor, and has since been keenly contested ever since. In modern times it has changed hands in 1980, when Labor’s John Mildren defeated Liberal member Jim Short (who returned in the Senate in 1984), in 1990 when Mildren was defeated by Liberal candidate Michael Ronaldson, and with Richardson’s initial retirement at the 2001 election (he too would later return as a Senator). It was the only seat in the country to fall to Labor at that election, with Labor boosted by the withdrawal in contentious circumstances of the initial Liberal candidate, Olympic gold medal trap shooter Russell Mark.
The winning candidate was Catherine King, a former health administrator and senior manager at KPMG Consulting. King is a member of the small Labor Left (“Pledge”) faction, and served as a shadow parliamentary secretary in Labor’s final term in office but was overlooked in government, possibly a legacy of her support for Kim Beazley during Kevin Rudd’s December 2006 leadership challenge. King has enjoyed a strong electoral record since gaining the seat with a 5.5 per cent swing in 2001, suffering a mild 1.1 per cent swing in 2004 before picking up 5.9 per cent in 2007. Her Liberal opponent is Mark Banwell, a former army officer and financial analyst who now works as director of a Ballarat property management company.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.