Electoral Form Guide: Bendigo
Margin: Labor 6.1%
Location: Central Regional, Victoria
In a nutshell: Bendigo was once held by current Victorian Premier John Brumby, who was voted out when support for Labor sank across Victoria in 1990. Steve Gibbons has built up a solid margin since recovering it for Labor in 1998.
Electorate analysis: Created at federation, the electorate of Bendigo currently extends from the city itself south to Castlemaine, west to Maryborough and Dunolly and east to Heathcote. Billy Hughes moved to the electorate at the 1917 election from the Labor stronghold of West Sydney, six months after he emerged at the head of the Nationalist government following his expulsion from the ALP. Hughes picked up a 12.5 per cent swing to defeat sitting member Alfred Hampson, who won the seat for Labor for the first time in 1913, and he held the seat for five years before moving to North Sydney.
Curiously, Labor gained Bendigo when it lost office in 1949, and lost it again when it finally returned to power in 1972. The former result was considerably assisted by a redistribution that added Castlemaine; the latter was said by Labor speech-writer Graham Freudenberg to have resulted from the local Catholic bishops attacking the Labor member over abortion and education. Future Victorian Premier John Brumby gained the seat for Labor in 1983, going on to defeat in 1990 when Bendigo was one of nine seats lost by Labor. It was then held for the Liberals by Bruce Reid until his retirement in 1998, when Labor’s Steve Gibbons gained the seat with a 4.4 per cent swing.
Steve Gibbons worked as a trade union official, mechanic and part-time electorate officer to then state Opposition Leader John Brumby before entering parliament. A member of the Socialist Left faction, he has escaped significant promotion in his 12 years in politics. His margin in Bendigo was cut uncomfortably fine by a 2.7 per cent swing in 2004, but it emerged from the marginal zone with a 5.2 per cent of padding in 2007. Liberal candidate Craig Hunter is Craig Hunter, chief executive of research and development company Objectify Services.
The JWS Research-Telereach poll conducted on the final weekend of the campaign, covering 400 respondents in Bendigo with a margin of error of about 5 per cent, had Labor leading 61-39.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.