Margin: Liberal 5.9%
Location: Outer Eastern Melbourne, Victoria
In a nutshell: Casey was a keenly contested marginal seat in the seventies and eighties, but became secure for the Liberals over time. Front-bencher Tony Smith has held the seat since 2001.
Casey covers Melbourne’s eastern outskirts, from Lilydale east to Seville and Coldstream south to Silvan. On its creation in 1969 it was won for the Liberals by Peter Howson, previously member for the abolished inner urban electorate of Fawkner since 1951. Howson lost the seat to Labor candidate Race Mathews with the election of the Whitlam government in 1972, who was in turn defeated by Liberal candidate Peter Falconer in 1975 (and went on to enter state politics in 1979 as the member for Oakleigh). Casey has since been won by Labor only with the election of the Hawke government in 1983, returning to the Liberal fold with Robert Halverson’s redistribution-assisted win in 1984. Halverson’s retirement in 1998 made the seat available as a safe haven for Health Minister Michael Wooldridge, whose position in Chisholm had been weakened by a redistribution in 1996.
Wooldridge quit politics at the 2001 election and was succeeded as member by Tony Smith, a political ally and former staffer of Peter Costello. Smith rose to parliamentary secretary to the prime minister in January 2007, and has served on the front bench since the election defeat later that year. Under Brendan Nelson he had the education portfolio, but he was demoted to Assistant Treasurer when Malcolm Turnbull became leader in September 2008. In the final days of Turnbull’s leadership he formed part of a front-bench exodus in protest against the emissions trading scheme, which also encompassed Tony Abbott and Nick Minchin. He duly emerged as a strong backer of Abbott in the ensuing leadership contest, and won promotion to the broadband and communications portfolio after the event.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.