Electorate form guide

Electorate: Melbourne

Margin: Labor 4.7% versus Greens
Location: Central Melbourne, Victoria
Outgoing member: Lindsay Tanner (Labor)

In a nutshell: Greens candidate Adam Bandt became the first Greens candidate to make the final two-party cut at the 2007 election, posing a mortal threat to what had once been an unimpeachable Labor seat. With senior minister Lindsay Tanner bowing out at the election and Bandt again taking the field, this is easily the Greens best chance of achieving a cherished lower house seat.

The candidates

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CATH BOWTELL
Labor

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ADAM BANDT
Greens

Two-party vote map

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Electorate analysis: The Greens achieved a watershed result in the electorate of Melbourne in 2007 when their candidate, Slater and Gordon industrial relations lawyer Adam Bandt, finished ahead of the Liberals to take a place in the final two-party count – the first time such a result had been achieved at a general election. Bandt finished slightly ahead of the Liberals on the primary vote, 22.8 per cent to 23.5 per cent, but distribution of preferences from five minor candidates turned a 610 vote deficit into a 591 vote surplus at the second count. However, Labor’s Lindsay Tanner had already achieved a majority by the point of the count, adding 1.0 per cent to his 49.5 per cent primary vote on preferences, and the distribution of Liberal preferences in the final count left him with a 4.7 per cent margin. It nonetheless brought home to Labor the threat now posed to them by the Greens in inner-city strongholds, a concern which has mounted as the polls indicate Labor has shed votes to the Greens under the Rudd government.

The Greens first emerged as a threat when their vote lifted 9.6 per cent to 15.8 per cent on the back of concern over asylum seeker policy in 2001, rising further to 19.0 per cent as the party yielded a dividend from the collapse of the Democrats. This development has endangered Labor’s hold on a seat they have held without interruption since 1904, most notably by Arthur Calwell from 1940 to 1972. The electorate’s current dimensions are from the city west to the Maribyrnong River, north to Fitzroy North and Carlton North, and east to Clifton Hill and Richmond. The distribution of two-party results does not present a clear picture, as a high Greens vote can have as much to do with strength for the Liberals in that area (East Melbourne being a case in point) as for themselves. The party is weakest in and around the central business district itself and at Ascot Vale in the seat’s outer north-east. They are strongest in the latte belt area of Carlton, Fitzroy, Collingwood and Richmond, outside of some interesting local-level eruptions of Labor strength in immigrant neighbourhoods.

Lindsay Tanner has been the member since 1993, when he succeeded Hawke-Keating government Immigration Minister Gerry Hand. Before entering parliament Tanner was a staffer to Senator Barney Cooney, union official and state secretary of the party. A leading light of the Left faction, Tanner was promoted to the front bench following the 1996 election defeat and served there through 11 years in opposition, successively in transport, finance and communications, before moving to the back-bench after he fell out with Mark Latham following the 2004 election. He returned as shadow minister for finance in June 2005, a portfolio he maintained in government, and was universally recognised as part of the four-member “kitchen cabinet” that dominated the Rudd government’s decision making. On the day that Kevin Rudd was deposed as Labor leader, Tanner dropped a second bombshell in parliament when he announced he would not contest the election, which he insisted was unrelated to events earlier in the day.

Tanner will be succeeded as Labor candidate by Cath Bowtell, an industrial officer with the ACTU. Bowtell won preselection unopposed after securing the endorsement of the Socialist Left faction. It was initially reported that position was there for the taking of the faction’s secretary, Andrew Giles, but he reportedly agreed to make way for Bowtell. The Greens have sought to build on their strong performance in 2007 by again nominating Adam Bandt.

Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.

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