Victorian State Election 2010: Kororoit
Margin: Labor 25.6%
Upper house region: Western Metropolitan
Click here for Victorian Electoral Commission map
Electorate analysis: Covering suburbs 20 kilometres west of the city, from northern St Albans out to Caroline Springs, Kororoit was created at the 2002 election from territory previously in abolished Sunshine and redrawn Melton and Keilor. The inaugural member was Andre Haermeyer, previously member from the electorally dicey Yan Yean, who won preselection at the expense of Steve Bracks’s chief-of-staff Tim Pallas, now the member for Tarneit. Haermeyer served as Police and Emergency Services Minister from the election of the Bracks government in 1999 until his demotion to the export, small business and financial services portfolios in 2005, and was dumped from cabinet altogether after the 2006 election.
Haermeyer’s resignation from parliament in May 2008 initiated what Rick Wallace of The Australian called a “proxy war for who controls the ALP’s dominant Right faction in Victoria”, for which the seat was reserved under factional arrangements. In one corner were the Australian Workers Union and the Transport Workers Union, respectively associated with Bill Shorten and Stephen Conroy, who found themselves opposed by an alliance of the Health Services Union and Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association. The two camps’ respective candidates were Natalie Suleyman, former mayor of Brimbank, and Marlene Kairouz, former mayor of Darebin. The latter group initially succeeded in having the Right’s executive vote eight votes to seven to have Kairouz installed as candidate by the party’s national executive, bypassing local party structures said to have been compromised by branch stacking and fractious relations on Brimbank Council. According to a source quoted by The Age, the vote followed an executive meeting at which rival members “screamed abuse” at each other. Shorten and Conroy won round two by having the decision overturned by the national executive, resulting in a normal preselection process where votes were split between local branches and the state party’s Public Office Selection Committee. However, Kairouz was unexpectedly able to prevail after defeating Suleyman in the local ballot 125 votes to 123 (following distribution of the 27 votes for Left faction contestant Justin Mammarella), going on to win the POSC vote by 38 votes to 29.
For all the sound and fury behind the preselection, the spoils for the victor were less secure than the 2006 margin suggested owing to the entry of independent candidate Les Twentyman, who has achieved a level of celebrity throughout Melbourne through his efforts as a social worker, including being named Victorian of the Year in 2006. Twentyman’s campaign was supported by the Electrical Trades Union and, significantly, Phil Cleary, who took Bob Hawke’s federal seat of Wills at a 1992 by-election and is now running at the state election as an independent candidate for Brunswick. The Liberals aided Twentyman’s by fielding a candidate despite their own dim prospects, who was able to feed him Twentyman. Kairouz nonetheless enjoyed a fairly comfortable victory at the by-election, polling 48.5 per cent (down 13.1 per cent on Haermeyer’s vote in 2006) on the primary vote to 20.4 per cent for Twentyman, 21.0 per cent for the Liberals (up 5.1 per cent) and 4.6 per cent for the Greens (down 2.6 per cent).
Further controversy ensued when Twentyman lodged a complaint charging misleading advertising by Labor, arguing a pamphlet which claimed “a vote for Les Twentyman is a vote for the Liberals” constituted material “likely to mislead or deceive an elector in relation to the casting of the vote”, an offence potentially punishable by six months’ imprisonment. This was predictably rejected on the grounds that the section is narrowly concerned with matters such as how-to-vote cards which deceive voters into backing the wrong candidate, although the Victorian Electoral Commission’s report on the by-election stated that “legal opinion is that the pamphlet is misleading”.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.