Victorian State Election 2010: Morwell
Margin: Nationals 2.2%
Upper house region: Eastern Victoria
Click here for Victorian Electoral Commission map
Electorate analysis: Together with Narracan, Morwell was one of two seats in Gippsland where Labor was unexpectedly defeated in 2006 despite their hold on the seat pre-dating the 2002 landslide. The electorate covers the town of Morwell itself, located located 140 kilometres east of Melbourne, from which it extends into 1,500 square kilometres of surrounding territory including Traralgon, Toongabbie and Boolarra. There is considerable electoral diversity in this area, including solid Labor booths in Morwell and Churchill in the west, naturally marginal Traralgon further east and small conservative rural booths beyond. Created at the 1955 election that brought Henry Bolte’s Liberal government to power, Morwell was held by the Liberals until 1970 and by Labor for 36 years afterwards. Latrobe mayor Brendan Jenkins succeeded Keith Hamilton at the 2002 election, but suffered a rebuff when the electorate swung 4.4 per cent against him, sharply against the overall trend of the election.
Prior to the 2006 election Labor suffered an exodus of prominent local branch members which included Derek Amos, the member from 1970 to 1981, who complained of a “Left clique” surrounding Jenkins. Another was Traralgon party branch secretary Lisa Proctor, a former Latrobe councillor and unsuccessful preselection contestant in 2002, who contributed to the damage by polling 8.9 per cent as an independent candidate and directing preferences against Jenkins. However, the star performers were the Nationals, whose candidate Russell Northe was well known locally as a veteran player and coach for the Traralgon Football Club. Northe increased the Nationals vote from 12.3 per cent in 2002 to 27.6 per cent while the Liberals went backwards from 19.3 per cent to 14.0 per cent, and he ultimately finished 2.1 per cent ahead of Jenkins at the final count.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.