Victorian State Election 2010: Seymour
Margin: Labor 6.7%
Upper house region: Northern Victoria
Click here for Victorian Electoral Commission map
Electorate analysis: The town of Seymour is located at the northern end of an electorate that extends through Yea to bushfire-ravaged Kinglake and Marysville, 60 kilometres to the south. Typically of a marginal rural electorate, Labor is strong in the larger booths in the towns (Seymour, Healesville and Kilmore) and weak in the many small rural booths. Seymour was won easily by the Liberals on its creation at the 1992 election, but the electorate did not take kindly to the Kennett government: a 6.8 per cent swing brought the seat on to Labor’s radar in 1996, and another 4.9 per cent shift when previous member Marie Tehan retired in 1999 delivered a 0.7 per cent win to Labor’s Ben Hardman, a former school principal aligned with the Labor Unity (Right) faction. Hardman prevailed over an unfavourable redistribution at the 2002 election by picking up a 9.4 per cent swing, before suffering a 3.4 per cent correction in 2006. He was subsequently promoted to parliamentary secretary, firstly for agriculture before a tactically astute move to “community development and bushfire reconstruction” in January 2010.
The Liberals originally endorsed Mike Laker, a wholesale importer who according to The Weekly Times won preselection ahead of local property owner Cindy McLeish by 45 votes to 12. However, Laker withdrew a week into the campaign for “personal reasons”, which few doubted revolved around a talk radio caller’s claim that Laker he put it to him that the government was planning to house 50 Somali families in the electorate and provide them with free cars. With only a week to find a new candidate before the closure of nominations, the endorsement was given to McLeish. McLeish had reportedly been backed in the original preselection by local electorate chairman Mike Dalmau and upper house MP Donna Petrovich, and Laker proclaimed himself “frustrated” by the lack of support they had given his campaign.
The Weekly Times also talked up the chances of independent Jan Beer, running on behalf of the Plug the Pipe campaign against locally contentious government plans to pipe water from Lake Eildon to Melbourne. McLeish also has connections with the campaign, being the owner of a property on the route of the pipeline.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.