Margin: Nationals 23.3%
Location: North-Western, Victoria
Outgoing member: John Forrest (Nationals)
The candidates (ballot paper order)
MARK ROBERT CORY
The scene of one of the election’s few substantial inter-Coalition contests with the retirement of Nationals veteran John Forrest, the electorate of Mallee covers the north-western corner of Victoria, including the south bank of the Murray River from Mildura and Swan Hall and further territory south to Horsham. The electorate was created in 1949 from territory which had mostly been in Wimmera, which was reoriented further to the south and eventually abolished in 1977. The present dimensions of Mallee closely resemble the combined area of Mallee and Wimmera as drawn in 1949, such has been the area’s relative population decline. The redistribution to take effect at the coming election has buttressed it with a further 6000 voters by adding Stawell in the south of the electorate, previously in Wannon.
Mallee has always been held by the National/Country Party, although their candidate John Forrest was pushed very hard by Liberal candidate Adrian Kidd when his predecessor Peter Fisher retired in 1993. Forrest led the primary vote 37.7% to 32.5%, but a 59-41 split of Labor preferences in Kidd’s favour left Forrest with a margin of 0.5% at the final count. The seat has not been contested by the Liberals since, but the party has long had cause to fear them again doing so on the occasion of Forrest’s retirement, having lost in similar circumstances the neighbouring seats of Murray in 1996 and Farrer (north of the New South Wales border) in 2001. Labor poses no threat at all in the seat, which has had the safest Coalition margin of any in the country at two successive elections.
The Nationals’ candidate for the seat is former Victorian Farmers Federation president Andrew Broad, who won preselection ahead of Swan Hill councillor Michael Adamson, Buloke mayor Reid Mather, Horsham farmer Russell McKenzie and Mildura resident Anne Webster. His Liberal opponent is Chris Crewther, a 29-year-old lawyer and adviser to Senator Michael Ronaldson. The Liberals’ determination to field a candidate was in defiance of the express wishes of Tony Abbott, and has caused considerable friction between the coalition parties. Andrew Broad stated that any opponent the Liberals fielded against him would be “another Liberal Party muppet run out of Melbourne”, causing Liberal state director Damien Mantach to accuse him of a “shrill outburst … unbecoming of someone who is aspiring to be a local leader and elected to high office”.
Perhaps explaining Abbott’s reluctance to see the Liberals enter the field, John Ferguson of The Australian reports that “rebel Nationals’ supporters” are seeking revenge by assisting conservative independent Cathy McGowan against her run against his ally Sophie Mirabella in the neighbouring seat of Indi. For their part, Labor is seeking to stir the pot by directing preferences to Crewther. Their candidate is Lydia Senior, chief executive of the Lower Murray Medicare Local.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.