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Federal Election 2016

Jul 26, 2014

Seat of the week: Goldstein

Covering established areas of southern coastal Melbourne, the electorate of Goldstein doesn't swing much, and has provided a safe base for Andrew Robb's parliamentary career since 2004.

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Created with the expansion of parliament in 1984, Goldstein covers coastal southern Melbourne starting from Brighton, located about 10 kilometres from the city centre, and proceeding southwards through Hampton, Sandringham and Black Rock to Beamaris. The northern part of the electorate extends inland beyond the Nepean Highway to accommodate Caulfield South, Bentleigh and surrounding suburbs. The more inland areas are naturally marginal, but the affluence of the coastal suburbs has kept the seat in Liberal hands by stable margins ranging from 5.5% in 1993 to a new high of 11.0% in 2013.

Blue and red numbers respectively indicate size of two-party majorities for Liberal and Labor. Click for larger image. Map boundaries courtesy of Ben Raue at The Tally Room.

The area now covered by Goldstein was accommodated by the electorate of Balaclava in the years immediately after federation, and then by the new seat of Henty when Balaclava was pushed northwards by a redistribution in 1913. Brighton was put back into Balaclava after 1937, and the new seat of Higinbotham covered the remainder after parliament was expanded in 1949. When Higinbotham was abolished in 1969, the area was divided between Balaclava, Henty and the new seats of Hotham and Isaacs. Beaumaris and Black Rock remained in Isaacs after Goldstein was created in 1984, at which time the new electorate extended northwards to St Kilda East. It assumed a more familiar form when it absorbed Beaumaris in the redistribution of 1996, which greatly reduced the Liberals’ competitiveness in Isaacs.

The various electorates which dominated the modern area of Goldstein were at all times in conservative hands, with the partial exception of Labor’s win in Isaacs at the 1974 election. Don Chipp held Higinbotham for the Liberals from 1960 to 1969, at which time he moved to the new seat of Hotham. Balaclava and then Goldstein were held from 1974 to 1990 by Ian Macphee, who emerged as the figurehead of the party’s moderates. Macphee was ultimately defeated for preselection ahead of the 1990 election by David Kemp, an intellectual leader of the party’s rising neo-liberal tendency, an event that provided a catalyst for Andrew Peacock’s successful challenge to John Howard’s leadership in May 1989. Kemp went on to serve in the Howard cabinet from October 1997 until his retirement at the 2004 election, as Education Minister until 2001 and Environment Minister thereafter.

Goldstein has since been held by Andrew Robb, a former Liberal Party federal director who had long been spoken of as a potential candidate for safe seats in New South Wales, where he had lived for two decades. However, Robb had originally hailed from Victoria, having been raised in a working-class Catholic family that supported the Democratic Labor Party. He came to the Liberal Party via student politics and a job at the newly established National Farmers Federation, which was an assertive voice for labour market deregulation during his period as executive director after 1985. As federal director of the Liberal Party, Robb oversaw the 1990, 1993 and 1996 election campaigns, after which he set up the marketing company Acxiom for Kerry Packer. His first term in parliament was the last of the Howard government, in which he was promoted to parliamentary secretary in January 2006 and thence to the outer ministry as Vocational and Further Education Minister in January 2007.

Robb nominated for the deputy leadership after the 2007 election, but was defeated by Julie Bishop. He instead became Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, and was briefly discussed as a leadership candidate when Malcolm Turnbull was embroiled in the “Utegate” affair in the middle of 2009. Shortly afterwards he made the surprise announcement that he was moving to the back bench owing to a depressive illness. He returned to the front bench in the finance portfolio in March 2010, from which he was resassigned to trade and investment after the 2013 election victory.

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