Margin: Labor 10.4%
Location: South-Eastern Melbourne, Victoria
In a nutshell: The electorate held by the current Attorney-General has been lost by Labor before, but not on boundaries which resemble the present ones too closely.
The candidates (ballot paper order)
AVTAR SINGH GILL
Isaacs covers south-eastern bayside Melbourne from Mordialloc south to Carrum, from which it extends inland as far as Western Port Highway to encompass Keysborough in the north and Carrum Downs in the south. The bayside suburbs are naturally marginal and shifted decisively to the Liberals at the state election in November 2010, whereas the centres further inland are strong for Labor. Population growth, aided by development in and around Keysborough, has caused the electorate to lose territory in the latest redistribution, which transfers around 7500 voters in Springvale South and another 3500 in Cheltenham to Hotham. Labor’s strength in the former area is such that their margin has been shaved from 11.0% to 10.4%.
Isaacs was effectively created in 1969, prior to which the name was attached to a seat which covered the unrelated Caulfield area. Redistributions have made a strong mark on the seat’s electoral history, the presence or absence of Beaumaris at the northern coastal end being the decisive factor in the Liberals’ competitiveness. With Beaumaris in the electorate from 1969 to 1977, Labor’s only win was in 1974, when it provided a crucial gain for a beleagured Whitlam government. David Charles gained the seat for Labor in 1980, and retained it until his retirement in 1990 despite the return of Beaumaris to the electorate in 1984. Isaacs then became one of nine Victorian gains for the Liberals with Rod Atkinson’s win at the 1990 election. Atkinson held the seat for two terms before redistribution saw the electorate trade Beaumaris for southern bayside Chelsea and semi-rural Cranbourne, allowing Greg Wilton to win the seat for Labor against the trend of the 1996 election.
Greg Wilton first survived an adverse 2.3% swing in 1996, having inherited a post-redistribution margin of 3.9%, before adding a further 4.8% to his margin in 1998. His career ended in tragic circumstances in 2000 when he committed suicide amid widely publicised domestic troubles. This did much to embitter his friend Mark Latham towards the then Labor leader Kim Beazley, whom Latham accused of failing to support Wilton through his personal crisis. Ann Corcoran, who had won preselection as a factionally unaligned compromise candidate, was elected as the new Labor member without opposition from the Liberals at the subsequent by-election. Corcoran went on to suffer swings of 3.6% and 5.1% in 2001 and 2004, but was saved by a redistribution between the two elections which removed Cranbourne and added Noble Park, boosting her margin by 3.8%.
Corcoran’s factional non-alignment, together with her weak electoral performance, caused her to lose preselection at the 2007 election to Mark Dreyfus, a prominent barrister and Queen’s Counsel. Right faction backing gave Dreyfus a narrow preselection victory when the 50% of the vote determined by the party’s public office selection committee overwhelmed a majority for Corcoran in the local party ballot. Dreyfus picked up swings of 5.9% in 2007 and 3.3% in 2010, and won promotion firstly to parliamentary secretary after the 2010 election and then to cabinet as Attorney-General following the resignation of Nicola Roxon in February 2013.
The Liberal candidate for the coming election is Garry Spencer, who obtained the rank of lieutenant-colonel in a 20-year career with the Australian Defence Force before working as a management consultant and engineering lecturer. Spencer emerged as candidate in February after the party’s first choice, business consultant Jeff Shelley, withdrew citing personal reasons. However, The Age reported that Liberal state director Damien Mantach had told it Shelley was no longer the candidate minutes after Shelley told the paper he was not aware he might be disendorsed. The report further noted “mounting concerns about Mr Shelley’s former employment with troubled Brighton-based solar panels installation company Cool World”, which had gone into administration.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.