The Poll Bludger
Margin: Labor 1.3%
Region: Central Regional, Victoria
Outgoing member: Alan Griffin (Labor)
In a nutshell: Labor has a fight on its hands in a seat it has held for 20 years following a big swing in 2013 and the retirement of the sitting member.
Candidates in ballot paper order
DOUGLAS RONALD LEITH
The electorate of Bruce covers an area of south-eastern Melbourne about 20 kilometres from the city centre, and is to be vacated at the election by the retirement of Alan Griffin, who has held it for Labor since 1996. It encompasses Glen Waverley and Wheelers Hill in the north, Mulgrave and most of Springvale in the centre, and most of Dandenong in the south. Distinguishing demographic features include concentrations of Vietnamese in Springvale and Italians and Greeks in Dandenong, along with a rapidly growing Chinese presence in Glen Waverley. The Monash Freeway neatly cleaves the electorate into a Labor-voting south-west and a Liberal-voting north-east. The former has consistently outweighed the latter on Griffin’s watch, but he leaves the seat with a tenuous margin of 1.8%.
Bruce was created in 1955 to accommodate rapid post-war growth, from territory that had previously been covered by La Trobe since 1949 and Flinders beforehand. It initially extended north to Burwood and south to Cranbourne and Berwick, but the 1969 redistribution drew it westwards into middle suburbia. With Mount Waverley as its focal point, the seat was secure for the Liberals through to the redistribution of 1996, when Mount Waverley was exchanged for Noble Park and Dandenong North. The member from 1955 to 1983 was Billy Snedden, who led the Liberals in opposition from the 1972 election defeat until Malcolm Fraser deposed him in March 1975, and went on to serve as Speaker throughout the period of Fraser’s government. Snedden retired after the 1983 election defeat and was succeeded at a by-election by Kenneth Aldred, who had held the since-abolished eastern suburbs seat of Henty for the Liberals from 1975 until his defeat in 1980. Aldred was defeated for Liberal preselection in 1990 by Julian Beale, whose seat of Deakin had been made notionally Labor by redistribution. Aldred then ran for Deakin himself, and was able to retain it for the Liberals on the back of a statewide backlash against Labor.
The 1996 redistribution was a watershed for the seat, which was held at all times beforehand by the Liberals, and all times thereafter by Labor. Julian Beale needed a swing in favour of 1.6% to retain his seat at the 1996 election, but he was able to manage only half that as Victoria largely resisted the national tide to the Coalition. Labor’s successful candidate was Alan Griffin, who was seeking refuge in the seat after the abolition of Corinella, which extended from southern Dandenong to Westernport Bay and around to Phillip Island. Griffin had gained Corinella for Labor in 1993 from Russell Broadbent, later to return as member for McMillan. A figure of influence in the Socialist Left faction, Griffin served as Veterans Affairs Minister for a term after the 2007 election victory, then stood aside citing personal leaders. From the back bench, he emerged as one of the most energetic backers of Kevin Rudd’s return to the leadership.
Griffin first announced his intention to bow out of politics in August 2011, then he changed his mind again a year later and ran again at the 2013 election, at which his margin was cut from 6.7% to 1.8%. A second retirement announcement, made in February 2015, has proved more durable. Labor’s candidate to succeed him is Julian Hill, an executive with the Victorian government’s Department of Economic Development and former mayor of Port Phillip, who won preselection without opposition. Hill faces an experienced Liberal opponent in Helen Kroger, who was elected to the Senate in 2007 but lost out after being demoted from second to third on the party’s Victorian ticket in 2013. Kroger won the Bruce preselection ahead of Emanuele Cicchiello, Lighthouse Christian College deputy principal and the party’s candidate in 2013. She is the ex-wife of Michael Kroger, the president of the party’s Victorian branch and a factional figurehead of long standing.
i>Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.