The Poll Bludger
Margin: Labor 14.3%
Region: Northern Melbourne, Victoria
In a nutshell: The safe Labor seat of Scullin passed to Andrew Giles at the 2013 election after more than four decades in the hands of the Jenkins dynasty.
Candidates in ballot paper order
Scullin covers suburbs at the northern edge of Melbourne including Thomastown, Epping and Mill Park, and extends eastwards beyond the Plenty River to semi-rural outskirts and further suburban territory around Diamond Creek, a somewhat stronger area for the Liberals. The electorate traces its origins back to the seat of Darebin, which was created in 1949 to accommodate the area from Reservoir south to Preston. A seat bearing the name of Scullin existed in Melbourne’s inner north from 1955 until 1969, when it was abolished and the name reassigned. Scullin is today located to the north of where it was in 1969, its area at that time covered by Burke in the west and Diamond Valley in the east. Epping and Thomastown were absorbed by Scullin when Diamond Valley was abolished with the expansion of parliament in 1984, and the electorate’s relocation was broadly completed when it gained the Diamond Valley area from McEwen. The post-1969 incarnation of Scullin has been held at all times by Labor, by margins ranging from 7.0% in 1977 to 27.6% in 1984. The current margin is 14.3%, following a 6.2% swing against Labor at the election in September.
Despite the dramatic changes in the territory it has covered, Scullin maintained continuity of representation in being held firstly by Harry Jenkins, Sr from 1969 to 1986, and then by his son Harry Jenkins, Jr up until the recent election. The elder Jenkins had been the state member for Reservoir from 1961 to 1969, and served as Speaker of the House of Representatives from the election of the Hawke government in 1983 until his appointment as ambassador to Spain in December 1985. His son then emerged as a compromise preselection winner after a tussle within the locally dominant Socialist Left faction, which took place against the backdrop of the events which led to its controversial figurehead Bill Hartley being expelled from the party. Jenkins faced a preselection challenge ahead of the 2007 election after the Right and hard Left reached a deal in which the latter was to back Bill Shorten’s move against factional independent Bob Sercombe in Maribyrnong, with the former to support youthful party operative Nathan Murphy in Scullin. This fell through after Sercombe agreed to go quietly, relieving pressure on Right members to fall in behind the contentious deal in support of Murphy, who has since entered state politics as a member for the upper house region of Northern Metropolitan.
Jenkins followed his father’s footsteps still further when he took on the position of Speaker after the election of the Rudd government in 2007. The Labor leadership hoped to improve their precarious position on the floor of parliament after the 2010 election by having Jenkins make way for an independent or Coalition defector, but this could not be effected until Liberal member Peter Slipper agreed to take on the position in November 2011, which proved to be a poisoned chalice for all concerned. Jenkins insisted he had abandoned the position of his own accord as he wished to resume participating in policy debate. He announced his intention to bow out of politics after serving out his term the following July. With the seat remaining a prize of the Socialist Left, there was no reported opposition to the preselection of the state faction’s secretary Andrew Giles, a Slater & Gordon lawyer and former adviser to state MPs Gavin Jennings and Lily D’Ambrosio.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.