The Poll Bludger
Margin: Liberal 10.1%
Region: Western Rural, Victoria
In a nutshell: The once-marginal western Victorian seat became safe for the Liberals on Malcolm Fraser’s watch, and has remained so ever since.
Candidates in ballot paper order
MICHAEL DAVID BARLING
MICHAEL JOHN McCLUSKEY
The western Victorian seat of Wannon has existed without interruption since federation, and has been safely conservative since Malcolm Fraser gained it for the Liberals in 1955. The electorate extends along the coast from the Twelve Apostles and Port Campbell in the east through Warrnambool and Portland to the South Australian border, and inland through rural territory to Hamilton, Ararat and Maryborough. It has always accommodated the state’s south-western corner, but was initially oriented further to the north and less to the east, including Horsham but not Warrnambool prior to 1949, the latter having been in Corangamite. Relative population decline has lately caused the electorate to expand in a north-easterly direction, adding Ararat in 1996 and Maryborough in 2010. Electoral support is generally evenly divided in the towns, but the rural balance keeps the seat safely conservative.
having previously changed hands on a number of occasions between Labor and the prevailing conservative party of the day, without ever being held by the Country Party. The turning point came with the retirement of Labor member Donald McLeod in 1955, at which point it was gained by its highest profile former member, Malcolm Fraser. Fraser was 25 years old at the time, and had fallen 17 votes short of winning the seat on his first attempt at the election held a year previously. After sweeping to victory on the back of an 8.5% swing, Fraser increased his margin at the next four elections and held the seat securely thereafter, going on to serve as Australia’s twenty-second Prime Minister from 1975 to 1983.
Fraser retired from parliament in the immediate aftermath of the 1983 election defeat and was succeeded at a by-election by David Hawker, who held the seat for the next 27 years. Hawker’s profile was rather lower than his predecessor’s, the high points of his career being a junior shadow ministry from 1990 to 1993 and the Speakership in the final term of the Howard government. On retiring at the 2010 election he was succeeded by Daniel Tehan, deputy director of the Victorian Liberal Party and son of the late Kennett government minister Marie Tehan, who won preselection ahead of Stephen Mitchell, founder of natural gas explorer Molopo Australia. Tehan was identified as having supported Tony Abbott in Malcolm Turnbull’s September 2015 leadership challenge, but that didn’t stop him winning promotion from the back bench to the outer ministry in February in the veterans affairs and defence materiel portfolios.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.