Victorian election 2014

Benambra

Margin: Liberal 15.9%
Region: Northern Victoria
Federal: Indi

Candidates in ballot paper order

benambra-lib

benambra-alp

JENNIFER PODESTA
Labor (bottom)

BILL TILLEY
Liberal (top)

PHILIP ROURKE
Country Alliance

RICHARD WELLARD
Greens

2010 BOOTH RESULTS MAP

PAST RESULTS

DEMOGRAPHICS

RESULTS MAP: Two-party preferred booth results from 2010 state election showing Liberal majority in blue, Nationals in green and Labor in red. New boundaries in thicker blue lines, old ones in thinner red lines. Boundary data courtesy of Ben Raue of The Tally Room.

PAST RESULTS: Break at 1999 represents effect of the subsequent redistribution.

DEMOGRAPHICS: Based on 2012 census. School Leavers is percentage of high school graduates divided by persons over 18. LOTE is number identified as speaking language other than English at home, divided by total population.

Benambra is centred around the Murray River town of Wodonga in north-eastern Victoria, from which it extends into 10,000 square kilometres of rural territory. The redistribution has added new areas in the west, where 3000 voters at Rutherglen near the Murray River have been gained from Murray Valley (now renamed Ovens Valley), and in the south, where the abolition of Benalla has caused it to absorb another 3000 around Mount Beauty and the Kiewa River valley. The changes have shaved 0.6% off a still secure Liberal margin.

The electorate has an unbroken lineage going back to 1877, in which time it has never been held by Labor. The Nationals held the seat until the retirement of long-standing member Tom Mitchell in 1976, when Lou Lieberman poached it for the Liberals. It remained with the Liberals when Lieberman quit state politics to become federal member for Indi in 1992, and when his successor Tony Plowman retired in 2006. Plowman’s retirement had the Nationals hoping the seat might provide a refuge for Bill Baxter, who had been in parliament since 1978 but was left homeless by Legislative Council reform. However, Baxter was only able to manage third place with 18.1% of the vote compared with 38.6% for the Liberal candidate, Wodonga police officer Bill Tilley. In the absence of a Nationals candidate in 2010, Tilley’s primary vote increased to 55.9%, and he finished the count with a 16.5% margin over Labor.

Tilley was promoted to shadow parliamentary secretary for police and emergency services in February 2008, and maintained the role in government after the 2010 election. However, he resigned from the position in November 2011 after becoming embroiled in a campaign to undermine Simon Overland, the Labor-appointed Police Commissioner who resigned in June 2011 after an Ombudsman’s report criticised him over misleading crime statistics released shortly before the 2010 election campaign. An Office of Police Integrity inquiry into leaks against Overland focused on Ken Jones, who resigned as deputy commissioner in early 2011, and Tristan Weston, an adviser to then Police Minister Peter Ryan, both of whom were close to Tilley. When the OPI released its report, it was found that Tilley had been aware of improper behaviour by Weston, and that he had extensively supported Jones in his dispute with Overland.

During the course of this controversy, Tilley had expressed his displeasure at the government’s dealing with Jones and Weston, and said quitting the Liberal Party to sit as an independent was “an option”. However, he shortly denied having any such intention, and his position in the party since appears to have rehabilitated somewhat, with his granting of the role of government whip in the reshuffle that followed Ted Baillieu’s departure in March 2013.