Victorian election 2014

Buninyong

Margin: Labor 1.6%
Region: Western Victoria
Federal: Ballarat (91%)/Corangamite (9%)

Candidates in ballot paper order

buninyong-alp

buninyong-lib

SONIA SMITH
Nationals

BEN TAYLOR
Liberal (bottom)

KEITH GEYER
Family First

JAMES DONOVAN KEAYS
Country Alliance

TONY GOODFELLOW
Greens

GEOFF HOWARD
Labor (top)

2010 BOOTH RESULTS MAP

PAST RESULTS
(BALLARAT EAST)

DEMOGRAPHICS

RESULTS MAP: Two-party preferred booth results from 2010 state election showing Liberal majority in blue 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.

Not the least of the changes wrought by the latest redistribution have been the application of more interesting names to the two Ballarat electorates, which are respectively changed from Ballarat East and Ballarat West to Buninyong and Wendouree. Wendouree accounts for the majority of the city, including the town centre, whereas Buninyong covers suburbs in its south-east (Golden Point, Mount Pleasant, Mount Clear, Canadian, and the southern part of Ballarat East, along with Mount Helen and Buninyong in the city’s outer south), along with rural territory extending east along the Western Freeway to Darley and south along the Midland Highway to Lethbridge. Both Wendouree and Buninyong are highly marginal, although Labor has generally strengthened in Ballarat over the past two decades at state and federal level.

Buninyong retains the basic character of the old Ballarat East in that it supplements the south-east of the city with country areas to its east and south, but the redistribution has ceded substantial territories at the northern end, sending 12,000 voters in and around Daylesford and Kyneton to Macedon and 3500 in and around Creswick to Ripon. The main compensating gain is of 7000 voters in the large suburb of Sebastopol in southern Ballarat, but it also loses 2000 voters in Ballarat Central. Further gains are made beyond the city to the south-west (4700 voters from Ripon), south (1250 from Polwarth) and east (2000 from Polwarth). The changes collectively have no real impact on the Labor margin, which increases by 0.1%.

The history of the Ballarat East electorate goes back to 1859, when the multi-member districts of Ballaarat West and Ballaarat East (the spelling of the city having long been a source of confusion) were created at the peak of the gold rush. They were made into single-member electorates in 1904, and abolished with the creation of a single electorate of Ballarat in 1927. This was in turn split into Ballarat North and Ballarat South in 1955, before reverting to the original configuration of Ballarat West and Ballarat East in 1992. The various seats were in conservative hands more often than not, although Labor held Ballarat South during its period in government from 1982 to 1992.

Ballarat East and Ballarat West have had an identical record since their re-creation in 1992, being held by the Liberals through the Kennett years and Labor thereafter. Barry Traynor won Ballarat East for the Liberals by narrow margins in 1992 and 1996, the margin on the latter occasion being 27 votes, before the regional backlash against the Kennett government delivered a 4.7% swing to Labor in 1999. The seat has since been held by Geoff Howard, a former school teacher and Ballarat mayor. Howard picked up a relatively modest 4.2% swing in the 2002 landslide, but suffered an equally mild correction of 0.9% in 2006, followed by a 5.1% swing in 2010 that pared his margin back to 5.1%.

Howard was once associated with the “independents” faction that was traditionally associated with former Deputy Premier John Thwaites, but is now considered to be unaligned. He served as a parliamentary secretary from 1999 until he was dropped after the 2006 election. His Labor opponent at the coming election will be Ben Taylor, a former Ballarat councillor who also run in 2010. The Nationals are also fielding a candidate for the first time in a Ballarat electorate since 1988, perhaps reflecting their displeasure at the Liberals contesting the seat of Euroa. The candidate is Sonia Smith, a local lawyer and farmer.

cuThe Coalition conducted its campaign launch in Ballarat three weeks out from polling day, signalling its high hopes for both Ripon and the Ballarat seats of Buninyong and Wendouree. However, a Liberal source cited in the Herald-Sun said Ripon was the only one of the three that looked “likely”, with the other two “looking hard”. This appeared to be confirmed a fortnight out from polling day when the Sunday-Herald Sun published a Galaxy poll of 527 respondents in the electorate showing Labor with a 54-46 lead. The primary votes were 40% for Geoff Howard (40.9% in 2010), 37% for Ben Taylor (42.5% in 2010), 6% for the Nationals (who didn’t run last time) and 13% for the Greens (11.3% in 2010), with Denis Napthine and Daniel Andrews tied at 38-38 all on preferred premier.

The Liberals’ task has further been complicated by Nationals candidate Sonia Smith’s criticism of Ben Taylor over comments he made at an Australian Christian Lobby forum concerning late-term abortions, saying he “should be running for Family First”. While the Nationals’ official how-to-vote card for the electorate directs the second preference to Taylor, Smith has registered her own card instructing voters to determine the matter for themselves. Smith illustrated her rejection of her party’s how-to-vote card through a dramatic photo opportunity for Fairfax.