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Inner Melbourne's federal electorates: development + population growth = contests aplenty

The last time the Australian Electoral Commission redistributed the electorate boundaries in Victoria was 2010. Given that the next parliament is likely to last until 2019 and inner Melbourne has had - and will continue to have - extremely strong population growth, the electoral contests that we're heading about in local and national media are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

There are many factors which influence people's votes, including electorate-specific such as an incumbent retiring, socio-economic factors and the like; but one factor not readily discussed is the change over time in the population make-up of an electorate.

I'd argue that the increased population growth, which can be predicted through current development numbers, is not necessarily the single biggest factor in changing electoral dynamics, but one of many which has heightened the electoral contests in inner Melbourne.

With the exception of Melbourne Ports, there's been a Red versus Blue line following the course of the Yarra River at both a federal and state level: The ALP's seats were to the north and the Liberal party's seats were to the south.

The electorate of Higgins covers South Yarra, Prahran and Windsor in the west of the seat which are seeing high rates of new development (and therefore the capacity to sustain high population growth) and over time, the main opposing candidate has shifted from the ALP to what the local media are now reporting a contest between the Liberal party and the Greens.

Similarly in the north, the seats of Wills and Batman are both seeing very high rates of development and local media have widely reported that both seats are ALP versus Greens contests.

The federal electorates of Wills, Batman and Higgins are getting the most media coverage in inner Melbourne thanks to the Greens battling it out between the two major parties and they also happen to have, between them, 275 projects on the Urban Melbourne project database, representing 23% of all the projects (1200).

The following is a look at the aforementioned electorates in more detail.

Wills

Wills is a Prime-Ministerial electorate - with Bob Hawke once holding the seat - and includes suburbs such as the three Brunswicks in the south of the electorate, Coburg, Pascoe Vale and Glenroy/Fawkner. New development and population growth is heavily concentrated in the south in the Brunswicks and Coburg, closest to the central employment area.

We believe Wills - Brunswick and Coburg in general - will continue to see strong growth over the next decade. The Melbourne Metro Project, although located to the south in the electorate of Melbourne, will enhance Brunswick's appeal thanks to the tight integration of two of Brunswick's tram lines with Parkville station.

Wills is likely to remain in the "not that safe anymore" column.

Aspect Total Under Construction At sales In the pipeline
Number of projects 76 18 18 40
Number of dwellings 6,284 1,752 1,585 2,947
Potential new electors 9,426

* "In the pipeline" = projects either at council or approved.

** "The Brunswicks" - Brunswick West, Brunswick and Brunswick East (postcodes 3055, 3056 and 3057).

*** Potential new electors is based on an apartment having an average of 1.5 occupants living in it.

Batman

Batman sits to the east of Wills and includes suburbs such as Clifton Hill, Northcote, Thornbury, Preston, Fairfield and Reservoir. In contrast to Wills, development is not as concentrated in one section of the electorate; although, there is a definitive bias to the southern and middle sections of the electorate.

Aspect Total Under Construction At Sales In the pipeline
Number of projects 57 20 10 27
Number of dwellings 4,533 1,166 611 2,756
Potential new electors 6,800

* "In the pipeline" = projects either at council or approved.

** Potential new electors is based on an apartment having an average of 1.5 occupants living in it.

Higgins

Another Prime-Ministerial electorate - Harold Holt and John Gorton both held the seat during their premierships - and is viewed traditionally as a blue ribbon Liberal seat. Higgins includes suburbs like South Yarra, Toorak, Malvern, Carnegie, half of Murrumbeena (north of the Pakenham/Cranbourne rail line), Glen Iris and Ashburton.

It's an interesting seat from a development perspective: the Chapel Street spine through South Yarra, Prahran and Windsor is seeing a very high level of new development and increasingly the suburbs to the east of Chapel street are seeing the typical residential growth zone development of up to 4 levels dispersed through suburbs like Carnegie, Glen Iris and Hughesdale/Murrumbeena.

Higgins is doubly interesting because based on the following numbers, there's going to be a lot of new residents, more than likely concentrated on the Chapel Street corridor, that will ensure that Higgins will not remain as a safe Liberal seat.

Aspect Total Under Construction At Sales In the pipeline
Number of projects 142 33 34 75
Number of dwellings 8,212 2,595 1,634 3,983
Potential new electors 12,318

* "In the pipeline" = projects either at council or approved.

** Potential new electors is based on an apartment having an average of 1.5 occupants living in it.

*** A [very] small part of South Yarra and half of Murrumbeena's development, included in the numbers above, are located in the electorates of Melbourne and Hotham respectively.

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