Media spotlights Higgins

When Jon Faine came to to host a live Mornings broadcast from Georgio's Café in Armadale
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When Australians prepare to vote, some electorates draw the media. This time it was Higgins. Julius Dennis reports
When Jon Faine came to to host a live Mornings broadcast from Georgio’s Café in Armadale

Every time Australians are due to head to the ballot box, there are a few electorates that capture the eyes of the media. Seats that illustrate the feeling of the nation, illustrate change, perhaps point us in the direction we could be headed.  This election, Higgins, situated in Melbourne’s wealthy inner-east, has been a focus.

Historically, it’s a sweater-vest wearing Liberal seat through and through. “Fiscally conservative but socially progressive” may as well be put up in lights, or on the hill (if there was any) like the Hollywood sign.

However, this time around Higgins is in play. The socially progressive may finally outweigh the fiscally conservative, even if the average age of Higgins constituents is a little on the wiser side, prime for Franking Credit fears. 

So how did we get here?  Through the lens of our national media, let’s take a look.

January 19th, Kelly O’Dwyer quits.

The Liberals were already in the midst of a “women problem” when their second most prominent female minister stepped down for “family reasons”.  Despite some outsiders attempting to link this to in party bullying, O’Dwyer’s wish to spend more time around her kids was widely accepted. 

The Full Story: 

Helen Davidson, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jan/19/kelly-odwyer-announces-shock-resignation-ahead-of-election

O’Dwyer’s resignation hit the Liberal party hard on a few fronts: it hadn’t expected a preselection battle in Higgins let alone to have to campaign there too much. Sure, Jason Ball and the Greens had jumped over Labor in the two-party-preferred race, and taken a two per cent chunk out of its nearly 10 per cent margin, but behind O’Dwyer they would be fine.

Scomo wanted a woman to replace O’Dwyer, but he couldn’t force a candidate onto the Higgins Liberals.  In light of all the Julia Banks’ and Julie Bishop media attention, things looked messy.

The Full Story: 

Jane Norman, ABC, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-01-22/kelly-odwyer-liberal-women-in-parliament-scott-morrison/10732626.

The Liberal preselection was tight, the front-runners being Katie Allen, who had just lost the state tilt at Prahran to a Green; Zoe Mckenzie, a former Andrew Robb staffer; and, Greg Hannan, the ex-Liberal Party Victorian vice president. 

The Full Story: 

Benjamin Preiss, The Age, https://www.theage.com.au/politics/victoria/liberal-contest-tightens-to-succeed-kelly-o-dwyer-in-higgins-20190131-p50ux1.html

February 24th, Katie Allen secures Liberal preselection.

Over 300 Liberal party members converged on the Caulfield Bowls Club to help make a decision that could help decide the latest instalment of the Liberals “women problem” saga. Out West in Curtin, Julie Bishop had retired just days earlier.  The Liberals needed a win.  Luckily for them, they got their woman, in the form of accomplished paediatrician, Katie Allen, who beat out Hannan in the final round of voting, 158-116. 

The Full Story: 

Adam Carey, The Sydney Morning Herald, https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/ex-prahran-candidate-katie-allen-wins-liberal-preselection-in-higgins-20190224-p50zxt.html

So, things were set in stone. Labor would only be spending base money in the electorate. This would essentially be a two-horse race between Katie Allen and Jason Ball, who was gaining momentum in the leafy suburbs with his new eastern running mate, Julian Burnside. 

Josh Spiegel, the Labor candidate, would run an admirable race and throw in a few preferences for Ball, until…

March 22nd, Spiegel replaced by McLeod.

Flanked by Bill Shorten, Fiona McLeod SC arrived on the scene.  Almost always in her red jacket, she was sharp and prepared.  She’d only joined the party a week ago, but who cares?  She was the real deal, the leader of royal commissions, former president of the Victorian Bar. Oh Boy, the Victorian Labor wave was building to a tsunami, goodbye base funding. 

The Full Story: 

Lisa Martin, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/mar/22/labor-replaces-higgins-candidate-with-high-profile-barrister-fiona-mcleod

If the stage had been set before, it had now been torn down and expanded to include a horns section.  Billboards were going up, door knocking was stepping up a notch and train stations were being manned.  On April 15h, Jon Fain swooped down from the air to host a live Mornings broadcast from Girogrio’s Café in Armadale.  Read our story on the happenings of the day, and listen to the five minutes of air time the candidates received.

The Full Story: 

Jon Faine interviews candidates live on ABC Melbourne, https://www.abc.net.au/radio/melbourne/programs/mornings/higgins-election-forum/11004078

Our Story:

Julius Dennis, The Junction, http://junctionjournalism.com/2019/04/16/jon-faine-live-from-higgins/

Since then, we’ve had climate debates, more radio debates and a whole lot of social media. Just last week Sabra Lane and the AM crew dropped in for a live broadcast to see what was happening.  Perhaps Gay Alcorn’s electorate profile, along with its six-minute video, sum it up best — it has been chaos, chaos, chaos in Liberal heartland.  Should the vote swing to the left, to Labor, or god-forbid, the Greens, expect much more to come.

Sabra Lane, ABC, https://www.abc.net.au/radio/adelaide/programs/am/am/11079536

Gay Alcorn, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/may/05/kick-up-the-backside-libs-contemplate-the-unthinkable-in-higgins