Incumbent has held the seat since September 2013, her first parliamentary term.
A relatively safe Labor seat since 1998. However, the 2013 election saw -8.16% two-party-preferred swing vote from Labor to Liberals. The largest industries are health care and social assistance, retail, education and training, accommodation and food services. Regionally the electorate supports a diverse range of farming and agriculture.
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Bendigo will be a closely watched seat in this federal election. Following the trends of past elections, it may only be a few thousand votes who decide the winner for the electorate.
Bendigo is a marginal seat and typically mirrors voting patterns in state elections. The electorate has changed hands many times between the ALP and conservative parties, however it has remained a Labor seat since the 1968 federal election.
In the 2013 election, Labor held the seat by 2 per cent. But according to the ABC, early polls suggest that Liberal may well win this time round.
The division of Bendigo is based in the North Central Victoria and covers an area of approximately 6,255 kilometres on the Northern Foothills of the Great Dividing Range. The division, named after its central major city of Bendigo, was created in 1900 and is one of the original 75 divisions contested in the first federal election.
In the early years of federation, the seat consisted of little more than the city of Bendigo. Over time divisional boundary changes have grown to include other large centres of population include Kyneton, Castlemaine, Echuca, Seymour and Daylesford. The electorate has a total population of 140,614 with a registered voting population of 102,934.
Of the division’s 16 past members, the highest number of any federal electorate, the most notable has been former Prime Minister Billy Hughes.
The major city of Bendigo is the administrative, educational and commercial centre of the electorate and of North Central and Northern Victoria. Outside of major population areas, the division is made up of mostly rural farming, agricultural and viticultural industries along with continued extractive mining including gold.
The Bendigo division’s median age is 41 years of age, with 55% of those over 15 years of age working full time. 33.5% are employed on a part-time basis with the division has a 5.2% unemployment rate more or less equivalent with the national average. Bendigo’s main occupational groups are professional, trades and technical workers, administrative and clerical, labourers.
Lisa Chesters, the current Federal Member for Bendigo, was elected as the first female to represent the seat in the 2013 election. This year, she will go up against Liberal candidate, Megan Purcell. Again making history, by having two female candidates representing the major parties. This is a first for any electorate, in any federal election in Australia’s history.
During her time as Bendigo’s representative, Ms Chesters has focused on protecting local jobs; education reform in schools; and improving communication infrastructure. In this year’s election, the MP says she will continue to advocate for accessible healthcare; safeguard Australian jobs; the poor telecommunications infrastructure is improved; and work for marriage equality.
Before the campaign had even kicked off, the electorate had already received national media attention. Megan Purcell won the Liberal preselection at the end of February, but it was her dip into a reality television show that drew her into the headlines. Purcell was a contestant on ‘Farmer Wants a Wife’, a show that plays cupid with farmers who are looking for love.
Ms Purcell’s participation in the show drew both positive and negative reaction from the public. Some praised her for being able to have fun, whilst others questioned whether it was just a way raise her profile right before the election campaign.
Labor’s Lisa Chester, criticised the Liberal party’s endorsement of her. Ms Chesters suggested the Liberals were being ‘hypocritical’, because Purcell’s participation in the show is inconsistent with how the conservatives thinking on the sanctity of marriage.
Purcell is also the Director of Purcell Advisories, a communications service that helped her take out the Midlands Region Rural Ambassador Award in 2013. Purcell also currently sits as a board member for the Maldon Hospital, Maldon and District Community Bank and fundraising organisation Zonta International.
The Greens party also have a female candidate: Rosemary Glaisher. Ms Glaisher has lived in Bendigo for the past two decades. She is campaigning for solar and wind energy for the seat, highlighting the area’s ideal conditions to utilise green energy in the region.
For the 2016 election campaign, the local issues to be hotly debated between the candidates, are tipped to be: telecommunication infrastructure; education & healthcare funding; the ongoing ice epidemic and drugs policy; and defence manufacturing in the region.
The central Victorians want to know how the candidates plan to solve their growing frustration with the region’s battle with poor telecommunication infrastructure and rising youth unemployment. Voters also want to see action on securing the local defence industry, continued growth in mining, agriculture and tourism and improved regional transport infrastructure.