Liberal MP Bruce Billson is retiring, paving the way for a lively battle between consultant Chris Crewther (Libs) and lawyer Peta Murphy (Lab). This diverse electorate takes in affluent suburbs such as Mt Eliza and areas such as Frankston, where jobs, crime prevention and state education are key issues.
For a full list of candidates please see 'election at a glance' and use the electorate search tool or click Dunkley.
Blessed with beaches and rural beauty, the Victorian electorate of Dunkley also grapples with more than its share of crime and unemployment.
This diverse bayside electorate to the south-east of Melbourne takes in part of the Mornington Peninsula, with affluent seaside towns such as Mt Eliza, semi-rural suburbs such as Langwarrin and disadvantaged working-class areas such as Frankston.
It’s a mix that will ensure a spirited election battle between new Liberal candidate Chris Crewther, a business consultant, Labor candidate Peta Murphy, a criminal defence lawyer, and TAFE teacher Jeanette Swain for the Greens. Dunkley is regarded as one of the few Victorian seats that Labor could seize from the Liberals.
Liberal MP Bruce Billson, who has held the seat since 1996, is standing down after being dropped from cabinet when Malcolm Turnbull seized the prime ministership.
The electorate faces many challenges which Mr Billson, who was popular and regarded as hard working, has been unable to resolve.
Employment is a huge issue as Dunkley comprises a series of dormitory suburbs that rely heavily on retail and small business. A 14 percent unemployment rate in Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula, according to ABS figures, has contributed to a high crime rate.
The drug Ice has contributed to an increase in assaults and other crime in Frankston, according to Victoria Police data. Violent crime increased more than 30 per cent from 2013 to 2014 on the back of a doubling of drug offences in the same period.
Education could break this cycle. Courtney Gould, the practising manager of Headspace in Frankston, notes the number of secondary school students not completing their VCE and the lack of technical schools in the electorate. These youth mostly suffer from depression and anxiety and thus “do not fit into the school mould”, says Ms Gould.
Federal funding for alternate education programs to help disengaged youth stay in school could reduce the number of young people on the streets who turn to drugs, says Lisa Vagg, an executive director for Hands On Learning, a program founded at Frankston High School in 1999 that now runs in 60 schools.
The program, which offers students at risk of dropping out of school one day a week of practical work on community projects supervised by tradesmen, has to be funded from within school budgets. “The schools that need it most struggle,” says Vagg.
Transport is also a sore point with voters. David Bowen, a spokesman for the Public Transport Users Association, says bus services, improved bus on-road priority, more trains, and level crossing removals are needed to improve public transport.
Homelessness is increasing in the electorate. Steve Phillips, the manager at Community Support Frankston, says his agency had a 35 percent increase in the number of people without a permanent address requesting assistance last year.
WAYSS, a crisis response service for family violence victims in Frankston, receives up to 800 police referrals a month, housing about 250 women and children at any one time.
General manager Doug Paroissien says crisis accommodation is limited. “More resources would certainly be welcome,” he says.
Meanwhile the arts sector is reeling from cuts to funding. Tom Warneke, lighting technician and venues lead programmer at Frankston Arts Centre, says companies who present work at the centre have been affected. “If Bell Shakespeare has less funding, their productions spend less on production or staffing or may not be able to tour as widely,” he says.
Lack of government support for the integration of refugees is a problem, says Phil Hurwood, a priest at St Luke’s Anglican Church in Frankston. He says the government needs to encourage more communal efforts to integrate new arrivals.
Concern about social justice issues is not new in Dunkley, an electorate created in 1984 and named after Louisa Dunkley, an early campaigner for equal pay for women. Labor held the seat until 1990, regained it in 1993 only to lose it to Bruce Billson in 1996.
Although the Liberals sit on a margin of 5.6 percent, the seat has historically been marginal, with just a few hundred votes deciding the winner.
Political commentator Shaun Carney, who grew up in the area, says Bruce Billson’s personal vote will influence the outcome, describing him as a “vigorous and active member”.
However Labor could campaign on the unresolved crime in central Frankston, he says, with Ice a big problem along with “pay day lenders, drug deals and gun shops”.
He says candidates need to find a way to regenerate the area, while also increasing opportunities beyond retail and factory work.
The Liberals typically fare better from Frankston to Mornington, Carney says, whereas Labor is stronger from Frankston North to Seaford. However he also expected the Greens to improve on the 9 percent vote gained in the last election.