Greg Hunt was first elected to represent the people of Flinders in the 2001 federal election. Mr Hunt replaced the retiring Peter Reith, who held the seat of Flinders from 1984 to 2001.
Flinders is a mostly rural electorate in Victoria that is dominated by coast, with long stretches of bay and ocean frontage. It covers the Mornington Peninsula, Western Port, Bass Coast and Phillip Island and French Island. It is known as a playground for Melbourne, with many popular wineries, resorts and food destinations, as well as beaches and parks.
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The electorate is named after the famed explorer and navigator Matthew Flinders, who was the first person known to have circumnavigated the continent and who suggested the name Australia. The electorate stretches from the mouth of Port Phillip Bay and wraps around Western Port Bay, including Phillip and French islands. It has become known for its exclusive wineries and popular beaches and water-based recreation. With an even mix of white and blue-collar residents, Flinders has been a safe Liberal seat for generations, with the party holding the seat for 61 of the past 62 years.
Flinders federal Liberal MPGreg Hunt has been the local member for 15 years, after first winning the seat in 2001. He was appointed federal Environment Minister in 2013. Mr Hunt proposed the Emissions Reduction Fund. This scheme attempted to allow companies to purchase emissions at a low cost. The Federal Government has pledged $2.55 billion to the scheme.
In February 2016, Mr Hunt was named the inaugural Best Minister in the World at the World Government Summit hosted by the United Arab Emirates in Dubai. The award was seen as controversial by some Australian commentators that observed that Mr Hunt partly received the award based on his work to lower Australian green house gas emissions. Minister Hunt’s strong support of the planned Adani coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee basin was seen as undermining his record on lowering emissions.
Major issues in the electorate include transport, health and the environment. People living in the Mornington Peninsula area have been frustrated by increased service cancellations and delays on the Frankston train line during the morning peak. On the health front, Bass Coast Health has suffered from financial woes and the resignation of top officials. There is growing concern at the expansion of clay mining operations at the Bay Port quarry in Somerville. Health concerns have been raised about hydrogen sulphide gas levels in Merricks Creek, as the creek is a popular destination for campers and beachgoers. The possibility of a commercial airport being constructed at Hastings is still being considered.
Agriculture is a major part of the local economy, with many dairy farms, fishing, poultry, award-winning wineries, and orchards. The tourism industry is also a major employer, with many resorts and other attractions, including the internationally famous penguin parade at Phillip Island. The Western Port Bay area is more industrial, with a major street processing works and a naval base. Plans have been developed for the port at Hastings to become a major shipping port for container and bulk, but local communities remain opposed, in part because of the importance and fragility of the local waterways.
The Flinders electorate has a diverse real estate profile, encompassing beachside and rural properties.
Median house prices in the Mornington Peninsula suburbs of Dromana and Rosebud are between $400,000 and $600,000. These prices are rising. The electorate includes the exclusive suburb of Portsea, which boasts an impressive portfolio of grand, ocean view properties. This is coupled with a median house price of $1,850,000.
On the Western Port Bay side of the electorate, the country town of Lang Lang has a median house price of $320,000, and prices have dropped since the start of the year. Many properties in Lang Lang and surrounding towns are rural, often with lots of acreage.
The Flinders population consisted of 140,891 people – 50.9% female and 49.1% male – at the 2011 Census. The median age is 43. Close to 80% of the Flinders population were born in Australia and about 7% in England. Almost 30% do not practise a religion, while 21.6% are Catholic, and 20.4% are Anglican. The unemployment rate is well below the state and national average, at 2.1%. Almost 40 per cent of homes are fully owned, and the median individual income for people over 15 is $520 per week.
The electorate includes the local government area of Mornington Peninsula, and sections of Casey, Cardinia, and Bass Coast. The main towns include Baxter (part), Cowes, Rye, Dalyston (part), Dromana, Hastings, Koo Wee Rup, Nyora, Rosebud and San Remo.
Improving medical facilities and hospital access in the Mornington Peninsula has become a high priority, as is improving local roads and infrastructure. There is a push to improve education in the area, as there is limited tertiary training. When turning 18, students either have to leave the area, or look for unskilled jobs. The future of Point Nepean remains an issue, with Mr Hunt urging groups and communities to apply for grants “to engage with and raise awareness of” the historic site.
Flinders covers a large area of southern Victoria and is largely characterised by rural industries, including dairy farms, orchards and fishing, and many natural tourism destinations. It has become known for its high-end wineries and exclusive beach-side living, as well as providing a wide range of popular recreation destinations, including Phillip Island.