New, relatively affordable, housing estates like Caroline Springs has lowered the averge age in Gorton. Photo supplied.
At the 2001 election, Brendan O'Connor was elected as the member for Burke. The seat changed name to 'Gorton' before the 2004 federal poll and Brendan O'Connor was re elected.
Gorton covers the north western fringes of Melbourne. Despite a swing of negative 12% in the last election, Gorton is still one of the safest federal Labor seats in the country.
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The electorate of Gorton is located in Melbourne’s rapidly changing western suburbs. The seat is Victoria’s newest, created in a redistribution that took place before the 2004 federal election. It replaced the seat of Burke, which once extended into regional Victoria. The boundary redraw cut out these rural areas, making Gorton an entirely urban electorate.
Gorton is made up of the outer metropolitan suburbs of Caroline Springs, Deer Park, Taylors Hill, Burnside, Alban Vale, Kings Park and stretches west to the satellite city of Melton. This safe Labor seat ironically takes its name from a Liberal Prime Minister, Sir John Gorton, who held office from 1968 to 1971.
The incumbent member is Brendan O’Connor, the Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and the Shadow Special Minister of State.
O’Connor was elected in 2001 as the Member for Burke. In 2004 he was elected member for the newly proclaimed seat of Gorton and was re-elected in 2007, 2010 and 2013. Following Labor’s 2007 election victory under the leadership of Kevin Rudd, O’Connor was made Minister for Employment Participation.
Since then, the member for Gorton has had a variety of ministerial roles in both the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments. In 2009, he was appointed Minister for Home Affairs. In 2010, after the establishment of the Gillard-led minority government, O’Connor was appointed Minster for Justice and Minister for Privacy and Freedom of Information. After a 2011 Cabinet reshuffle, he became the Minster for Human Services, and in 2012 he was appointed as Minister for Small Business. After the 2013 Labor leadership spill, O’Connor was made Minister for Employment.
The suburbs that make up Gorton are experiencing rapid population growth. The abundance of vacant land in the west and the growing demand for affordable housing in Melbourne has led to a boom in residential construction. Between 2005 and 2015, the population of Melton almost doubled. Caroline Springs, a suburb established in 1999, has a population of 29,566 according to the 2011 census. There are currently 102,293 people enrolled to vote in Gorton. The overall population of Gorton according to the last census was 189,518, comprised of approximately 50.1% females and 49.9% males.
Real estate in Gorton is relatively inexpensive compared to other parts of Melbourne. The most expensive suburbs are Taylors Hill and Caroline Springs, with an average house price of $537,000 and $491,000, respectively. The cheapest suburb, Melton, has an average house price of $255,000. This compares with the average price of $707,415 for the Greater Melbourne area.
The availability of affordable home and land packages in areas such as Caroline Springs, Burnside and Kurunjang has attracted younger people and families. The average age of a resident of Gorton is 33, compared to the national average age of 37. Gorton is also a very multicultural electorate with more than 47% of the population born overseas, and 56% speaking a language other than English at home. After Australia, the most common places of birth for the population of Gorton are Vietnam (6.1%), India (3.9%) and the Philippines (3.1%).
Gorton has traditionally been a hub for manufacturing and agriculture. Manufacturing remains the largest industry in the electorate, despite experiencing a decline in recent years. However, employment sectors such as retail, construction, health care and social assistance are growing as Gorton becomes more populous and urban. The unemployment rate of Gorton is 6.8%, higher than the state average of 5.7%.
Residents of Gorton are primarily concerned with the need to grow job opportunities in the area. The changes to the industry mix of western Melbourne will require more skills-based training as knowledge-based services grow and traditional manufacturing slows.
Another major concern is the need for adequate public transport and road infrastructure to service the newly developed urban areas in the electorate. The upgrade of the M80 Ring Road (which has been complicated due to the conflict between the State and Federal governments over the East-West Link toll road) is a major investment program that concerns residents who wish to see travel times from the west to the city cut significantly. The Federal Government has committed $150 million dollars to this project.
The area of western Melbourne has become somewhat of a Labor stronghold. The surrounding electorates of Gellibrand, Lalor and Marybyrong are all considered ‘fairly safe’ or ‘safe’ Labor seats. Given the demographics of the electorate and Labor’s imposing margin of 23.6%, Gorton can be considered a very safe seat for the Labor Party in 2016 with Brendan O’Connor likely to be returned for a sixth term.