House in Toorak. Courtesy of Google images.
Kelly O'Dwyer was elected to represent the seat of Higgins in the late 2009 by-election, following the retirement of former Treasurer the Hon Peter Costello AC. She has never held another seat, and is currently Minister for small business and assistant treasurer.
The seat is safe and has been since 1949.
For a full list of candidates please see 'election at a glance' and use the electorate search tool or click Higgins.
The seat of Higgins in Melbourne’s southeast has always been known for its green, open spaces. Home to Melbourne’s leafy suburbs such as Toorak and Malvern, as well as popular shopping high-end strips like Chapel Street, this seat has a history of being one of Victoria’s most affluent areas.
But it’s not only the area’s numerous parks and leafy streets that could be turning this seat green at the next election. Despite being a historically safe Liberal seat since 1949, Higgins is now on the radar of election enthusiasts after private polling by the Labor party showed the Greens tied with the Liberals 50/50 for first preference voting.
The inner-city seat – which has been held by notable Liberal figures such as former prime minister Harold Holt, Howard era treasurer Peter Costello and now assistant treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer – includes the Victorian state seat of Prahran. This is worth noting, as former state Liberal MP Clem Newton-Brown lost the seat in 2014 to state Greens MP Sam Hibbins.
The choice of candidates for the area hints at its substantial base of socially progressive voters. Kelly O’Dwyer tends to align with the progressive wing of the Liberal party, describing herself to Fairfax journalist Latika Bourke as having a “slightly drier perspective on economics” while being “a bit more socially progressive".
Indeed, as a younger, female politician and mother, O’Dwyer is a relatively progressive choice for the Coalition, in light of recent reports that the group preselected only white men in the latest round of preselection battles.
Both Labor and The Greens have preselected prominent figures from the queer community as candidates for the area, putting LGBTQI+ issues squarely on the agenda. Carl Katter – half-brother of maverick Queensland MP Bob Katter – will contest the seat for Labor, whose primary vote in the area remains on 24 per cent according to their own polling.
The Greens have nominated former footballer Jason Ball as their candidate for Higgins, with Ball being one of the first players at any level of AFL to come out as gay.
Public transport, in particular, rail infrastructure, is likely to be a hot topic for Higgins in the coming months, despite 41% of people in the area owning at least one car and 32% of residents owning two. Ball, O’Dwyer and Katter have all been pushing for public transport policy to be front and centre this election.
South Yarra train station is one of the busiest stations outside the city loop and was recently ruled out of being included in the Melbourne Metro Rail Project. The state government has emphasised this does not mean the station won’t be upgraded, but Kelly O’Dwyer is still pushing for the station to be included in the project.