Super Centre, Cheltenham, Warrigal road. Photo by: Mala Darmadi
Clare O'Neil was first elected as the member for Hotham in 2013 after long-term member Simon Crean retired following the leadership crisis in the Australian Labor Party.
The key issues for the electorate of Hotham include the level crossings and the ongoing traffic congestion, the rising cost of living, unemployment and the importance of boosting the local economy as business leaders attempt to attract investors to the area. In spite of a significant swing against ALP in the 2013 election, it is still a safe Labor seat.
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The electorate of Hotham is a safe Labor seat that covers 75 sq km of Melbourne’s southeastern suburbs, from its north-western corner of Murrumbeena, to Heatherton in the south-east.
Hotham includes the suburbs from Oakleigh South, Clayton South, Springvale South, Moorabbin, Cheltenham, Heatherton and parts of Bentleigh east and Murrumbeena. The electorate is considered one of the safest Labor seats due to its ethnically diverse community.
Hotham was first contested at the 1969 election and originally won by well-known politician Don Chipp, who represented the Liberal Party of Australia. However, Mr Chipp later resigned as a Liberal Party member and in 1977, was elected in the Australian Senate as a Democrat. He did not recontest Hotham, which was won by Liberal candidate Roger Johnson in 1977. Since 1980, Hotham has been a safe seat for the ALP, when Lewis Kent first led Labor to victory.
Lawyer Clare O’Neil was first elected as the member of Hotham in 2013 after long-term sitting member Simon Crean resigned following the leadership crisis of the Australian Labor Party. At 23, Ms O'Neil became the youngest mayor in Australian local government history when she was elected to represent the people of Greater Dandenong in 2004.
Before entering Federal Parliament Ms O’Neil earned a Bachelor of Arts and Law at Monash University and won a Fulbright scholarship to study a Masters degree in Public Policy at Harvard University.
Ms O’Neil has been active in different communities, working with indigenous women in Arnhem Land and consulting for McKinsey & Company, one of the world's leading management consultancy firms.
Key issues concerning this electorate are the public transport level crossings and the consequent traffic congestion which has seen citizens calling for railway crossing removal projects, the rising cost of living, unemployment and attracting more investors to the area.
Public transport and roads are a big issue and the planned removal of four level crossings on the Frankston line will reduce traffic congestion and create safer roads.
Commuters and traders will be affected as their businesses will lose foot traffic once construction begins. There are also activists fighting to preserve the market gardens which are included in the green wedge of Melbourne.
Ice addiction has been identified as a serious issue in Hotham, as measures have been taken to increase the local support for rehabilitation and families affected. Ms O’Neil has spearheaded a campaign to fund a Headspace service, with the intention to improve adolescent mental health within the electorate.
Hotham has a mean house price of $873,000. The north-western suburbs of the electorate have the highest median house price, with Murrumbeena being the highest in the electorate with $1.22 million. Neighbouring suburbs Hughesdale ($1.08 million) and Oakleigh ($1.01 million) are the second and third highest in the electorate respectively.
These higher prices in Hotham’s north-western pocket reflect the high demand for property, with the properties more than doubling the state average of visitors to open house inspections. Following the Pakenham railway line to the south-east, property prices progressively decrease with Noble Park’s median house price set at $510,000.
Murrumbeena has become a sought-after real estate area, as it is now on the fringe of inner Melbourne and located just 15km from the CBD. Many young urban professionals have bought period homes in the exclusive suburb and renovated them, making significant profits on house sales.
The 2011 Census reports that the population of Hotham is 133,692. The population is heavily made up of migrants: 54.4% of residents were born in Australia, while the other most common countries of birth include India, Vietnam, and China, and several European countries.
There are more than 36,000 families in the electorate, with an average of 1.8 children per family. The median age of the population is 38 years old, slightly higher than the national median.
The most common occupations for working adults in Hotham are professionals, and clerical and administrative workers, making up a combined 37.9% of the 66,276 people who reported being in the workforce.
Hotham was consolidated as a Labor-strong seat after 1980, with the consistent work from ALP members Mr Kent, Mr Crean and now Ms O’Neil. Mr Crean was originally to be replaced by former Monash Mayor Geoff Lake, who was forced from Hotham pre-selection after a Herald Sun newspaper article revealed he abused a fellow councilor, who was female and wheelchair bound.