La Trobe

Urban fringe needs better transport infrastructure

May 18, 2016 Joshua Cavanagh
Looking towards the Belgrave shopping strip (Photo: Joshua Cavanagh)
Sitting Member:
Wood, J (LP)
Size of electorate:
562 sq. Km

Sitting Member

The incumbent held the seat from 2004 to 2010, regaining it in 2013.

Key Comments

Tends to be more Liberal leaning than the Victorian average, however has been won by Labor when the LNP performs poorly federally. The electorate is home to a large number of young families, including many first-home buyers. The main industries tend to be light service, tourism and some farming.

Electorate Profile

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The electorate of La Trobe is where Melbourne's urban fringes meet the doorstep of the bush. Located in the outer east of greater Melbourne this electorate covers urban sprawl on one side and farming communities on the other.

The seat was first created in 1949 and held by Lord Richard Casey until 1960 who in his time held positions as varied as Treasurer, Governor of Bengal and the Ambassador to the US. An enigmatic character the neighbouring electorate of Casey is named after him as is the City of Casey, a part of which is covered by the La Trobe electorate.

The electorate is culturally diverse with a third of its population born overseas many coming from Europe, Asia and South Africa. The area is a veritable melting pot of cultures.

It is neither poor nor rich, though, with median earnings only slightly above the state average. Coupled with a relatively low unemployment rate, La Trobe is a near perfect example of middle-class outer suburbia.

The electorate is filled with young families. It has the largest number of couples with dependent children in the state and the second highest in home purchases. This is expected to rise as the population of Melbourne moves further out in pursuit of affordable and family friendly areas.

The seat is currently held by Jason Wood for the Liberals who first won in 2004. Wood lost the seat in 2010 to Laura Smyth of the ALP, but then won it back in the 2013 election. This year Wood will be contesting the seat against Labor candidate Simon Curtis and Greens candidate Tom Cummings.

Wood has a manageable margin of around 7000 votes, however when the Coalition performs badly nationally the seat can swing to Labor. We saw this in the 2010 election. The seat has bellwether-like tendencies, predicting the government in all but two occasions since its creation in 1949.

Within the electorate lie the towns of Cockatoo, Emerald and Belgrave to the east in the Dandenong ranges and the suburbs of Berwick, Beaconsfield and Officer to the west and south-west in the more built up areas.

Although both the northern and southern portions are located a similar distance from the CBD, their stories paint different pictures.

Although nominally a conservative seat held by the Liberal Party for most of the last 15 years, the electorate can still be divided into Liberal areas and Labor areas. The polling booths in the Dandenong Ranges portion of the electorate, such as Belgrave, Tecoma, Upwey and Ferny Creek, all returned high Labor results on a two-party preferred.

The Greens also polled strongly in this area, receiving a 25% of primary votes at the Belgrave booth and 20% elsewhere. Rural booths in the east and south such as Harkaway, Officer and Narre Warren East returned high results for the Liberals. Some booths showed in excess of 65% on a two party preferred basis.

The southern suburban areas on the Pakenham Line/Monash Freeway corridor return more marginal results, albeit tending towards a Liberal majority.

With any outer metropolitan area there are the usual issues around scarce public transport and lengthy commutes to the CBD.

As the population grows so have the numbers of cars on the roads. This has become a major issue for locals with increases in traffic congestion.

Many constituents feel that if more lanes were added to the Monash and South Gippsland freeways this may help alleviate the issue for a time, but some also acknowledge that to properly fix this issue improved public transport is needed.

The issue surrounding the transit and roads has become a tug-of-war between the Liberals and Labor. Mr. Wood argues that extra lanes in known congestion areas are a necessity and that state and federal Labor has neglected eastern Melbourne for far too long.

Labor’s stance was made clear with a visit to the area from the Federal Opposition spokesman for infrastructure Anthony Albanese who argues that a smarter technology approach is the right path to go down, with traffic cameras and signalling systems installed to ensure the traffic speeds change with the time and congestion on the roads.

Both have merit within the electorate with some feeling that Mr. Wood could do more to push for better infrastructure such as consulting with the state and federal government and acting as a bridge between the two to ensure that projects get underway without the political to and fro.

2013 Election Results

Candidate Party Votes % Swing(%)
SCHILLING, Michael The Greens 8905 10.02 -1.98
WOOD, JasonElected Liberal 40925 46.05 +3.01
LEAHY, Martin Sex Party 2475 2.79 +0.46
SMYTH, Laura Australian Labor Party 28488 32.06 -7.35
JENKINS, Rachel DLP Democratic Labour 1168 1.31 +1.31
MARTIN, Daniel Family First Party 1680 1.89 -0.68
KENNEDY, Jason Grant Palmer United Party 4514 5.08 +5.08
SEAMAN, Kevin Rise Up Australia Party 711 0.8 +0.80
...... Liberal Democratic Party 0 0 -0.54
...... Secular Party of Australia 0 0 -0.12


Joshua Cavanagh

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