Sunbury makes up part of the urban south of the seat. (Photo: Sheridan Lee)
The incumbent has held the seat since August 2010.
McEwen has had only three members since its creation. It has the nation's highest proportion of dwellings being purchased at 53.5%; and at 68.8% has the nation's third highest proportion of dwellings with two or more cars, the highest for any Victorian electorate.
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Covering the outer north of Melbourne, from Craigieburn to Sunbury and extending to central Victoria, from Broadford to Woodend, the hybrid urban-rural seat of McEwen was first contested in 1984.
It was won for the ALP by Peter Cleeland. Cleeland subsequently lost the seat to Fran Bailey in 1990. Bailey was the Liberal Party’s first female candidate elected to a Victorian seat, and the first female elected to represent a rural seat.
Cleeland returned to the seat in 1993 with a 1.4% margin, but Bailey won back the seat in 1996 with a 2.2% margin. She held it with a 1.0% margin in 1998, 1.2% in 2001 and 6.4% in 2004, which was reduced to 0.02% in 2007, making it the most marginal seat in the country.
Rob Mitchell, the Labor candidate for McEwen, won in 2007 by seven votes on the first count. Then, after a recount, Bailey led by12 votes. Labor disputed the result in the Federal Court, which determined that Bailey won the seat by 27 votes.
In 2010, when Bailey retired, Mitchell was comfortably elected, winning with a 5.3% margin.
McEwen underwent a significant redistribution in 2013, which increased the party’s margin from 5.3% to 9.2%. Part of the liberal-tilting, rural north of the seat was transferred to Indi and Murray, Macedon to the seat of Bendigo, and the upper Yarra Valley to the seat of Casey. Craigieburn and Sunbury were incorporated into the predominantly Labor-voting, urban south of McEwen.
However, the decision of the National Party, who did not run a candidate in McEwen in 2013, and the Liberal Party to contest the seat in the upcoming election could upset the balance.
There is significant population growth in the seat’s south, particularly in the fast-growing metropolitan suburbs of Doreen and Mernda, which is leading to increased residential development.
In 2013, the ABC reported that “it has the nation’s highest proportion of dwellings being purchased at 53.5%, and has the nation’s third highest proportion of dwellings with two or more cars at 68.8%, the highest for any Victorian electorate”.
As people continue to flock to the region,economy and employment will become a key focus.
Significant population growth and expansion has also placed pressure on the health care and education sector, which are necessary for future growth.
Rob Mitchell has made it a central feature of his current campaign.
Speaking to the House of Representatives about the doctor shortage in his electorate in February, he expressed concern about the ineffective application of the framework of the District of Workforce Shortage (DWS) in his electorate, claiming that Sunbury and Whittlesea are severely affected but not listed or “recognised as an area of need”, while Seymour “does not have a doctor shortage” but is listed on the DWS’ framework.
There is a strong interest in the environment. Renewable energy is an important issue in McEwen, which contains 12,366 solar-powered homes, the second highest in the state.
McEwen also has a diverse economy, covering extensive cattle grazing, wool growing and dairying in Central Victoria, to manufacturing and commerce in the north of Melbourne. It is important for any candidate to be able to unite the urban and rural in this electorate.
Chris Jermyn of the Liberal Party is challenging Rob Mitchell for the seat of McEwen. He promises that he has been “listening to locals about what needs to be done” and is “backing local jobs and keeping the economy strong”, also vowing to “combat the scourge of ice” and provide “better telecommunications across the region”.
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party has announced that local Simon Roylance is their candidate for the seat of McEwen in the upcoming election. Having lived in the electorate for over 25 years, he claims that he has a “vast knowledge of community experience and concern” and promises to “stand up for the people of McEwen”.
One Nation has emphasised that Roylance is an active member of the Country Fire Authority (CFA), hoping that the electorate will remember the courage and contribution he displayed when “tragic fires tore through McEwen” on Black Saturday in 2009.
Peter Bland, who lacks a strong presence on social media, is contesting the seat of McEwen for the 21st Century Australia Party.
The National Party has not yet preselected its candidate for McEwen.
As a marginal seat, McEwen will be closely watched in the upcoming election, with potential for it to be a tight race between candidates.