What were they smoking? Whatever possessed the Labor and Liberal parties to abandon the electors of the vibrant inner city residential suburbs of Victorian State seat of Melbourne (where your correspondent is a long-time resident) to a gaggle of 16 pitiful foppotees?
The Melbourne District by-election on Saturday 21 July was precipitated by the resignation on 8 May of former Labor Member Bronwyn Pike who saw the writing on the wall; and so bailed-out to avail herself of a fabulously-rich parliamentary super payout and pension.
Like Julia Gillard, Bronwyn Pike came to play hard-ball leftie politics in Melbourne from Adelaide’s leafy middle class suburbia. She had an undistinguished parliamentary career rising (from a shallow Socialist Left gene pool) to be a lackluster junior minister in both the Bracks and Brumby Governments.
Pike told The Age that day she had decided after the 2010 State Election that she would not be part of the next Labor Government after serving more than 12 years in State Parliament. "It is a chance for the party to renew and bring new people in and continue to build for the future," Ms Pike said.
Bullshit! What she didn’t say is that she only held the previously safe ALP seat of Melbourne in the 2010 State Election with Liberal Party preferences.
The Liberals had cut off their noses to spite their faces in the earlier 2010 Federal Election when they had preferenced the Greens ahead of the ALP on their how-to-vote cards and Adam Bandt got up to secure a minority government for Julia Gillard.
It was a tactical mistake they would not make at the 2010 State Election when Ted Baillieu became the first Liberal Premier since Jeff Kennett.
With the Libs not standing in this by-election; the jig was up for Bronnie Pike; she wisely chose to take the money and run.
Pike’s 12-year-rule, in the previously ridiculously-safe inner city ALP fiefdom, began with the blood of the previous Labor member, Neil Cole, on her hands.
Bronwyn Pike campaigns in Carlton on election day in November, 2010. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui.
Cole, a local writer and Melbourne University graduate, held the seat for 10 years from 1988 to 1999; and was well-liked in the electorate. He was preceded by a popular ex-servicemen and trade unionist, Keith Remington, who also held the seat safely for the 10-years between from 1977 to 1988.
Before Remington, Melbourne District was blessed with the beginning of its Camelot period (1972 to 77) when Barry Jones was elected to represent the Melbourne electorate in Spring Street and Gough Whitlam was running the Federal government in Canberra.
Barry Jones helped to unite the emerging tendencies in the local ALP branches: The inner suburbs were being gentrified by middle class professionals (the University of Melbourne is in the centre of the electorate); and rising property prices for Victorian terrace houses were driving out older industrial workers.
Of course, Jones high profile as the local ALP member was magnified because he was also a radio and TV celebrity. Jones was anointed Australian quiz champion in 1960 on Bob Dyer's Pick a Box, a radio show from 1948, televised from 1957.
He was famous for taking issue with Dyer about certain expected answers, most famously in response to a question about "the first British Governor-General of India", where he pointed out that Warren Hastings was only technically Governor of Bengal.
Barry Jones' appearances on Pick a Box lasted from 1960 to 1968. He resigned the seat in November 77 to stand for Federal Parliament. To this day, he can be regularly seen in Readings bookstore or having a coffee with mates in Lygon St. Pike mostly travelled down Lygon Street in her ministerial car.
When Neil Cole decided to run for the safe Labor seat of Melbourne in the 1988 Victorian election; pre-selection for was considered "unlikely” given the seat was already earmarked for ALP state secretary Jenny Beacham.
Aware that he was "supposed" to lose by nine votes, Cole worked the numbers and managed to win pre-selection, subsequently winning the seat at the 1988 State Election.
In 1992, he was promoted to Joan Kirner's shadow cabinet as Shadow Minister for Consumer Affairs and Shadow Attorney-General.
Early in his political career, Cole had suffered a number of mental health issues and in 1993 he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In 1995, Cole's condition became public knowledge when it was leaked to the media by his political enemies.
Cole publicly declared that he suffered from mental illness, stood down as Shadow Attorney-General, and was admitted to The Melbourne Clinic shortly afterwards.
But a man’s a man for all that and Cole was such a man. Despite the revelation of his illness, Cole was re-elected as MLA for Melbourne in the 1996 election, a win he described as the "most gratifying thing" in his parliamentary career.
But his political career ended in 1999, when he lost pre-selection for Melbourne in the 1999 election to Bronwyn Pike, who was subsequently elected.
So, here we are today – two weeks out from finding Pike’s replacement. She will not be missed.
These are the 16 candidates who have nominated for the seat with the Victorian Electoral Commission:
AHMED, Berhan (INDEPENDENT)
FENN, Ashley (FAMILY FIRST)
SCHOREL-HLAVKA, Gerrit Hendrik (INDEPENDENT)
NOLTE, David (INDEPENDENT)
PERKINS, John (INDEPENDENT)
KANIS, Jennifer (ALP)
COLLYER, David James (INDEPENDENT)
O'CONNOR, Patrick (INDEPENDENT)
MURPHY, Michael (DLP)
TOSCANO, Joseph (INDEPENDENT)
MAYNE, Stephen (INDEPENDENT)
BORLAND, Kate (INDEPENDENT)
WHITEHEAD, Adrian (INDEPENDENT)
PATTEN, Fiona (AUSTRALIAN SEX PARTY)
OKE, Cathy (AUSTRALIAN GREENS)
BENGTSSON, Maria (AUSTRALIAN CHRISTIANS).
It’s not a very inspiring slate of candidates is it?
Not surprisingly, the gormless Greens’ candidate, Cathy “Okidoki” Oke, is already practicing her maiden speech in front of the mirror following this June 12 special telephone Morgan Poll conducted over the Queen’s Birthday weekend.
It shows the Greens (54%) are set to win the seat from Labor (46%) on the back of Independent preferences in the by-election set for July 21.
The poll shows the Greens primary vote is 48.5% clearly ahead of the ALP (37.5%), Independent Stephen Mayne (7%) and Independents & Others (7%). The Morgan Poll concluded that the Greens would win the State seat of Melbourne on the back of Independent preferences.
Gary Morgan added: “Today’s telephone Morgan Poll shows the Greens (54%) are poised to win the State seat of Melbourne from the ALP (46%) with the preferences of Independents. Independent candidate Stephen Mayne has said he will direct his preferences to the Greens which will be enough for Greens candidate Cathy Oke to claim victory.
“Labor has held the State seat continuously since 1908 – more than a century ago. Its loss would be a blow to Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews. However, a Greens victory would make no difference to Premier Ted Baillieu’s one seat majority (45-43).”
Electors were asked: “There is a State By-Election scheduled for the State seat of Melbourne being held next month on July 21. Which party or candidate will receive your FIRST preference at the By-Election?”
Your correspondent, gentle readers, will give all the candidates a through rogering over next two weeks exclusively for Henry Thornton.com.
Watch this space…
*TP Maher is former editor of The Melbourne Times. He has covered State and City Council elections in Melbourne since former whizkid Barry Jones was elected to the seat in June 1972.