WANNON’S blue ribbon status could officially be declared marginal by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) because of redistribution changes bringing a swag of Labor voters into the fold.
Liberal member Dan Tehan is now believed to hold the seat by a 5.7 per cent margin, falling just under the six per cent mark needed for marginal status.
News of a loosening conservative grip on the electorate will come as welcome news to potential independent and Labor candidates hoping to destabilise the Coalition — or at least change the political DNA of the electorate.
The change to electoral boundaries in 2010 saw the township of Maryborough included in Wannon, bringing in Labor voters, while conservative-voting Stawell now forms part of the Mallee seat.
The seat’s classification will be confirmed by the AEC in the coming weeks.
No local candidates have been revealed for the September 14 election after Katter’s Australian Party candidate Tess Corbett withdrew from the race after controversial remarks about homosexuality and paedophiles.
The previous election saw a push by local independents, who secured 13,125 ballots between them.
Monash University political scientist and Dr Nick Economou threw cold water on the suggestion Wannon could become a hotly contested seat.
“Let me take this opportunity to assure Dan Tehan that he will win Wannon in a canter,” Dr Economou said.
He said it was more likely Mr Tehan would use victory in a so-called marginal seat as a career move inside the party room.
“The Coalition is on its way to government and Mr Tehan wants to raise his political profile,” he said. Mr Tehan, who will be entering into his second term if he retains the seat, is among a younger generation of Coalition members tipped for leadership positions within the party.
Kooyong MP Josh Frydenberg and MP Kelly O’Dwyer, who replaced Peter Costello in the safe Melbourne seat of Higgins, are other potential frontrunners.
‘There’s going to be pressure on Tehan,” Dr Economou said
He said Wannon had a strong history of producing political leaders such as former prime minister Malcolm Fraser and former speaker David Hawker.
“People who have held Wannon have always achieved things but in order to do that you have to draw attention to yourself,” he said.
Wannon MP Dan Tehan responded reservedly yesterday when asked if he would accept a ministerial position in a future coalition government.
“There are lots of ifs in politics,” he said.
Mr Tehan said his sole focus remained on votes.
“There’s no doubt that the redistribution makes travelling times greater and reduces the margins slightly,” he said.