STRONG candidates from the Labor party and the Greens won’t be enough to stop Wannon MP Dan Tehan riding on the wave of national discontent with the Rudd government.
After delivering on local election promises, including cancer centre funding early into his campaign, Mr Tehan looks set to increase his primary vote, cementing Wannon as an even safer seat for the Liberal Party.
A debate win to Greens’ challenger Tim Emanuelle and energetic efforts by Labor’s Michael Barling across the safe Liberal seat will do little to claw back votes, according to Deakin University political lecturer Associate Professor Kevin O’Toole.
Mr Tehan holds Wannon by a 5.7 per cent margin but even with strong Labor voting patterns in places like Ararat or Maryborough, his support is likely to strengthen after September 7.
“With the value of incumbency he’s probably got another 2 per cent his way,” Professor O’Toole said.
“With the momentum the Liberal Party has got it’s likely there’ll be a swing towards them.
“I think he will poll very well, even against good candidates just singularly because of the national momentum.”
The academic said the quality of the local debate this election had outshined the 2010 campaign, which was dominated by independents.
He said both Labor and Greens candidates had not been on the ground long enough to make an impact on voters, despite Mr Barling announcing his preselection in May.
“He’s very articulate but in the present climate the mood isn’t on for a swing,” Professor O’Toole said.
The ideological split inside the Labor party during the 1950s and the heavily Catholic south-west remain core reasons behind decades of Liberal control of the seat, he said.
“Warrnambool was traditionally the old Democratic Labor Party, which used to be Labor until the split came about in the 1950s,” Professor O’Toole said.
“Most of the preaching from the pulpits in the 1950s was very anti-Labor.”
Professor O’Toole said the minor parties would pick up the normal votes from their core supporters but would make little difference except for the senate.
“If the Palmer United Party picks up one vote I’ll be very surprised because nobody knows who the candidate is,” he said yesterday.