Thursday, September 2, 2010
DID Andrew Wilkie set a new record by winning Denison with just 21 per cent of the vote?
No, some well-informed readers were quick to point out after we raised the question yesterday. In 1972, the then Country Party won the Gippsland seat of McMillan with just 16.6 per cent of votes.
Age reader and electoral addict John Lenders was first on the phone. In 1972 he was a 14-year-old living on his parents' dairy farm near Drouin. These days he is Treasurer of Victoria, but he still remembers the numbers back then.
What made McMillan 1972 special was that the conservative vote split four ways. Since 1955, the seat had been held by Liberal backbencher Alexander Buchanan, but by then he was 67, and lost Liberal preselection to Barrie Armitage. He then decided to stand as an independent.
With no sitting Liberal MP, the Country Party (as the Nationals were then known) nominated Warragul councillor and dairy farmer Arthur Hewson. And Michael Houlihan stood for the DLP.
With the Latrobe Valley towns booming, Labor's Frank Mountford won 45.8 per cent of first preferences. Mr Armitage, the official Liberal candidate, won 24.1 per cent, Mr Hewson came only third with 16.6 per cent, with the DLP on 7.2 per cent and Mr Buchanan 6.3 per cent. But a vengeful Mr Buchanan directed preferences to the Country Party.
So did the DLP. Between them they lifted Mr Hewson to 13,406 votes, 180 ahead of his Liberal rival. Liberal preferences then went to their ally, giving him 52.5 per cent to Labor's 47.5 per cent. Mr Hewson did it again in 1974, winning re-election with just 24.2 per cent of the vote. But in 1975 the Liberals stood the talented young Barry Simon against him, and the tide to Malcolm Fraser swept him to an easy win.
Since then, McMillan has alternated between Liberals and Labor, although the Nationals still put up candidates when Coalition rules allow.
In 2004, young university lecturer Bridget McKenzie polled 11 per cent before she was eliminated.
But on August 21, she finally made it into Parliament as the Nationals' rep on the Coalition's Victorian Senate ticket the first Nationals member from the area since Arthur Hewson.