By Su Dharmapala
25 July 2013
The Melbourne seat of Deakin could hardly have been an enclave of progressive voters considering its namesake was one of the founding fathers of the first Liberal Party. And looking at the voting history of the electorate confirms this. It has been held primarily by the Liberals barring a single year between 1983 –84 and now by Mike Symon of the ALP since 2007.
However from the 1980s Deakin was considered the most marginal Liberal-held seat – with the incumbent ALP member winning the seat in 2007 based on Greens preferences. So Deakin should be one of those bitterly contested seats where terrified babies are kissed by fluey politicians and pork barreling is so commonplace that schools should abound with more facilities than an exclusive country golf club.
Yet it is not. It has avoided being paraded in front of the nation with the same excesses enjoyed by places such as Western Sydney for one simple reason – it is boring. Let me explain.
Deakin is situated in the leafy eastern suburbs of Melbourne, bound to the west by the more affluent suburbs such as Blackburn and Surrey Hills and to the north by suburbs such as Doncaster and Warrandyte. It is wedged right smack bang in the middle of middle-classiness.
By and large, people who live in Deakin are not at the mercy of interest rates. Houses are not cheap, nor are they exorbitant. The lack of a large contingent of McMansions has also meant that neighbourhood BBQs are not congregation centres for people complaining about the cost of utilities.
Schools are good. Access to childcare is excellent. Crime is low. It is quite common to still see kids play cricket on the streets and sit under the sprinklers on their front lawns on hot summer nights.
To add to this charming montage is the diversity of ethnicities in Deakin. The City of Whitehorse quite happily puts on a show for Chinese New Year and for Divali for the local Hindu population as well as the annual Carols by Candlelight. The local strip malls are complete with enough diversity of cuisine to satisfy even the most jaded foodie.
Deakin is the kind of place where you raise your family in safety and where your kids will eventually return after a stint in the inner city to raise yet another generation. It is the kind of place that you will forget with the blink of an eye but will live forever in your heart.
All of this makes the voters in Deakin very difficult for politicians to manipulate. There is no clear wedge issue that will rouse the electorate, nor are there particular fears that politicians can exploit. So the battle for the marginal seat of Deakin represents the very battle for that which is middle Australia. That which is unpretentious and solid.
As I write for NoFibs in Election 2013, I will interview the main candidates standing for the electorate of Deakin and ask them – what can they do for people who are already living the dream?