One seat that is being very keenly fought is that of Melbourne Ports, in the inner suburbs of Melbourne. Despite being an affluent seat whose demographics lean toward the Liberals, the seat has stuck thick with the ALP, perhaps due to large pockets of Jewish and gay and lesbian voters, traditional supporters of Labor. This time around, the Liberals can sniff blood, and are going full bore to win the seat.
The incumbant is controversial Labor MP Michael Danby, a member of the Unity fanction and perhaps one of the most conservative within the Labor caucus. Danby has made many enemies within the parliament and the media, with MPs on the left - notable Tanya Plibersek and Julia Irwin - being critical of Danby's unstinting support for Israel, and outburst such as this one directed at SMH columnist Alan Ramsey. Danby does, however, know how to get his constituency on side. With 3 in 10 Melbourne Ports voters identifying as Jewish, Danby knows how to use the issue of Israel to his advantage. In the 2001 campaign, Danby published ads in the Australian Jewish News arguing that voters should support Israel by re-electing Danby. Hmmm...
This time around, the argument will be harder to make. The challenger is Liberal mna-about-town David Southwick. Unlike previous recent candidates for the Liberals in Melbourne Ports, Southwick is Jewish and is prepared to take on the incumbant on the issue of Israel. He has also adopted the issue of funding to private (Jewish) schools, which would be in doubt under Labor's education funding model. It is an impressive campaign, and one that will make an impact. Less impressive is the vacuous slogan that Southwick has plastered on every billboard around the electorate - Delivering Community Values. How does one deliver values?? They can be held, yes, and they can be expressed. But deliverred? It sounds like one buzzword in a chain too many.
Ultimately, this seat will be determined on preferences. In 2001, the Liberal candidate secured 274 more primary votes, but after preferences, the margin was almost 9,000. Why? The 9% to the Dems and the 11% to the Greens flowed heavily to the ALP. This time around, most of those Democrats votes will be cannibalised by the Greens, making the Libs' task even harder. For Southwick to win this one, he will need to not only increase the Libs primary vote by 2%, he will also need to greatly increase the share of minor party preferences. It won't happen. This time, at least. Danby will be on notice, though, that he can't take the seat for granted.