Could this pocket of Southbank decide a knife-edge election seat?
Around 4000 Southbankers will vote in the seat of Prahran for the first time this Victorian Election, and the cohort is likely to have a huge say in who takes the knife-edge seat.
Changes to electoral boundaries in late 2021 saw an eastern pocket of Southbank move from the seat of Albert Park (where all other Southbankers will vote on November 26) to the Prahran electorate.
The seat is tipped to be a tight contest between incumbent Greens MP Sam Hibbins and Labor challenger Wesa Chau.
It has been held by Mr Hibbins since the 2014 election when he, alongside fellow Greens member Ellen Sandell in the neighbouring seat of Melbourne, won the first ever seats for the party in the Victorian lower house.
Other candidates for the seat are Matthew Lucas (Liberal) and Alice Le Huray (Animal Justice Party).
In both 2014 and in 2018 when Mr Hibbins was re-elected in Prahran, the Greens came third in primary votes.
Preferences from minor candidates saw them leapfrog Labor, before Labor preferences saw them pip the Liberals on both occasions.
This time, however, Labor is considered a real hope of snatching back a seat that it last held in 2010.
Changes to the electoral boundaries — which are altered to reflect population shifts across the state and to ensure all electorates are “approximately equal” — will see locals who reside to the east of Sturt St (but south of Grant St) vote in the Greens-held seat.
The state’s smallest electorate, Prahran takes in South Yarra, Prahran, Windsor and parts of St Kilda and St Kilda East, plus the new pocket of Southbank.
Ahead of an expected tight race, Mr Hibbins said he had spoken with locals throughout the campaign.
“I’ve been campaigning in Southbank, including door-knocking and speaking with residents. I’m committed to improving the liveability of Southbank, with reduced traffic and increased open space and greenery,” he told Southbank News.
“With parts of Southbank now in the Prahran electorate, residents have the opportunity to re-elect a Greens MP who will be in the heart of parliament, holding the next government to account and pushing them further and faster on climate action and housing affordability.”
The Victorian Greens hold three of 88 seats in the Victorian Legislative Assembly — Mr Hibbins, Melbourne MP Ms Sandell, and Member for Brunswick Tim Read — in addition to leader and Northern Metropolitan MP Samantha Ratnam in the upper house.
For Labor, Ms Chau is no stranger to elections, having previously contested the federal seat of Higgins for the party back in 2013.
She also ran as the Deputy Lord Mayoral candidate alongside Labor veteran Phil Reed at the 2020 City of Melbourne election.
Like Mr Hibbins, she told Southbank News that open space was a key issue for the local area.
“The Southbank community understands how important green space is to a vibrant community. The two enhance each other and it is what our community is known for,” she said.
“That is why a re-elected Andrews Labor Government will give a $1.5 million grant to the City of Melbourne to support new green space park in Southbank, giving local families a space to enjoy all year round. With many people, including myself, choosing to live in apartments or units without a backyard, green space is key to liveable and thriving communities.”
Prior to the electoral changes announced in late 2021, Prahran’s north-western boundary stopped at St Kilda Rd.
State electoral boundaries are created by the Electoral Boundaries Commission (EBC), an impartial statutory agency independent of the government.
According to the commission, the 2021 boundary update impacted more than one in five voters across the state with 910,384 Victorians (or 21.28 per cent of all electors) transferred to different districts.
A spokesperson said at the time that the EBC canvassed the thoughts and opinions of many before defining the new boundaries.
“The EBC has taken account of the information and arguments included in submissions and public hearings. The reasons for particular changes vary, but broadly the EBC considers that the final boundaries fit communities of interest better than the proposed boundaries while ensuring that all electorates are approximately equal.”
The EBC does not consider the political implications of boundary changes.
Early voting for the Victorian Election opens on November 14.
To find early and/or election day voting centres near you, visit vec.vic.gov.au. •
Captions: A electoral boundary change meant the seat of Prahran (red line) now takes in part of Southbank.
Prahran MP Sam Hibbins (Greens) and Labor challenger Wesa Chau.