newsCO.com.au–Yes vote contains truth bombs for both sides of politics

November 16, 2017

Victoria’s resounding yes vote for same-sex marriage will be celebrated by many MPs here, but it contains awkward truths for both sides of politics.

For Labor, the result is a reminder of the deep divide in its base between socially conservative working-class voters and inner-city progressives.


Same-sex marriage: How we voted

Find out who voted what in each State and Territory in the same-sex marriage survey.

For the Liberals, it proves the party’s warring right flank, which has been busy making trouble for Malcolm Turnbull and even for state opposition leader Matthew Guy, is out of step with the party’s mainstream.

It’s no shock to see such a clear yes vote in Labor’s largely gentrified inner-city seats such as Melbourne Ports and Batman, or in blue-ribbon Liberal electorates like Kooyong and Higgins.

Voters there, many of whom are tertiary-educated, well-off and part of the city’s growing knowledge economy, are more inclined to support progressive causes, as their growing flirtation with the Greens proves.

But voters in the staunch Liberal territory of Menzies and Deakin in Melbourne’s leafy outer east ignored the pleas of their local members, prominent no campaigners Kevin Andrews and Michael Sukkar, and voted yes.

It’s a rebuke to agitators within the party who argued that a pivot further right would be a pathway to success in next year’s state poll.

Meanwhile voters in Labor’s outer suburban heartland were more circumspect, and even downright opposed in two seats, to the notion of reforming the Marriage Act to include same-sex couples.

The five Victorian seats that recorded the biggest no vote – Calwell, Bruce, Holt, Gorton and Scullin – are all safely held by Labor, situated in what remains of Melbourne’s manufacturing heartland and in sprawling but affordable growth suburbs.

The issues of class, immigration and religion cannot be overlooked here.

Census data shows voters in these seats are more religious, less wealthy, less educated and less likely to have been Australian-born than inner-city voters.

It’s a timely reminder for Labor as it heads towards an election next year that a large chunk of its base is blue-collar migrants (or the sons and daughters of migrants) who will look to it to create policies that support workers in a time when precarious work and cost of living pressures are both rising.

Premier Daniel Andrews’ own electorate of Mulgrave is a classic case in point.

It sits entirely within the federal seat of Bruce in Melbourne’s south-east, which recorded a majority no vote of 53.1 per cent.

Mr Andrews’ progressive persona, combined with an agenda of social reform on issues including safe injecting rooms and plastic bags, may help the party to hold onto Northcote in Saturday’s byelection.

But it won’t carry a lot of weight in Mulgrave, where many voters have shown themselves to be social conservatives. 

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