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Valley Will Be Divided If Traralgon Is Removed From McMillan

Electoral changes may substantially reduce the Latrobe Valley’s electoral power in the Federal Parliament

By Jo McMillan for Christian Zahra MP - 30th September 2002 - Back to News

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Removing Traralgon from the electoral district of McMillan will divide the Latrobe Valley and substantially reduce the Latrobe Valley’s electoral power in the Federal Parliament, according to Federal Member for McMillan Christian Zahra.

In a letter to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) objecting to the draft boundary changes, Mr Zahra said that the Latrobe Valley is "an obvious and strong community of interest" that should not be split into two Federal electorates.

"In much the same way as splitting off one-third of the city of Bendigo or Ballarat from their respective electoral districts would unfairly and unreasonably divide those communities, the proposal to take Traralgon out of McMillan and place it into Gippsland would divide the Latrobe Valley and disadvantage Traralgon," Mr Zahra said.

"The Latrobe Valley has historically been an important regional centre. It has its own identity and its own history, in much the same way as Bendigo and Ballarat do."

"Splitting Traralgon off from the rest of the Latrobe Valley would result in the large population centre of the Latrobe Valley representing around 40% of the new seat of McMillan and just 15% of Gippsland."

"In effect, the Latrobe Valley’s electoral power in the Federal Parliament would be substantially reduced."

Mr Zahra told the AEC that the Latrobe Valley is a vitally important regional centre, with a unique set of concerns.

"Breaking it up in the way suggested on the draft boundaries represents a rejection of the district’s importance as a regional centre and reduces the Latrobe Valley to an unrelated collection of country towns joined by a collection of roads," Mr Zahra said.

Mr Zahra said that the Latrobe Valley is "profoundly different" from the rest of Gippsland, having had a long tradition of migration and being home to a number of industries that are unique to the region – power generation, coal mining and pulp and paper manufacture.

"These two factors have created a very different population demographic than is found in other parts of Gippsland – or in other parts of regional Victoria," Mr Zahra said.

Mr Zahra told the AEC that the Latrobe Valley has some very specific concerns, such as chronically high unemployment following the deregulation of the power industry, which are not shared by other parts of Gippsland.

"How can the Latrobe Valley’s particular concerns as a region be properly represented in the Federal Parliament if this community of interest is split in the way that has been suggested?" Mr Zahra said.

Mr Zahra said that Latrobe City Council (formerly Latrobe Shire) was created in the early 1990s to service the Latrobe Valley as a whole.

"To exclude Traralgon from the electoral division of McMillan would create a situation where around one-third of the residents and ratepayers of Latrobe City were in the seat of Gippsland and the rest were in McMillan," Mr Zahra said.

"This would be in direct contrast to what the AEC has generally sought to achieve in the past, whereby local government areas have been used as guides to identifying communities of interest.

"It is my strong contention that the Latrobe Valley needs and deserves a clear voice in the Federal Parliament, not a number of muted, half-interested voices disagreeing about local priorities and undermining future opportunities for the region."

Mr Zahra has urged the AEC to keep Traralgon within the McMillan electoral district in the interests of fair and effective Federal representation for the important regional centre of the Latrobe Valley.


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