FEDERAL Liberal MP Chris Crewther is lobbying the Australian Electoral Commission to prevent boundary changes to his electorate of Dunkley.
Mr Crewther, who won the seat at the 2016 federal election with a slim majority, would face a tight fight to hold the seat if proposed AEC electorate boundary changes are made later this year.
The Dunkley electorate will lose Mornington and the northern part of Baxter in its south to the seat of Flinders, held by Liberal MP Greg Hunt, and gain Carrum Downs, Sandhurst and Skye to the north from the Isaacs electorate, held by Labor MP Mark Dreyfus, if the changes become reality ahead of the next federal election.
ABC elections analyst Antony Green estimates Dunkley would become winnable for Labor with a margin of 0.9 per cent based on votes cast in 2016.
Mr Crewther wrote to community groups such as Baxter residents and traders group BRATPAC urging them to make submissions to the AEC objecting to the planned Dunkley electorate boundary changes.
In an email to BRATPAC seen by The Times, Mr Crewther said: “The proposal that they have indicated would mean that Baxter and Mornington would no longer be considered part of the Dunkley electorate – they would go into the Flinders electorate.
“Clearly I am not at all in agreement with this suggestion as I believe that Baxter is a vital part of the Dunkley electorate and very much a part of the lovely village/country feel that we all love and enjoy. I also believe Baxter, Mornington and Frankston are intrinsically connected.”
Mr Crewther listed several potential objections to the boundary change in the email to BRATPAC.
“This of course must be BRATPAC’s own submission in its/your own words. The AEC will likely favour arguments around combining suburbs/towns insofar as possible, linking ‘communities of interest’ and clear geographical boundaries (such as roads, locality borders, waterways, etc).
“They are not interested in political arguments around seat marginality (and associated funding), or whether the redistribution will favour one party or another.”
The AEC is proposing changes to several electorate boundaries across the state in a reorganisation of electorates to accommodate two new electorates to reflect population growth and changes.
One new electorate will be called Monash, taking in the eastern and northern parts of the existing Flinders electorate, and the other will be the Fraser electorate in Melbourne’s western suburbs.
BRATPAC founding chairman Peter Baulch submitted objections to the Dunkley changes in both BRATPAC’s and his behalf on 1 and 2 May respectively.
Mr Crewther’s email to Mr Baulch and BRATPAC was dated 29 April.
AEC spokesman Evan Ekin-Smyth said “there is nothing preventing” MPs encouraging community groups or residents to make submissions to the federal independent agency that coordinates and supervises federal elections and referendums.
“It is fine for any person or organisation to campaign for a particular change to boundaries or names of electoral divisions or for people to object to a proposal,” Mr Ekin-Smyth said.
When contacted by The Times, Mr Baulch said he believes the south part of Baxter should be moved from the Flinders electorate into Dunkley and all of Baxter should be placed in the Dunkley electorate.
“The community shouldn’t be divided by electorate boundaries,” he said.
“All of it should be in Dunkley because Baxter identifies with Frankston and Mornington and has no ties with the southern part of the peninsula.”
Submissions to the AEC closed on 18 May. Individuals and organisations can make comments about the submissions until 6pm on Friday 18 May at aec.gov.au/electorates/redistributions online or by calling the AEC on 13 23 26.
A decision on the changes will be made in June and a reported tabled for the Victorian Parliament in July.