The battle for Corangimite – and the saga of Stewart McArthur

November 9, 2007 |

It is hard to believe that Stewart McArthur is into his 23rd year as a member for Corrangamite and is up for his 9th federal election.  Gawd!  That is 8 elections too many!  What has this guy done while he occupied a prime “made for a Minister” seat of Parliament?  The Liberal Party web site describes his huge commitments in the Parliament to:

During his time in the House, Stewart has served on a number of committees, including his current membership of the important Economics, Finance and Public Administration Committee. He is currently a Government Deputy Whip.

Brilliamt!  Now Corrangamite is borderline marginal and it is getting interest from the media.  The 7.30pm report covered the seat last night.  An excerpt:

STEWART MCARTHUR, FEDERAL MEMBER, CORANGAMITE: I’ve been representing the people of Corangamite for 23 years. I enjoy it, it’s a great privilege to be in the House of Representatives and I’m keen to have another go and I’m pretty fit, as you can see, each morning I’m out here running at about half-past six.

  • The statement says it all.  He has been a long time in the job, he likes it and wants to enjoy the perks.  Nothing about achieving things.  A real journeyman politician.  All that is wrong with mediocre politicians holding onto good seats until the bitter end.

HEATHER EWART: Stewart McArthur loves to run along Geelong’s Barwon River with his loyal whippet, Oli. The long serving Liberal member for Corangamite has just turned 70. He’s one of the elders of Federal Parliament and it’s a title he wants to keep.

  • He suffers from the curse of a lot of the elders, like Alan Cadman (who got the bullet in preselection this year).  He likes the buzz that comes from being a parliamentarian.  Having worked in Parliament there is a huge buzz to it.

(To Stewart McArthur) Do you think age is a factor at all in terms of you running again for this seat?

STEWART MCARTHUR: Well, I think some people regard it that way but I noticed that President Reagan, he was, I think, 70, when he had an inauguration speech. Churchill was a fair age when he took over the Prime Ministership.

  • I am a huge fan of Reagan and Churchill and for McArhur to compare himself to these political giants rankles as much as his non achievements.  Reagan was politically active in the 1950s and developed a philosophy from the 60s.  Churchill did things in his dotage.  What is McArthur going to do.

HEATHER EWART: Stewart McArthur on the other hand sees himself as something of a local fixture.

STEWART MCARTHUR: Yes, we’re well known on the riverbank, amongst my bicycle friends and running friends. We all say good morning, and yes, there’s quite an interesting fraternity of people who get out early along this river bank on both sides.

  • All of this homespun twaddle plays well for a member who is shoring up a marginal seat and needs to build a buffer.  McArthur waltzed into a solid conservative seat that has never (till now perhaps) been even closely challenged.  And he rabbits on about being a fixture.  Geez!  Someone holding Corrangamite should be sitting around the Cabinet Table. 

HEATHER EWART: Corangamite is held by the Liberals by a margin of 5.3 per cent. It’s sea change country, taking in areas around Victoria’s famed Great Ocean Road, and stretching into parts of the state’s rural western district. But it also embraces mortgage belt suburbs in the city of Geelong, and this is where the seat is likely to be won or lost.

STEWART MCARTHUR: I think people appreciate that interest rate changes are a reflection of the prosperity that the Howard Government has brought to Australia.

  • Based on this dopey comment, perhaps a good thing he didn’t get a Ministry.

MAN (to Stewart McArthur): So how long have you been in Parliament for?

STEWART MCARTHUR: Twenty three years. They generally get rid of you after about six years, OK, so people have been nice to me in Corangamite and they’ve let me stay.

  • What twaddle.  McArthur has been challenged regularly and he has held off all challenges through the efforts of his formidable wife. 

Today The World Today also analyzed Corangamite.
The local member Stewart McArthur has held the seat fairly comfortably for the last 23 years, but now it is one of the seats that Labor has its eye on as it seeks to form government.

STEWART MCARTHUR: Very much so. I’m committed to politics, I’m committed to the Liberal Party, and I’m committed to finishing the job with John Howard.

What he is saying he is committed to being a pollie and hanging in there at least as long as John Howard. 

Pollbludger has done a brilliant analysis of Corangamite both of the demographics, the candidates and the politics behind McArthur.  When I was working in Parliament House in Canberra I wondered what anyone saw in McArthur and what he actually did.  The question remains the same some 17 odd years later.

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