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The seats around Ballarat were decisive in delivering government to Labor in 1999 and both parties are well aware the region could be crucial to deciding the outcome of this month's Victorian election.
Voters say jobs, education and transport are the big issues in 2014.
The redistribution of electoral boundaries has made three seats in the Ballarat area even more interesting, with Buninyong, Wendouree and Ripon all held by a margin of less than 2 per cent.
The seat of Ballarat East has been abolished and replaced by [color=#310099]Buninyong, which is held by Labor's Geoff Howard with a slightly stronger margin of 1.6 per cent.[/color]
[color=#310099]Wendouree replaces Ballarat West, which is held by Labor's Sharon Knight.[/color]
After the redistribution, the margin is now 0.1 per cent in favour of the Liberals.
Redistribution has made the seat notionally Liberal, with a new margin of 1.6 per cent.
The [color=#310099]ABC's election analyst Antony Green[/color] said those seats were crucial.
"Ballarat is important because it's an area the Labor Party swept in 1999," he said.
He said for the Coalition to win the election, they would need to perform well in Ballarat.
"They'll need to break Labor's hold and some of those seats that are notionally Liberal, but need to be won in the 2014 election," he said.
Voters say jobs, transport are crucial
Janice Bennett from the Highlands Local Learning and Employment Network said both parties could do more to encourage employment, particularly for young people.
Not having the need to commute three hours a day, obviously you'd be more involved in your community, which I'm not.
Sheetal Mehta, who commutes from Ballarat to Melbourne
"We've got a website that aggregates positions for youth and at any given time there's only about 70 positions advertised on that website," she said.
"We know there's about 1,500 people applying for positions. So I don't think there is enough work."
Last week, Labor leader Daniel Andrews visited the town to promise $800 million on new trains, which he said would sustain local manufacturing jobs.
The Coalition has pledged to relocate VicRoads to Ballarat's abandoned Civic Hall, which it says will bring in hundreds of white-collar jobs.
Sheetal Mehta has lived in Ballarat for three years and commutes to her human relations job in Melbourne every day.
She would welcome an investment in white-collar jobs in Ballarat.
[color=#310099][img]http://www.abc.net.au/news/image/5860508-3x2-340x227.jpg[/img][/color][color=#310099][b][color=#000000][size=1]PHOTO:[/color][/b] The frequency of train services to Ballarat is a major issue in the 2014 election. [color=#666666][size=1](ABC News)[/size][/color][/color][/size]
"That would mean great work-life balance for me," she said.
"Not having the need to commute three hours a day, obviously you'd be more involved in your community, which I'm not."
At the moment, Ms Mehta catches the 6:45am train from Ballarat. If she misses that train, the next one is almost an hour away.
"I don't see why they have to be 50 minutes apart," she said.
In the past few weeks, the trains had been quite reliable, Ms Mehta said, but that has not always been the case.
"There was a period where it was very unreliable," she said.
"There was constantly reasons and issues to do with congestion and signal failure or something with the level crossings."
Call for more frequent train services
Judy Verlin, the chairwoman of the Committee for Ballarat, said investment in rail transport was crucial for the growing number of people who commute from Ballarat to Melbourne.
"Our conversation with the Government and the Opposition is, we can't take the foot off the pedal," she said.
"We need to continue to advocate very strongly for a one-hour service."
Ms Verlin said Ballarat's population could double by 2050 and the region needs about 1,000 new jobs a year to keep up.
She said the major employment project is the Ballarat West Employment Zone, an industrial area on the edge of the city.
Applications are now open for businesses that want to apply and Ms Verlin said it is important the planning progresses quickly.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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