Electorate analysis: Taking its name from the waterway that separates South Stradbroke Island from the mainland, Broadwater includes the island and the mainland suburbs of Paradise Point, Runaway Bay and Biggera Waters. Prior to Peta-Kaye Croft’s surprise win in 2001, Broadwater had been a Nationals stronghold held by Alan Grice from its creation in 1992. After a typical One Nation performance for a Nationals seat in 1998 (26.2 per cent of the vote, sucking about 20 per cent from the Nationals’ vote and the remainder from Labor), most of the disaffected found it in them to vote Labor when the field narrowed to two in 2001, despite a spike in the informal vote. Given the strength of Labor’s overall performance at that election, Croft did very well to pick up a further 1.7 per cent two-party swing in 2004, despite dropping 3.1 per cent on the primary vote in the face of competition from One Nation and the Greens. The 2004 election result suggested the Nationals’ time on the Gold Coast had passed, but they at first refused to concede the Liberals the right to contest the seat at the 2006 election. An initial agreement that both parties would select candidates to be submitted to a joint party process in December 2005 fell apart, and it was eventually agreed that the Nationals would abandon Broadwater and Mudgeeraba while the Liberals conceded Hervey Bay and Redlands. Despite the clear run given to the Liberals, Croft managed a third successive two-party swing of 1.1 per cent. With the LNP in place at the 2009 election, Croft suffered a 4.6 per cent swing but held on with a 2.0 per cent margin.
Peta-Kaye Croft was an administrative officer at Griffith University before entering politics, and spent three parliamentary terms on the back bench before winning promotion to parliamentary secretary for emergency services after the 2009 election. She moved to the education portfolio in April 2010, and then to “assisting the Premier on the Gold Coast and the Commonwealth Games” in February 2011. The LNP burned through two candidates to oppose her before settling a few days out from the closure of nominations on 26-year-old Verity Barton, who had worked as an electorate officer to Senator George Brandis. The first was the party’s candidate from the 2009 election, automotive industry consultant Richard Towson, who won a party vote ahead of local councillor Grant Pforr, but withdrew in mid-January after blowing 0.07 at a random breath test. A matter of days later the LNP announced its new candidate was Cameron Caldwell, principal of a Hope Island law firm. The Courier-Mail reported Caldwell had been recruited by “party president Bruce McIver and LNP powerbrokers” despite the fact he only joined the party on the day of his nomination, and despite an understanding that Campbell Newman hoped that a woman would be preselected (the Gold Coast Bulletin reported earlier that approaches were also made by “powerbrokers” to Gold Coast mayoral candidate David Power and hospital administrator Cheryle Royle).
Caldwell in turn was disendorsed three weeks out from polling day, and very shortly before the closure of nominations, when photos emerged (innocuous of themselves) of him and his wife at a party staged by a swingers’ club. Newman was at least able to secure his hoped-for female candidate with the preselection of Barton, increasing the LNP’s total of female candidates to 16 out of 89. Also shortly before the closure of nominations, a new threat to the LNP’s anticipated easy victory emerged with the announcement by Ron Clarke, the 75-year-old mayor of Gold Coast, that he would run as an independent. Paul Weston of the Gold Coast Bulletin reported that “senior Liberal (sic) sources” said Clarke’s entry meant it was “game over” for them, as they expected Clarke to “gather enough votes from older residents in the electorate” to win.
Following the very late entry into the field of Verity Barton, Henry Tuttiett of the Gold Coast Bulletin reported that she “still lives at home with her mum” (“saving to enter the property market”, Barton responded), “doesn’t have a university degree” (she has partly completed a law degree at Bond University), and “the two jobs she’s had were as a retail assistant and LNP electoral officer”.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.