Electorate analysis: The boundaries of the electorate of Bundaberg are almost perfectly consistent with the limits of the city, excluding a few blocks placed in the electorate of Burnett which entirely surrounds it. Bundaberg was the scene of the Beattie government’s defining disaster, the Jayant Patel “Doctor Death” affair, which looked certain to end what had been a 110-year winning streak for Labor (barring the QLP/DLP complication between 1957 and 1969) at the 2006 election. So it proved, although the ultimate margin of 464 votes was surprisingly narrow under the circumstances. Labor was also encumbered at the election by the retirement of Nita Cunningham, the popular former mayor who had been member since 1998 when she held on against One Nation by 2.0 per cent. Cunningham enjoyed a 14.9 per cent swing amid the blowout of the 2001 election, before the Nationals achieved one of their most encouraging results in 2004 when discontent in the sugar industry fuelled a 9.7 per cent swing. Cunningham’s resignation on health grounds in August 2006 prompted Beattie to call the election six months ahead of time, averting a soon-to-be-redundant by-election that Labor looked certain to lose.
The resulting election saw the Nationals candidate, local police officer Jack Dempsey, prevail over Labor’s Sonja Cleary, a university lecturer and former nurse. Labor was further encumbered by the independent candidacy of Greg McMahon, an associate of former federal Hinkler MP Brian Courtice whose wife had been sacked from a job in Cunningham’s office, and who became sufficiently estranged from the ALP to publicly attack the party during the 2007 federal election campaign. Dempsey was promoted to shadow cabinet in the child safety and sport portfolios after the 2009 election and further gained environment in the November 2010 reshuffle, before being reassigned to mining and resource management when Campbell Newman became leader in April 2011.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.