Electorate analysis: Burdekin covers the coastline from Townsville’s southern outskirts through to Ayr and Bowen in the south, also extending to sparsely populated territory up to 150 kilometres inland. The redistribution before the 2009 election turned a Nationals margin of 2.4 per cent into a notional Labor margin of 0.9 per cent by adding more than 5000 voters in the strongly Labor region around Bowen from Whitsunday, but long-serving LNP member Rosemary Menkens was able to retain the seat by picking up a swing of 4.0 per cent. Burdekin was one of the 11 seats won by One Nation in 1998, when Jeff Knuth outpolled Nationals candidate Terry Morato and defeated Labor by 9.4 per cent after preferences. Knuth quit One Nation in February 1999 and eventually became a member of its short-lived breakaway the City-Country Alliance, but he was unable to retain the seat at the 2001 election. His brother Shane Knuth went on to become the Nationals and LNP member for Charters Towers and Dalrymple; both will contest the coming election for Katter’s Australian Party, Shane for his existing seat, and Jeff for Hinchinbrook.
Labor won the seat for the first time since 1950 at the 2001 election, when their candidate Steve Rodgers secured a 5.1 per cent margin as the conservative vote split roughly evenly between Knuth, One Nation and the Nationals. The 2004 election marked a partial return to business as usual, despite Knuth’s attempt to recover the seat as an independent. Rodgers in fact gained slightly on the primary vote, but the consolidation of the anti-Labor vote behind the Nationals (up 12.7 per cent on the primary vote) translated into a 9.5 per cent two-party swing and victory for high school and TAFE teacher Rosemary Menkens. Menkens survived a 2.0 per cent swing to Labor at the 2006 election, at which Steve Rodgers sought unsuccessfully to reclaim the seat he had lost in 2004. She has been a front-bencher on and off throughout her parliamentary career, taking on the community services, housing and women portfolios after the 2009 election before being demoted to parliamentary secretary in the November 2010 reshuffle.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.