Electorate analysis: Burleigh is the second southernmost electorate along the Gold Coast, running from Nobby Beach south to Palm Beach and inland to Labor’s greatest area of strength around Burleigh Waters and Varsity Lakes. The electorate was created in 1992 as the successor to South Coast, from which Currumbin had been detached in 1989. South Coast was held by National Party colossus Russ Hinze from 1966 until the Fitzgerald inquiry forced his resignation in 1988. It was then retained for the Nationals by Judy Gamin at a by-election despite the odour surrounding the party at the time. Gamin lost the seat at the next year’s general election to Liberal candidate Bob Quinn, later to become party leader and member for Robina. The shake-up of electoral boundaries occasioned by the Goss government’s one-vote one-value reforms saw the area divided between Merrimac and Burleigh at the 1992 election: Quinn contested the former, and Gamin returned to parliament as member for Burleigh after a narrow win over Labor. Gamin was buried in the 2001 landslide by a 10.3 per cent swing, and her Labor successor Christine Smith did remarkably well to pick up solid swings in both 2004 and 2006 before the pendulum swung 3.9 per cent the other way in 2009.
Christine Smith’s entrée into politics was as secretary and office manager to Senator Mal Colston, and her first encounter with the spotlight came when Colston quit Labor to sit as an independent in 1996, prompting the party to exact revenge by bringing to light irregularities in his travel claims. Smith dutifully agreed to take the blame for what she understood to be two or three inconsistencies, only to be presented with a statement accepting responsibility for 31 wrongful claims amounting to $5,730. When Clerk of the Senate Harry Evans advised her that misleading the Senate was an offence punishable by imprisonment, Smith made another statement recanting all blame. Smith has been a member of the Labor Unity faction since 1999 when she split from the AWU-dominated Labor Forum, complaining her bid to get her old job back after the end of Colston’s term had been thwarted because its chief powerbroker, Bill Ludwig, had been friends with Colston.
An LNP preselection ballot in December 2011 produced a surprise winner in Susannah Singleton, 22-year-old electorate officer to Gaven MP Alex Douglas. However, she withdrew less than a week later citing personal reasons. The second round was won by the Liberal candidate from 2006 and LNP candidate from 2009, Michael Hart, owner of the Burleigh Heads business Mastercut Technologies and a figure in the local surf lifesaving movement. Both preselections attracted large fields of candidates, of whom the most fancied also-ran was Mudgeeraba police officer Mark Anderson.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.