Electorate analysis: One of the LNP’s eight gains from Labor at the 2009 election, Gaven covers two distinct areas inland of the Gold Coast coastal strip: Gaven itself in the north, and Nerang and Carrara to the south – along with the undeveloped Coomera Valley region further inland. It was created in 2001 with a notional Liberal/National margin of 7.0 per cent, enough to prompt the Nationals member for neighbouring Albert, Bill Baumann, to try his hand at the new seat. However, the tidal wave across the Gold Coast that year was such that Labor candidate Robert Poole prevailed by 7.6 per cent after preferences. The coalition agreement signed ahead of the 2004 election allowed the Liberals to contest the seat without interference from the Nationals, but their candidate Ray Stevens (now the member for Mermaid Beach) could only manage a 2.6 per cent swing against Poole despite a primary vote 5.3 per cent higher than Baumann’s in 2001.
Robert Poole’s political career ended during his second term after he embarrassed the government with the amount of time he was spending with his wife and children in Thailand. When Peter Beattie demanded his return in February 2006, Poole instead chose to resign, initiating a by-election on April 1. The Nationals rather than the Liberals had won the right to contest Gaven under the new coalition agreement reached in September 2005, despite the obvious trend away from the party on the Gold Coast. However, Nationals candidate Alex Douglas, husband of Gold Coast councillor Susie Douglas and a GP who had worked locally for 18 years, went on to defeat Labor’s Phil Gray, a former president of the Queensland Public Sector Union, with a swing of 8.4 per cent.
As with the Liberal by-election wins in Chatsworth and Redcliffe the previous August, the triumph proved short-lived: Gray again contested the seat for Labor at the September 2006 election, winning by a 3.1 per cent margin that compared with Poole’s 5.0 per cent at the 2004 election and Douglas’s 3.4 per cent at the by-election. Gray emerged as a liability for the government after threatening legal action against two women who had mildly criticised him – one an invalid pensioner who was recovering from a stroke, the other a constituent who appeared to do nothing more than tell a public meeting she wouldn’t vote for him. The swing he went on to suffer was surprisingly mild swing under the circumstances, but it was enough to return Alex Douglas to parliament on a margin of 0.7 per cent.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.