Electorate analysis: The electorate of Gympie covers the town itself and surrounding areas to the east and south, also extending across Toolara State Forest to distant coastal Tin Can Bay and Rainbow Beach. A seat bearing the name has existed since 1873, barring an interruption from 1950 to 1960. The cataclysmic Labor split came during the latter period, allowing the National/Country Party to win what had traditionally been a Labor seat when it was recreated in 1960, and maintain it thereafter. The area’s notable level of gun ownership made it a natural target for One Nation in 1998, but Labor preferences and a deluge of Nationals campaign resources (which proved to have been sorely needed elsewhere) held off a formidable 39.2 per cent primary vote for their candidate Ian Petersen. Elisa Roberts succeeded for One Nation in 2001 where Petersen had failed at the party’s high-water mark three years earlier, assisted in no small part by the retirement of veteran Nationals member Len Stephan. Roberts won the seat not because the One Nation primary vote held up (it fell to 25.7 per cent), but because Labor surged ahead of the Nationals, whose preferences (along with those of Petersen, who polled 16.2 per cent as the City-Country Alliance candidate) decided the result in Roberts’ favour.
Roberts parted company with what was left of One Nation in April 2002 and contested the 2004 election as an independent, increasing her primary vote to 33.4 per cent and prevailing over Labor by 10.0 per cent after preferences. Roberts proved a somewhat erratic member of parliament, particularly in her second term, and proved chronically indecisive as to whether she would contest the 2006 election. A final attempt to withdraw a week before polling day came too late for her to be removed from the ballot paper, and her position going into the election was that she would serve if elected. Nationals candidate David Gibson solved the problem for her by polling 46.0 per cent on the primary vote to win an 18.2 per cent two-party margin over Labor, with Roberts polling 8.4 per cent.
A former army officer and general manager of the Gympie Times, Gibson won promotion to Shadow Sustainability, Climate Change and Innovation Minister when Lawrence Springborg took over the Nationals leadership from Jeff Seeney in January 2008. After the 2009 election he at first nominated for the deputy leadership but withdrew out of deference to Lawrence Springborg, while also bemoaning the standard of the candidates contesting the leadership (Tim Nicholls and Fiona Simpson, together with the victorious John-Paul Langbroek). His portfolios were exchanged for infrastructure and planning in the ensuing reshuffle. Gibson accused Langbroek of being “unpredictable” when he contentiously made a public announcement of his plans for a reshuffle in September 2010, to which Langbroek reacted by dumping Gibson from the front bench. He would return as Shadow Local Government and Sport Minister 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.