Electorate analysis: Mount Isa was created as an electorate in 1972, before which the town was variously in the Labor electorates of Burke and Carpentaria. Only after the election of Tony McGrady in 1989 did the seat become safe for Labor, which had previously won it only in 1972 and 1983. The seat previously changed hands from Labor to Nationals in 1974, Nationals to Labor in 1983, and Labor to Liberal in 1986. In keeping with the ongoing trend of regional decline, it was required to expand at the redistribution before the 2009 election, increasing its area from 367,305 to 570,502 square kilometres, such that it now covers the entire length of the state’s border with the Northern Territory. However, the extent of the required gain was limited by the “large district allowance” which preserves an element of rural weighting in large regional electorates, resulting in an enrolment of 19,373 voters compared with a statewide quota of 29,560. Labor’s strength in the electorate as now constituted comes from Mount Isa itself together with Aboriginal communities in the north, while the pastoral southern and eastern parts are classically Nationals-voting territory. The expansion of the latter territory in the redistribution cut Labor’s margin from 12.3 per cent to 8.5 per cent, and they suffered a further 2.8 per cent swing at the ensuing election.
Betty Kiernan has held the seat for Labor since the 2006 election, prior to which she was an electorate officer to Tony McGrady. She was promoted to parliamentary secretary for emergency services after Carolyn Male quit in April 2010. She faces threats on multiple fronts at the coming election, with Bob Katter’s son Robbie Katter mounting a formidable challenge as the candidate for Katter’s Australian Party. The LNP’s candidate, road freight operator Mick Pattel, has achieved a similarly high profile as the instigator of the “Convoy of No Confidence” in August 2011.
In the final week of the campaign, the Courier-Mail reported that ReachTEL automated phone polling conducted for Katter’s Australian Party had Robbie Katter on 37 per cent of the primary vote and Mick Pattel on 31 per cent, with Betty Kiernan evidently gone for all money. An LNP source quoted by Sarah Elks of The Australian in the final week of the campaign said its polling showed Katter had “a chance of winning”.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.