Electorate analysis: Mundingburra covers the suburbs south of the Townsville business district, from Mundingburra itself west to Heatley and Douglas. The Ross River marks a dividing line between a north in which Labor has been electorally dominant, and a south in which the two parties were finely poised in 2009. The electorate entered Queensland political folklore when Labor’s defeat at the hands of Liberal candidate Frank Tanti at a by-election on 3 February 1996 led to the downfall of the Goss government. This followed a ruling by the Supreme Court which overturned Labor’s narrow win at the 1995 election on the grounds that votes from service personnel had been incorrectly excluded from the count. Sitting member Ken Davies, who had won the seat on its creation in 1992, was replaced as Labor candidate during the campaign period by Townsville mayor Tony Mooney, as he was facing legal action which had the potential to bankrupt him. Tanti’s win enabled the Coalition to form a minority govenrment with the support of Gladstone independent Liz Cunningham. Lindy Nelson-Carr recovered the seat for Labor in 1998 and went on to serve in cabinet for a term after the 2006 election, making what was widely seen as an involuntary decision to stand aside after the 2009 election.
When Nelson-Carr announced she would not be seeking another term in early 2011, there were reports of a deal to ensure that she and other outgoing MPs would be replaced by members of their own factions – in her case, the Socialist Left. However, the force of the local rank-and-file vote initially delivered the Mundingburra preselection to Thuringowa councillor Paul Fletcher of the Labor Forum/AWU sub-faction of the Right. This was overturned on a recount caused by head office upholding a challenge against the setting aside of ballots which had been deemed incorrectly marked (accounting for nine votes out of a total of 48), securing victory for Mark Harrison of the Left faction Electrical Trades Union. Harrison has since accused his party of ignoring “unsavoury methods of bringing in and maintaining membership”, in an echo of the Shepherdson’s inquiry’s investigations into the very same Townsville branches in 2000 and 2001. It was reported that a party returning officer had raised concerns over the validity of signatures on postal ballot papers and the receipt of such papers by people who appeared not to realise they were party members.
The LNP’s candidate is Townsville deputy mayor David Crisafulli, who won a December 2010 preselection ahead of former publican Wayne MacDonald, later a starter in Thuringowa.
Heavy storm damage in the final week of the campaign gave Anna Bligh an opportunity to play to her strengths in Townsville, nicely coinciding with her “blitz” of visiting 50 electorates in five days. This reprised a tactic which appeared to work remarkably well for her at the last election.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.