Electorate analysis: Covering semi-rural hinterland to the west of Brisbane, including the towns of Kilcoy, Kingaroy and Esk along with Nanango proper, Nanango will for a long time to come be associated with Joh Bjelke-Petersen, although it has been out of his party’s hands since 1998. It will be vacated at the coming election by Dorothy “Dolly” Pratt, who has held the seat since 1998 first as a member of One Nation and thereafter as an independent. The seat looms as one of the strongest prospects for Katter’s Australian Party, which has scored a star recruit in former test cricketer Carl Rackemann.
An electorate bearing the name of Nanango first existed between 1912 and 1950 when it was held by three members from the Country Party and similar groups that preceded it, the last of whom was Joh Bjelke-Petersen. Bjelke-Petersen served his first term of parliament as the member for Nanango before assuming the successor seat of Barambah in 1950, which he held until he retired in December 1987. The ensuing by-election was won by Trevor Perrett, an independent linked to the Citizens Electoral Council. Perrett joined the National Party shortly afterwards, going on to serve as Primary Industries Minister in the Borbidge government.
Dorothy Pratt defeated Perrett at the 1998 election, scoring 43.5 per cent for One Nation against Perrett’s 31.0 per cent (down from 67.2 per cent in 1995) and prevailing by 5.9 per cent after preferences. Pratt quit One Nation in February 1999 and has retained the new seat of Nanango as an independent at the next four elections, polling between 40.1 per cent and 46.2 per cent of the primary vote. The unsuccessful Nationals and LNP candidate in 2006 and 2009 was John Bjelke-Petersen, the son of the legendary former member who operates his family’s mixed farming and tourism business near Kingaroy – the peanut farm of legend.
John Bjelke-Petersen failed in his bid to again represent the LNP at the coming election after losing a preselection vote to Kingaroy solicitor Deb Frecklington. He subsequently complained a party official had suggested to him that the family name was a “problem” for the party. Frecklington faces a formidable obstacle in the shape of Carl Rackemann, who as well as having a distinguished sporting career behind him has an excellent local pedigree as a peanut grower and grazier.
Three weeks out from the election, Campbell Newman’s denunciation of Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen as corrupt while campaigning on his home turf of Kingaroy was seized upon by Bob Katter, who accused him of “spitting on the grave” of Bjelke-Petersen and insulting his elderly widow. As VexNews saw it, Newman erred in stating to Kingaroy voters what was “probably the correct view for St Lucia dinner parties”. Newman immediately went on to tell such a party – or at any rate, an LNP fundraising dinner attended primarily by prospective business donors – that Bjelke-Petersen had nonetheless run the state’s last decent government. Among the ministers in that government was Bob Katter, who served during the last four years of Bjelke-Petersen’s premiership. In another curious link, the campaign director for Katter’s party is Luke Shaw, who secured a place on the jury in Bjelke-Petersen’s 1991 perjury trial despite his involvement in the Young Nationals, and was one of its two members who held out against his conviction. The Australian reported in late January that the LNP insisted it was on track to win the seat.
Dorothy Pratt has given her endorsement to independent candidate John Dalton, described by Antony Green’s election guide as “spokesman and secretary for the Kingaroy Concerned Citizens Group (KCCG) and is Assistant School Principal at the St Mary’s Catholic College in Kingaroy, where he has worked for 22 years”.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.