Electorate analysis: Held by independent Peter Wellington since 1998, Nicklin covers the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast from Nambour west of Maroochydore to Cooroy west of Noosa Heads. It was won for the Nationals on its creation in 1986 by Brian Austin, who retired a casualty of the Fitzgerald inquiry in 1989. His successor Neil Turner was one of many victims of the backlash against the major parties in 1998, although his seat fell to independent Maroochy Shire councillor Peter Wellington rather than One Nation. Wellington’s surprise win left him one of two independents holding the balance of power, and he deemed an independent-backed Labor government a better bet than one led by a Coalition which would have required the support of One Nation to have had the numbers in parliament. Wellington soon had the weight removed from his shoulders when Labor’s win in the December 1998 Mulgrave by-election gave it a one-seat absolute majority.
Wellington’s first term satisfied local voters enough to secure him an easy victory with 46.3 per cent in 2001 (a Federal Parliamentary Library study says this result was possibly unique in the last 50 years of state or federal elections in that no major party made the two-candidate preferred cut), which he increased to 59.5 per cent in 2004. In between came an horrific farm accident, his persistence in the face of which presumably engendered considerable sympathy. Wellington again scored absolute majorities on the primary vote in 2006 and 2009, albeit narrowly on the latter occasion.
Perhaps encouraged by the difficulties independent members have faced recently at elections in other states, the LNP has aimed high here with the endorsement of former Wallabies coach John Connolly, who won preselection ahead of Nambour farm machinery dealership owner Steven Morrison, who ran for the Nationals and the LNP in 2006 and 2009.
In the final week of the campaign, Katter’s Australian Party Matthew Smith claimed local LNP branch manager approached him with an offer to print his how-to-vote cards if he directed preferences to the LNP. Wellington also accused a local political opponent, Kathy Marshall, of seeking to discredit him with a concocted letter from his National Party predecessor in the seat, Neil Turner. The letter accused Wellington of failing to report to parliament on a government-funded trip to North America in 1999, and was said to have been provided to Marshall three days before Turner’s death on July 4 last year. Marshall signed a statutory declaration vouching for the letter’s authenticity.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.