Electorate analysis: Warrego covers the interior two-thirds of the Queensland-New South Wales border, from which it extends northwards to relatively populous territory along the Warrego Highway (Chinchilla west through Roma to Charleville) and Balonne Highway (St George west to Cunnamulla). The electorate has existed without interruption since 1865 and was held by Labor from 1908 until 1974, when it switched decisively to the Country Party. It has since had two members: Neil Turner, who held it until 1986 (and returned as member for Nicklin in 1989), and his successor Howard Hobbs. Hobbs was not seriously troubled by the One Nation onslaught in 1998, but had a very close shave at the following election in 2001 when independent candidate Wally Gleeson outpolled One Nation and Labor and finished 96 votes behind Hobbs after preferences.
Howard Hobbs was Natural Resources Minister for most of the period of Rob Borbidge’s government, but was forced to resign in February 1998 after his wife told the Sunday Mail he had been using public funds to travel with a female staffer with whom he was having an affair. Borbidge found it worth his while to travel to Charleville to talk round local party branches who wanted Hobbs disendorsed, and he was back on the front bench when the party lost office later that year. After the 2009 election his portfolios were local government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander partnerships. Hobbs was among those critical of John-Paul Langbroek’s announcement of his plans for a reshuffle in September 2010, but in the event he kept local government and exchanged Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander partnerships for rural and regional Queensland.
Hobbs’s 13-year run on the front bench finally came to an end when Campbell Newman assumed the leadership in March 2011, a move he had reportedly opposed. He complained that the only remaining representative of western Queensland was Jeff Seeney, whom he described as “the most hated man in the bush”. Shortly after Hobbs survived a preselection challenge from Pam Stallman, who operates a Western Downs cereal cropping and cattle-fattening business. In November he confirmed to Michael McKenna of The Australian that Katter’s Australian Party had “stepped up” its attempts to lure him into the fold.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.