Electorate analysis: Whitsunday covers about 130 kilometres of the central coast from just north of Mackay to just south of Bowen. Conservative booths in Prosperine and smaller rural towns are balanced by areas of Labor strength in the northern outskirts of Mackay. The redistribution before the 2009 election did Labor member Jan Jarratt a poor turn by transferring 5300 voters in and around Bowen (which returned the only Communist Party parliamentarian in Australia’s history in 1943) to Burdekin in the north, while adding 6500 voters from a marginal area inland of Mackay from Mirani in the south. This reduced the margin from 4.4 per cent to 0.4 per cent, Jarratt did remarkably well to retain the seat by picking up a 2.8 per cent swing, even allowing for Labor’s generally strong performance throughout the surrounding region.
Whitsunday was held by the National/Country Party from its creation in 1950 until the election of the Goss government in 1989, when Lorraine Bird won it for Labor. It was one of 11 seats won in 1998 by One Nation, whose candidate Harry Black narrowly pipped the Nationals to second place and secured a 1.7 per cent win over Bird on their preferences. Black quit One Nation in December 1999 and went into the 2001 election as a member of the City-Country Alliance, producing an even split of votes between Black and One Nation and an easy victory for Labor’s Jan Jarratt. The Nationals’ chances of a comeback in 2004 were thwarted a week out from polling day when it emerged that their candidate, Dan van Blarcom, had been involved with neo-fascist groups in the early 1970s. This led to his disendorsement, though it occurred too late for the ballot paper to be amended. Van Blarcom finished third behind Harry Black, who was running this time as an independent. The consolidation of the previously scattered conservative vote fuelled a 10.4 per cent swing to the Nationals in 2006.
A member of the Labor Unity faction, Jan Jarratt became a parliamentary secretary after the 2006 election, and won promotion to cabinet as Tourism, Manufacturing and Small Business Minister in the February 2011 reshuffle. Her LNP opponent is Jason Costigan, a journalist, sports commentator and former staffer to Liberal MPs including Senator George Brandis, who won preselection in February 2011 ahead of Proserpine canegrower Tony Large.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.