Most of the news about Nationals v Liberals conniptions lately has focused either on the Senate or on NSW seats like Page, where the Nats’ only hope of retaining the seat, if Ian Causley steps down, may be the possible candidacy of Larry Anthony.

But Queensland is both a key House of Reps electoral battleground in the next federal election, and the state with the shakiest coalition.

It’s odd, then, that only the Fin Review yesterday reported that the Nats plan to contest two Liberal seats in the Sunshine State made vacant by the retirement of sitting members. The Nats are planning to stand both in Forde, where Kay Elson is retiring, and Leichhardt, where Warren Entsch is stepping down.

The Nats like their chances in the new seat of Flynn, but Labor also believes it winnable. What’s of greater significance for the Coalition’s prospects, though, is a serious Nationals run in Forde. Forde is basically a Gold Coast hinterland seat that also takes in Beenleigh south of Brisbane – now effectively part of the SEQ urban sprawl. Parts of the electorate are represented by National state members.

It’s a very safe Liberal seat, with the 2PP vote last time being just under 63% to the Libs.

The Nats might just have a shot of taking it, or at least of forcing a serious contest. But to do so they’d need to do some serious product differentiation from the Libs. Which could make it a very interesting bellwether seat for their long term chances of survival.

The race would also drain Liberal resources from their marginals. While Labor only currently hold six Queensland seats, big swings are by no means unknown in Queensland at federal level. While the seat is not in play for Labor, a Barnaby style campaign and coalition disunity might have interesting spillover effects next year.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey