While attention has focused on Amanda Vanstone as the biggest loser in the reshuffle, the demotion of Moreton MP Gary Hardgrave to the backbench is also worth commenting on.
It’s rather derisory of the PM to say that Hardgrave will now have more time to spend on his re-election.
He’ll need to, because he lost 1.4% of his margin in the redistribution, taking Moreton from a seat with a 4.2% margin to a very slim 2.8%. The seat straddles leafy inner southside Brisbane suburbs but extends down towards Logan City and classic mortgage belt territory.
Every state seat within its boundaries is held by Labor, and Hardgrave’s safety on the old boundaries is probably overstated anyway. He recorded a disappointing swing of 1.6% at a time when many Queensland electorates were swinging away from Mark Latham’s ALP by much greater margins.
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Take away the Latham factor and add in a few interest rate rises to the mix, and Moreton would be the sort of seat Rudd absolutely has to win – not just to win the election but to demonstrate continued viability as leader.
Moreton was one of the two seats leaked Labor polling before Rudd’s elevation showed him improving on Beazley’s vote.
Labor will be pouring resources into the seat, and although preselections have not been called, 2004 ALP hopeful Graham Perrett, who was generally seen as a good candidate, will most likely get another shot (see clarification below).
Hardgrave owed his elevation to the ministry in 2001 in part to his success in holding a very marginal seat, though no doubt any telegrams reading “Hardgrave, you’re magnificent” are just as mythical as the one sent to former Moreton MP Sir James Killen.
Hardgrave was not a high profile Minister, probably taking his former responsibilities in multiculturalism too seriously for Howard’s taste. But he’s been a poor Vocational Education minister, with the flagship Australian Technical Colleges promised in the last election barely up and running.
But Howard has not sacked even less inspiring ministers, and in an election year where everyone concedes Queensland is the key, telling the good folk of Moreton that Hardgrave’s not good enough to be a minister sends a rather perverse message.
ALP candidate for Moreton, Graham Perrett, writes: The ALP plebiscite that confirmed the candidate for Moreton occurred on 9 October 2006. I won this with 75% of the vote. Even before the plebiscite I had been campaigning solidly throughout Moreton since the beginning of 2005. I started street stalls last weekend and look forward to working hard to make sure the good people of Moreton receive a dedicated, honest, hard working, relevant, local voice down in Canberra. Eleven years is too long to listen to the broken record of broken promises that is Hardgrave.