Blair has covered a highly variable area around Ipswich since its creation in 1998, having been substantially redrawn at three redistributions since. Originally covering areas inland of Ipswich and the Sunshine Coast, the redistributions of 2004 and 2007 saw it progressively take over central Ipswich from Oxley. Prior to the 2010 election it lost 28,000 voters in territory south of Ipswich to the new seat of Wright, in exchange for 13,200 voters in rural areas around Lake Wivenhoe to the north (previously in Dickson and Fisher) and 5500 in the eastern Ipswich suburbs of Collingwood Park and Springfield Central (from Oxley). As the areas lost were rural and conservative, Labor’s margin was boosted from 4.5% to 7.0%. The seat further recorded what by Queensland standards was a mild swing of 2.7%, the resulting Labor margin of 4.2% making it their fourth safest seat in the state.
Ipswich had been an area of strength for Labor since the early days of the party’s history owing to its now defunct coal mining industry, but it has more recently been prone to rebellion against the party’s efforts to appeal to new middle-class constituencies. The most famous such occasion occurred when Pauline Hanson won Oxley in 1996, scoring 48.6% of the primary vote as an independent after the Liberals disendorsed her for advocating the abolition of government assistance for Aborigines. The creation of Blair in the next redistribution did Hanson a poor turn, dividing her home turf between two electorates. Rather than recontest Oxley or (more sensibly) run for the Senate, Hanson chanced her arm at the new seat, but the major parties’ decision to direct preferences to each other may have sealed her doom. Hanson led the primary vote count with 36.0% against 25.3% for Labor and 21.7% for Liberal, but Liberal candidate Cameron Thompson pulled ahead of Labor on minor party preferences and defeated Hanson by 3.3% on Labor preferences.
Thompson went on to absorb most of the disappearing One Nation vote in 2001, more than doubling his primary vote without improving his two-party margin over Labor. A redistribution ahead of the 2004 election clipped this by 1.8%, but he went on to handsomely consolidate his position with a 4.5% swing. In 2007 the Liberals targeted Blair as part of its “firewall” strategy, a key element of which was a risky decision to fund a $2.3 billion Ipswich Motorway bypass at Goodna in the neighbouring electorate of Ryan. This proved of little use, with Labor picking up a decisive swing of 10.2% which typified the shift of blue-collar voters back to Labor on the back of WorkChoices.
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Labor’s winning candidate was Shayne Neumann, a family lawyer and partner in the Brisbane firm Neumann & Turnour and member of the state party’s Labor Unity/Old Guard faction. His LNP opponent at the coming election will be Teresa Harding, who is “director of the F-111 Disposal and Aerial Targets Office” at the RAAF Base Amberley.