UPDATE (Morgan): The weekly Morgan poll is little changed on last time, with Labor down half a point to 41.5%, the Coalition steady on 41%, and the Greens up two points to 9%. There is actually a slight move in Labor’s favour on two-party preferred as measured using preference flows from the previous election, presumably because of rounding, their lead up from 51.5-48.5 to 52-48. On respondent-allocated preferences, the lead is steady at 52.5-47.5. Regrettably, the poll does not come with state breakdowns, which keen observers among us had started to think would be a regular feature (as it surely should be with such a large sample size). We will surely have Newspoll along later this evening, while the regular Essential Research is delayed this week and will be along tomorrow.
Two for the price of one this week as I scramble to catch up with the Queensland seats suddenly deemed in play under Kevin Rudd 2.0 …
Seat of the week #1: Forde
Straddling the southern edge of Brisbane, Forde was one of a number of Queensland seats which fell Labor’s way under Kevin Rudd’s leadership at the 2007 election, only to be lost again in the wake of his demise three years later. The electorate contains the eastern part of the municipality of Logan City around Beenleigh and extends southwards along the Pacific Motorway to accommodate, somewhat awkwardly, the rapidly growing suburb of Upper Coomera at the interior northern edge of the Gold Coast. The latter area was acquired in the redistribution which preceded the 2010 election, when Forde provided the new seat of Wright with about a third of its voters in rural territories extending to the New South Wales border.
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Forde was created with the expansion of parliament in 1984, at which time it covered Brisbane’s outer south-west. Liberal candidate David Watson won the seat on its debut by 43 votes, but was unseated after a single term at the 1987 election by Labor’s Mary Crawford. Watson would later return to politics in the state parliament, eventually leading the Liberal Party into a disastrous result at the 2001 election. Crawford meanwhile built up a handy margin on the back of swings in 1990 and 1993, before a punishing redistribution pulled the seat into the rural Beaudesert region on the New South Wales border. Thwarted in a bid to be reassigned to an outer suburban seat, in part as a consequence of the party’s determination to accommodate Kevin Rudd in Griffith, Crawford was left with no buffer to defend herself against the savage swing that hit Labor across Queensland, which struck in Forde to the tune of 9.6%.
Forde was then held for the Liberals throughout the Howard years by Kay Elson, who retained comfortable margins in 1998 and 2001 before enjoying a further 5.9% boost in 2004. Elson’s retirement at the 2007 election was presumably a factor behind the spectacular 14.4% swing to Labor, making the seat one of three in Queensland where Labor was able to overhaul double-digit Coalition margins. It was then held for a term by Brett Raguse, a former teacher, local newspaper publisher and TAFE college director who had more recently worked as an adviser to state ministers associated with the AWU/Labor Forum sub-faction of the Right. The aforementioned redistribution improved Raguse’s margin from 2.9% to 3.4%, but this proved insufficient at the 2010 election in the face of what by Queensland standards was a fairly typical swing of 5.0%.
The seat has since been held for the LNP by Bert van Manen, a financial planner from Slacks Creek who had run as the Family First candidate for Rankin in 2007. Van Manen’s Labor opponent at the coming election is Des Hardman, a radiographer at Logan Hospital. Brett Raguse meanwhile re-emerged as a candidate for the preselection to succeed Craig Emerson in the neighbouring seat of Rankin, in which he was narrowly unsuccessful despite claiming support from Kevin Rudd.
Seat of the week #2: Herbert
The Townsville-based electorate of Herbert has been in conservative hands without interruption since 1996, although it has been highly marginal throughout that time. The seat has existed since federation, at which time it extended north to Cairns and south to Mackay. More recently it has covered central Townsville and a shifting aggregation of surrounding territory, the pre-2010 election redistribution having transferred the southern suburbs of Annandale and Wulguru to Dawson and added Deeragun and its northern coastal surrounds from Kennedy. The strongest booths for Labor are generally around the town centre, while those in the outer suburbs tend to be more volatile as well as more conservative, having moved strongly with the statewide tides toward Labor in 2007 and against it in 2004 and 2010. Lavarack Barracks makes the electorate highly sensitive to defence issues, with the sector accounting for about one in eight jobs in the electorate. Presumably as a consequence, the electorate is unusually youthful, the median age of 32 being four years lower than for any other seat in regional Queensland.
Herbert was a working class and Labor seat for much of its history, being in Labor hands until the 1960s and turning in a 34.2% vote for Communist Party candidate Frederick Paterson in 1943 (Paterson went on to win the state seat of Bowen the following year, the only such success for a Communist candidate in Australian history). A watershed moment came with the victory of Liberal candidate Robert Bonnett in the 1966 landslide, which was followed by further Liberal swings against the trend of the 1969 and 1972 elections. The seat came back on Labor’s radar after the 1980 election, when their candidate Ted Lindsay succeeded in reducing the Liberal margin to below 1%. Lindsay went one better when he ran again in 1983, gaining the seat with a 3.7% swing and retaining it throughout the Hawke-Keating years. Together with most of his Queensland Labor colleagues he was unseated at the 1996 election, when unrelated Liberal candidate Peter Lindsay won off a 9.0% swing. Ted Lindsay came within 160 votes of pulling off a comeback in 1998, before Peter Lindsay consolidated with swings of 1.5% in 2001 and 4.7% in 2004. He survived another close shave by 343 votes in 2007, a swing to Labor of 5.9% being slightly below a statewide 7.5% which cost the Coalition eight seats.
Lindsay bowed out at the 2010 election and was succeeded as candidate for the Liberal National Party by Ewen Jones, an auctioneer for local real estate agency Ferry Property. Jones’s Labor opponent was Tony Mooney, who served for nearly two decades as mayor of Townsville and earned a footnote in Australian political history when his failure to win the 1996 Mundingburra by-election for Labor led to the downfall of the Goss government. Perhaps reflecting the loss of Lindsay’s personal vote, Jones picked up what by Queensland standards was a modest swing of 2.2%, which was nonetheless enough to secure his hold on a seat which the redistribution had made, by the narrowest of margins, notionally Labor. Jones’s Labor opponent this time is Cathy O’Toole, a former chief executive of a disability employment service and member of the Left faction.