Margin: Labor 2.3%
Location: Gladstone/Central Regional, Queensland
In a nutshell: Won narrowly for Labor on its creation in 2007, Flynn is invariably cited as one of the danger seats in Queensland for Labor at the coming election. Sitting member Chris Trevor has made a name for himself recently by standing by Kevin Rudd and lashing out at the plotters who brought about his downfall.
Two-party vote map
Swing % map
Electorate analysis: Flynn was created at the 2007 election, one of four new seats the state has gained since 1998 on account of its ongoing population explosion. It accommodated areas that had previously been in Hinkler, Maranoa, Capricornia and Wide Bay, covering a thin stretch of territory from the Labor-voting coastal industrial city of Gladstone through Nationals rural heartland to Middleton about 1000 kilometres inland. The redistribution has cut about half of its interior area, which has been transferred 7300 voters to Maranoa, replacing it with a smaller but substantially more heavily populated area around Mount Morgan south of Rockhampton (8200 voters) along with the Biggenden region from Hinkler (1200 voters). The substitution of Nationals heartland for the declining mining area around Mount Morgan has produced a handy 2.1 per cent boost to the Labor margin.
With a Nationals margin of 7.9 per cent on its creation, Flynn emerged as a key seat at the 2007 election, at which expectations of a dramatic swing in Queensland featured heavily in Labor’s calculations. Labor nominated solicitor and former Gladstone councillor Chris Trevor, who as candidate for the state seat of Gladstone a year earlier had done very well to reduce independent MP Liz Cunningham’s margin from 11.2 per cent to 2.0 per cent. Trevor picked up a swing of 7.9 per cent that was slightly higher than the statewide result of 7.5 per cent, and proved enough to give him a slender 253 vote victory over the Nationals candidate, police officer and Banana shire mayor Glenn Churchill. The shift to Labor was especially pronounced in its traditionally strongest areas: double-digit swings were recorded in Gladstone and surrounding areas nearer the coast, such that Labor won the latter booths en masse after losing them all in 2004.
Trevor had been given the nod by Labor after a complicated preselection process in which the original vote was won by Danial Rochford of the Left, who narrowly defeat Right-backed Gladstone businesswoman Jennifer Algie. This was overturned when the state party’s administrative committee upheld a challenge to the eligibility of six preselectors, but Algie subsequently withdrew for family reasons. Reports circulated that Kevin Rudd had directed the federal executive to overrule plans for a local party vote, ensuring that Trevor was nominated ahead of Rochford. The party insisted this was not the case and that a local ballot would in fact proceed, but Trevor was ultimately left unopposed when Rochford withdrew.
The Liberal National Party candidate for the coming election is Ken O’Dowd, owner of Busteed Building Supplies in Gladstone and further described by the Central Queensland News as a “racing identity”. The party originally preselected Gladstone real estate agent Colin Bourke, but he withdrew in February citing personal reasons. Nothing came of suggestions ahead of either the 2007 or 2010 elections that Barnaby Joyce might seek entry to the lower house by contesting the seat.
Flynn was the target of frenzied efforts from Labor in the second last week of the campaign, the town of Emerald alone (population 19,000) being targeted with a GP super clinic announcement from Nicola Roxon on Tuesday (Anna Caldwell of the Courier-Mail noted a trend of fortuitous placement for most of the state’s 13 such facilities) and a promise of $6 million to improve local sports facilities from Wayne Swan yesterday. The electorate’s dominant city, Gladstone, was targeted by Swan with $95 million for upgrading Calliope Crossroads on top of $55 million previously promised by both parties, and $50 million for the final stages of the Gladstone Port Access Road. In week two, regional Queensland coastal seats like Flynn were clearly the target of Tony Abbott’s announcement that a Coalition government would limit the future expansion of marine parks, by requiring peer-reviewed scientific evidence of a threat to marine diversity.
Flynn was targeted by two composite marginal seat polls just over a week before polling day: a Newspoll survey of 1600 respondents in eight Queensland marginals, which had the swing against Labor at 3.4 per cent, and a similar Galaxy survey of 800 in four seats, which had it at 5.4 per cent. The JWS Research-Telereach poll conducted during the final weekend of the campaign, covering 400 respondents in the electorate with a margin of error of about 5 per cent, had the LNP leading 52-48. Reports late in the final week confirmed the LNP believed they had the seat in the bag.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.