Margin: Liberal 8.2%
Location: Toowoomba/Darling Downs, Queensland
In a nutshell: The Toowoomba and Darling Downs seat of Groom has never been held by Labor, a situation that is unlikely to change at the coming election. Liberal front-bencher Ian Macfarlane has been the member since 1998.
Groom takes in Toowoomba and the Darling Downs about 100km west of Brisbane. It has not been changed by the redistribution. Known until 1984 as Darling Downs, the seat was created at federation and has never been held by Labor. Arthur Fadden began his federal career here when he won the seat from the United Australia Party in 1936, and for the next 52 years the seat changed hands between the Liberals and the National/Country Party each time a setting member departed. With Fadden’s move to the new seat of McPherson in 1949, it was won for the Liberals by Reginald Schwarz; when Schwarz retired in 1972 it went to Tom McVeigh of the Country Party; with McVeigh’s retirement in 1988, Bill Taylor won it for the Liberals at a by-election.
The cycle was broken in 1998 when Liberal candidate Ian Macfarlane polled 33.1 per cent against 15.2 per cent for the Nationals candidate, who finished behind One Nation (18.0 per cent). Recognisable for a distinctive voice resulting from damage sustained to his larynx following a cancer operation in 2004, Macfarlane served as a minister in the Howard government from January 2001, first in the small business portfolio and then in industry, tourism and resources after the October 2001 election. He has attained further seniority in opposition, holding the trade portfolio under Brendan Nelson and energy and resources under Malcolm Turnbull. When Tony Abbott became leader in December 2009 he was moved to infrastructure to make way for Nick Minchin, but he recovered energy and resources when Minchin retired from the front-bench the following March.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.