Electoral Form Guide: Hinkler
Margin: Nationals 1.5%
Location: Bundaberg/Hervey Bay, Queensland
In a nutshell: Nationals member Paul Neville managed to withstand the statewide tidal wave to Labor in 2007, but it’s an open question whether that was due to an accident-prone Labor opponent. While Labor will be hoping for better from their new nominee, Fraser Coast deputy mayor Belinda Neven, their optimism might be restrained by the widely reported hostility towards the government in regional Queensland.
Two-party vote map
Swing % map
Electorate analysis: Created with the enlargement of parliament in 1984, Hinkler extended for most of its existence from Bundaberg in the south to Gladstone in the north. The creation of Flynn at the 2007 election dramatically reoriented the electorate southwards, detaching Gladstone to the new electorate and compensating Hinkler with Hervey Bay, previously in Wide Bay. Rapid population growth around Hervey Bay has resulted in the electorate losing areas for no corresponding gain at the current redistribution. These changes have substantially reduced the electorate’s geographic area, but the number of voters affected is modest: 2700 voters have been transferred to Wide Bay in the south, and 1200 voters in interior territory around Biggenden have gone to Flynn. The margin has been reduced slightly from 1.7 per cent to 1.5 per cent.
Hinkler swung from the Nationals in 1984 to Labor in 1987, and back again when current member Paul Neville gained the seat with a 344-vote margin in 1993. Neville has since enjoyed a charmed electoral life, holding on by 510 votes in 1998 (when One Nation polled 19.3 per cent, their preferences saving Neville from a substantial primary vote deficit against Labor) and 64 votes in 2001, and benefiting from redistributions in 2004 and 2007. On the latter occasion he received a timely 4.0 per cent boost due mainly to loss of Labor-voting Gladstone, and also the slight Nationals lean in newly acquired Hervey Bay. Neville has remained on the back bench throughout his career, but has enjoyed a long stint as Nationals whip since 1998.
As his Queensland colleagues fell like ninepins in 2007, Neville may well have been saved by the performance of Labor candidate Garry Parr, who made the news when he told the parents of a soldier serving with British forces in Afghanistan they were “English warmongers”. This came a week after reports the Labor Forum-backed Parr was suffering a campaigning boycott from members of the rival Left and Unity (“Old Guard”) factions. The former Labor member for the seat, Brian Courtice, also emerged in Coalition television commercials to inform the nation that “Kevin Rudd couldn’t go three rounds with Winnie the Pooh, so there’s no way he can stand up to the union bosses”. Courtice had been expelled from the party in 2005 for leaking party documents to state Nationals MP Rob Messenger, which purportedly exposed the “siphoning” of $7,000 in branch funds. His wife Marcia was also sacked from her job with state Bundaberg MP Nita Cunningham (whom she reportedly hoped to succeed), which she claimed to be in revenge for her husband’s actions.
Labor’s candidate at the coming election is Fraser Coast deputy mayor Belinda McNeven, who won preselection without opposition. Sean Parnell of The Australian reported that Neville fought off unnamed “vultures” to retain Liberal National Party preselection, despite being 69 years old and suffering health problems.
Queensland’s regional coastal seats were clearly the target of Tony Abbott’s announcement last week that they would limit the future expansion of marine parks, by requiring “peer-reviewed scientific evidence of a threat to marine diversity”.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.