Margin: Independent 16.3% versus Labor
Location: Northern Outback, Queensland
In a nutshell: Bob Katter is one of parliament’s small coterie of unassailable independents, each of whom not coincidentally represents a regional electorate. Katter was elected to state parliament as a National in 1974 and to federal parliament in 1993, before parting company with his party in 2001.
Electorate analysis: Kennedy covers 568,993 square kilometres of northern Queensland, accounting for over 30 per cent of the state’s surface area, from Tully and Innisfail on the coast westwards through rural and outback territory to Mount Isa and the Northern Territory border. The redistribution has resulted an awkward gain of the southern Cairns suburb of Edmonton along with an area of Tablelands Regional Council from Leichhardt, respectively accounting for 6400 and 3400 voters, as well as the southern hinterland of Townsville and a stretch of Flinders Highway around Ross River from Dawson (1300 voters). These gains have been counterbalanced by the loss of 7,400 voters in Townsville’s northern outskirts to Herbert.
Kennedy was one of 16 seats won by Labor at the first federal election in 1901 (out of a total of 75), and remained with the party until Nationalist candidate Grosvenor Francis was elected unopposed after sitting member Charles McDonald died during the 1925 election campaign (prompting the change to the Electoral Act providing for polls to be cancelled when candidates died). Francis retained the seat at the 1928 election, but it returned to Labor when Jim Scullin’s government came to power in 1929. The next change came in 1966 when the national anti-Labor swing combined with the loss of retiring veteran William Riordan’s personal vote delivered a narrow victory to the Country Party candidate, Bob Katter Sr.
While the 1969 redistribution strengthened the Country Party by adding Charters Towers and removing Bowen, it was Katter’s personal popularity that saw the Country Party margin increase at each of the next five elections. The 1984 redistribution was less kind to Katter, pushing the seat into the southern reaches of Cape York Peninsula and returning the seat to the marginal zone. It returned to Labor for one term when Katter retired in 1990, the winning member being Rob Hulls, later to return to politics as a senior figure in the Victorian government.
Kennedy returned to the National Party and Katter family fold when Bob Katter Jr, who had represented the local area in state parliament since 1974, defeated Hulls at the 1993 election before cementing his position with a double-digit swing in 1996. Katter’s primary vote increased further after he parted company with the Nationals ahead of the 2001 election, and he recorded another strong performance in 2004 and held his ground in 2007. A count conducted for informational purposes after the latter election showed the Nationals would have defeated Labor with a 7.5 per cent margin if Katter’s preferences were distributed.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.