Margin: Labor 8.6%
Location: Northern Brisbane, Queensland
In a nutshell: It was a measure of the scale of the 1996 wipeout that Labor was unable to retain this naturally safe inner-city seat, a result that appeared to cut short the three-year career of sitting member Wayne Swan. However, Swan recovered the seat in 1998 and went on to prosper as Treasurer under Kevin Rudd, and more recently as Deputy Prime Minister under Julia Gillard.
Wayne Swan’s electorate of Lilley covers the Brisbane bayside north-east of the city centre, between the Brisbane and Pine rivers – an area accounting for industrial Eagle Farm in the south and residential Brighton in the north – along with suburbs nearer the city from McDowall, Stafford Heights and Everton Park eastwards through Kedron, Chermside and Zillmere to Nundall, Nudgee and Taigum. The redistribution has had a substantial impact on the electorate, transferring to Brisbane 26,500 voters in an area nearer the city from Clayfield and Hendra south to Hamilton on the river, and adding 26,000 in Chermside West and Stafford Heights at the northern end to Petrie. The draft redistribution proposal had been even more dramatic, extending the Petrie transfer north to Carseldine and compensating Petrie with the coastal area from Deagon north to Brighton. Labor’s strength in the latter area is such that this would have cut the Labor margin from 8.6 per cent to 5.9 per cent; in the event, both the areas gained from Petrie and lost to Brisbane are of comparably strong Liberal orientation, so that the margin edges up slightly to 8.8 per cent.
Lilley was created in 1913, originally extending from its current base of Nudgee, Aspley, Kedron, Eagle Farm and Brisbane Airport all the way north to Gympie. Labor won the seat at the 1943, 1946, 1961 and 1972 election (by a margin of 35 votes on the latter occasion), but otherwise it was usually safe for the prevailing conservative forces of the day. A decisive shift came with the elections of 1980 and 1983, when Labor’s Elaine Darling won and consolidated the seat with respective swings of 5.2 per cent and 8.4 per cent. Wayne Swan succeeded Darling in 1993, but like all but two of his Queensland Labor colleagues lost his seat in 1996. Swan stood again in 1998 and easily accounted for the 0.4 per cent post-redistribution margin with a swing of 3.5 per cent. He has since added further fat to his margin with each subsequent election, although in keeping with the inner urban trend his swing in 2007 was well below the statewide average (3.2 per cent compared with 7.5 per cent).
Wayne Swan emerged through the Queensland ALP machine, working as an adviser to Bill Hayden during his tenure as Opposition Leader and later to Hawke government ministers Mick Young and Kim Beazley before taking on the position of party state secretary in 1991. After recovering his seat of Lilley in 1998 he entered the shadow ministry in the family and community services portfolio. He was close to Kim Beazley during his manoeuvres to return to the leadership from 2003 to 2005, prompting Mark Latham to dub him and his fellow conspirators “roosters”. Latham nonetheless retained him in his existing position after succeeding Simon Crean as leader in December 2003, and promoted him to Shadow Treasurer after the 2004 election defeat.
Although he went to high school with him in Nambour and shared a party background during the Wayne Goss years, Swan and Kevin Rudd had long been bitter rivals – the former in the AWU grouping of the Right, the latter in the Right’s “old guard” – and Swan remained strongly behind Beazley when Rudd successfully challenged him for the leadership in December 2006. He nonetheless retained the Treasury portfolio when Rudd became leader, despite suggestions Rudd had been promised to Lindsay Tanner in return for his support. The Swan-Rudd rivalry exploded into prominence again when he threw his weight behind Julia Gillard’s successful leadership challenge in June 2010, and he was rewarded by securing the deputy prime ministership vacated by Gillard.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.