Margin: Labor 6.2%
Location: Inner Southern Brisbane, Queensland
In a nutshell: This southern Brisbane seat has changed hands with the last two changes of government, and is still remembered for saving the bacon of the Menzies government in 1961. Labor’s Graham Perrett defeated Liberal member Gary Hardgrave in 2007, and has since been smiled upon by the redistribution gods.
One of nine seats gained by Labor in Queensland in 2007, the southern Brisbane seat of Moreton extends from the riverside suburbs of Oxley, Sherwood and Yeronga southwards through Labor-leaning Runcorn and Acacia Ridge. It has existed in name since federation, but was based on the Gold Coast and Brisbane’s southern outskirts until McPherson was created in 1949. It then began its long drift north into the inner suburbs, a process that made the once safe conservative seat marginal. Labor’s first near-miss came with Jim Killen’s famous 130-vote win in 1961, achieved with help from Communist Party preference leakage, which allowed the Menzies government to survive with a two-seat majority.
Labor would not get over the line until 1990, when Liberal veteran Don Cameron was defeated by Garrie Gibson. Gibson held on in 1993 before succumbing to the Queensland Labor bloodbath of 1996, when Gary Hardgrave won the seat with a 4.9 per cent swing. A former children’s television host and media adviser to Senator David MacGibbon, Hardgrave held junior ministry positions from 2001 to 2005. He meanwhile maintained a tenuous hold on Moreton: he survived a 4.2 per cent swing in 1998 and suffered at the hands of redistributions by 1.4 per cent in 2004 and 1.7 per cent in 2007, meanwhile picking up swings of 1.9 per cent in 2001 and 1.6 per cent in 2004.
Hardgrave’s margin going into the 2007 election was 2.8 per cent, nowhere near enough to survive a 7.5 per cent swing that was perfectly in line with the state average. The victorious Labor candidate was Graham Perrett, an adviser to the Queensland Resources Council who had earlier worked as a state ministerial staffer and official with the Queensland Independent Education Union. Perrett made the news in October 2008 with the publication of his “erotic novel”, The Twelfth Fish (“the honourable member for porn”, decreed the Daily Telegraph). He has been done a good turn by the redistribution, which has transferred 9600 voters in a strip of suburbs from Stretton south through Calamvale to Drewvale to Rankin in the south, and added 12,100 voters around Oxley and Acacia Ridge from Oxley in the west. The changes have boosted his margin from 4.8 per cent to 6.2 per cent.
The Liberal National Party initially announced their candidate would be Michael Palmer, the 20-year-old son of mining not-quite-billionaire Clive Palmer, who ran in the safe Labor seat of Nudgee at last year’s state election. With the similarly wet-behind-the-ears Wyatt Roy running in the even more crucial seat of Longman, this choice earned the party no small amount of derision, and some skepticism was expressed when Palmer announced he was withdrawing on health grounds. He has been succeeded as candidate by Malcolm Cole, former Courier-Mail journalist and staffer to former Senator Santo Santoro, who won preselection ahead of local businessman Steve Smith.
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 Labor leading 51.6-48.4. Reports in the final week suggested the Coalition believed the seat to be beyond reach, but had not given up.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.