Electoral Form Guide: Oxley
Margin: Labor 11.3%
Location: Eastern Ipswich/Western Brisbane, Queensland
In a nutshell: Unlikely ever to live down the election of Pauline Hanson as independent member in 1996, Oxley reverted to Labor type when Hanson unsuccessfully contested the new seat of Blair in 1998. Its previous moment of fame came when Bill Hayden emerged from the 1975 bloodbath as Queensland’s only Labor member of the House of Representatives.
Likely to be remembered for a long time to come as Pauline Hanson’s former electorate, the modern seat of Oxley was created around the satellite city of Ipswich west of Brisbane in 1949 (a seat bearing the name earlier existed in southern Brisbane, before being renamed Griffith in 1934). The redistributions of 2004 and 2007 sent the electorate’s remaining share of Ipswich to Blair, pushing it towards Brisbane with the addition of the Seventeen Mile Rocks area to the north and Algester to the east. The current redistribution has again transferred 5,500 voters around Collingwood Park and Springfield Central to Blair in the west, along with 12,100 around Oxley and Acacia Ridge to Moreton in the north-east and 16,600 in Algester, Calamvale and Parkinson to Rankin in the east. It has been compensated with the riverfront suburbs of Middle Park and Jindalee from Ryan, accounting for 17,100 voters. The changes have garnished Labor’s margin from 14.1 per cent to a still comfortable 11.3 per cent.
Oxley was was held for the Liberals by Menzies government Health Minister Donald Cameron until 1961, when Bill Hayden won it for Labor with a 9.4 per cent swing. Hayden did extraordinarily well to lift his margin to 19.1 per cent by 1969, but Queensland’s reaction to the Whitlam government was enough to cut it back to 3.8 per cent in 1975. By the time Hayden resigned to become Governor-General in 1988, the seat was safe enough that Labor’s Les Scott was able to survive a sharp swing at the resulting by-election, holding on by 4.0 per cent. After winning the seat in 1993 by 12.6 per cent, nobody suspected Scott would be troubled at the 1996 election. However, trouble came in the form of Liberal candidate Pauline Hanson, whose controversial campaign remarks about Aboriginal welfare saw her disendorsed by a party sensitive about its leader’s complicated history on racial issues. The voters by contrast rewarded her with an astonishing 48.6 per cent of the primary vote, resulting in a 4.7 per cent win after preferences.
Unfortunately for Hanson, the seat was substantially redrawn with the 1998 redistribution, losing its rural areas beyond Ipswich to newly created Blair along with parts of Ipswich itself, while absorbing the very safe Labor urban area of Inala. Rightly or wrongly, Hanson decided the new seat offered her the better prospects and Labor’s Bernie Ripoll had no trouble regaining Oxley at the election of October 1998. A member of the Australian Workers Union/Labor Forum faction, Ripoll served as a parliamentary secretary in opposition after the 2004 election, but was overlooked when Labor won office.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.