Margin: Labor 11.9%
Location: Southern Brisbane, Queensland
In a nutshell: Together with Brisbane, Rankin was one of only two Queensland seats safe enough for Labor that it was retained amid the 1996 landslide. Front-bencher Craig Emerson has held the seat since 1998.
Rankin was created with the enlargement of parliament in 1984, when it extended far beyond the south-west of the metropolitan area to Warwick and the state border. It now covers the northern part of Logan City in Brisbane’s outer south, from Woodridge and Kingston north to Rochedale South and Priestdale and west to Hillcrest, along with a newly added area across the municipal boundary at Algester, Calamvale and Drewvale in the north (adding 9600 voters from Moreton and 13,200 from Oxley). The redistribution has removed 11,500 voters at Shailer Park in the electorate’s east to Forde, along with a separate transfer to Forde of 6200 voters at Park Ridge in the south, as well as 1200 voters around Boronia Heights to the new seat of Wright in the south-west. These substantial changes have had little impact on the Labor margin, which is up from 11.7 per cent to 11.9 per cent. Labor has held Rankin at all times since its inception, it being one of only two Queensland seats where Labor surived the 1996 massacre. The loss of its rural areas to Forde in the redistribution ahead of that election boosted the margin in Rankin by 9.8 per cent, nearly every bit of which was needed to save Labor from an 11.1 per cent swing. The member throughout this period was David Beddall, who was succeeded upon his retirement in 1998 by Craig Emerson.
A member of the Labor Forum/Australian Workers Union sub-faction of the Queensland Right, Emerson worked as an adviser to Hawke government ministers and then Hawke himself in the 1980s, before taking on senior state public service positions in Queensland during the Goss years. He rose to the shadow ministry after one term in parliament, serving in innovation, industry, trade and tourism from 2001 before winning promotion to workplace relations in 2003, but was dropped after the 2004 election. This resulted from a loss of support from his faction owing to his defiance of its figurehead Bill Ludwig in voting for Mark Latham in the December 2003 leadership ballot (not that this did anything to endear him to Latham, who was as disparaging of Emerson in The Latham Diaries as he was just about everybody else he had ever worked with). His career returned to the ascendant when Labor entered government, at which point he became Small Business Minister, further assuming the competition policy and consumer affairs portfolios in June 2009.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.