Margin: Liberal 1.1%
Location: Western Brisbane, Queensland
In a nutshell: A safe Liberal seat for most of its history, Ryan had already become of interest going into the election thanks to a redistribution that pushed it into Labor-friendly inner-city territory. Then came the Liberal National Party’s disendorsement of sitting member Michael Johnson and his decision to run as an independent, throwing the contest wide open.
Two-party vote map
Swing % map
Electorate analysis: The western Brisbane seat of Ryan was created in 1949 and currently covers Liberal-voting suburbs on the north bank of the Brisbane River to the west of the city, from St Lucia and Indooroopilly through Fig Tree Pocket and Moggill to Karana Downs, also extending through thinly developed areas across D’aguilar Range to Peewee Bend. The redistribution has had a significant impact on the seat by transferring its territory on the south bank of the river to Moreton, affecting 17,100 voters at Middle Park and Jindalee, while adding 23,100 voters at the northern end of the electorate from solidly Labor-voting Ferny Grove, Keperra and Ashgrove (the imbalance between the two transfers pointing to the electorate’s low population growth). This has reduced the Liberal margin from 3.8 per cent to 1.1 per cent.
The seat has been easily won by the Liberals at every general election since its creation, being held by Nigel Drury until 1975 and John Moore thereafter. After serving as Defence Minister in the early years of the Howard government, Moore retired in early 2001, precipitating a by-election which produced a 9.8 per cent swing to Labor and a narrow victory for their candidate Leonie Short. While this provoked much excitement in Labor ranks at the time, it in no way proved a pointer to the election held nine months later, at which the seat was recovered for the Liberals by Michael Johnson, a 34-year-old Hong Kong-born and Cambridge-educated barrister of part Chinese extraction. Johnson had nominated for preselection at the by-election but was compelled to withdraw as he had not sorted out his British citizenship issues, the dubious prize going to former state party president Bob Tucker.
Rivalries that simmered during this contest boiled over in the re-match, with Tucker successfully taking Supreme Court action against a move by the state executive to bypass a local branch plebiscite and install Right candidate Matt Boland. The plebiscite was duly held but Tucker was defeated by Johnson, amid loud complaints of branch-stacking. Despite a margin of 10.4 per cent, the Liberals reportedly feared losing the seat going into the 2007 election. However, like a number of other seats where a Labor boilover had been predicated on a “doctors’ wives” effect, the swing did not prove out of the ordinary – 6.6 per cent compared with a statewide result of 7.5 per cent.
Labor’s hopes of going one better next time were raised first by the redistribution and then by concerns surrounding Michael Johnson, with reports emerging early in the year that the Liberal National Party was investigating his expenditure records and fundraising activities. The party expelled Johnson in May for attempting to broker an export deal between the Queensland Coal Corporation and a Chinese conglomerate during parliamentary sittings and with the use of his parliamentary email address. A commission of as much as $12 million for brokering the deal was discussed, but Johnson denied standing to benefit personally.
Johnson claimed he had advice that he could successfully challenge his expulsion in the courts but lacked the resources to do so, instead announcing he would run as an independent. In his stead the Liberal National Party has endorsed Jane Prentice, a senior party figure on Brisbane City Council. Labor’s candidate is Steven Miles, a former official with the Queensland Public Sector Union.
A Liberal National Party preselection process quickly swung into action following Michael Johnson’s explusion, with Jane Prentice having been named the likely winner even before the event. Her main rival was at first reported to be Seb Monsour, a manager with catering and cleaning firm Spotless and the brother-in-law of Brisbane lord mayor Campbell Newman, but he dropped out of the race. Prentice went on to an easy victory with 158 votes over 39 for second-placed Christian Rowan, a Brisbane medical practitioner who ran for the Nationals in Gympie at the 2004 state election. This prompted Johnson to complain the party had chosen an “opportunistic politician” over a “talent” in Rowan. Labor’s Steven Miles won preselection ahead of Martin Hanson despite backing for the latter from Kevin Rudd’s Labor Unity faction, having reportedly enjoyed strong support in local branches.
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 the LNP leading 54-46.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.