Margin: Liberal 4.8%
Location: Gold Coast Hinterland/Lockyer Valley, Queensland
In a nutshell: Queensland’s ongoing population explosion has required the creation of four new seats over the past five elections, the latest addition covering the interior edge of the Gold Coast and rural territory beyond. The seat would ordinarily be reasonably safe for the conservatives, but candidate troubles have complicated their mission.
Wright is the latest new electorate to be created as a result of Queensland’s ongoing population explosion, following Blair in 1998, Bonner in 2004 and Flynn in 2007. At its eastern end, it has taken the interior territory of the three rapidly growing Gold Coast electorates: Springbrook, Austinville and Bonogin from McPherson in the south (5600 voters), Gilston and Worongary from Moncrieff in the centre (4400 voters) and Maudsland from Fadden in the north (4600 voters). Beyond this it gains from Forde 37,700 voters in rural territory between Brisbane’s southern outskirts and the New South Wales border, including the major population centre of Beaudesert, as well as 1200 voters around Boronia Heights in outer Brisbane from Rankin. Further inland again it gains more rural territory including the balance of Scenic Rim Regional Council (the rest of which it gains from Forde) and the entirety of Lockyer Valley Regional Council from Blair, which collectively includes the towns of Boonah, Gatton and Laidley and 28,000 voters. A seat so constituted would have been extremely safe for the Coalition at the 2004 election, but the Forde and Blair areas in particular recorded massive double-digit swings to Labor in 2007. Short-priced favourite to emerge as the seat’s inaugural member is Liberal National Party candidate Scott Buchholz, chief-of-staff to Senator Barnaby Joyce. Labor’s candidate is Andrew Ramsay, an official with the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union.
Wright was reserved for the Nationals under the merger agreement which created the Liberal National Party in July 2008, and the party initially endorsed its candidate for Forde in 2007, Hajnal Ban. Then a councillor for Beaudesert Shire Council, which has since been split between Logan City and Scenic Rim Region, Ban assumed such a high profile during the 2007 campaign that a Liberal Party panicked by internal polling reportedly abandoned its own candidate and threw its weight behind her, although she nonetheless finished a distant third with 12.2 per cent of the vote. Ban went on to record an impressive win in her Logan City ward at the March 2008 local government elections, and made further headlines when it emerged she had made herself eight centimetres taller by undergone surgery in Russia which involved breaking her legs in four places. Ban won the preselection vote ahead of Cameron Thompson, the former member for Blair (who was presumably handicapped by his Liberal background), and Bob La Castra, Gold Coast councillor and former children’s television presenter.
What looked at the time to be a comfortable run into parliament for Ban came shuddering to a halt in early June when she was dumped by her party for failing to disclose Civil and Administrative Tribunal action over her use of power-of-attorney over the finances of an elderly former council colleague, a decision reportedly made at the direction of Liberal federal director Brian Loughnane. Ban was technically able to nominate for the re-match but was told by the party not to bother, prompting her to complain she was the victim of a male-dominated party hierarchy. Scott Buchholz won the ensuring preselection ahead of a twice-unsuccessful Cameron Thompson, tax reform campaigner Richard Hackett-Jones, Gold Coast councillor and perennial preselection bridesmaid Bob La Castra; Lockyer councillor David Neuendorf and aircraft engineer Scott White.
Labor’s Left-backed Andrew Ramsay won preselection ahead of Right-backed media consultant Sharon Murakami, with the union and party delegate vote favouring him 26 to 24 while the local party vote 38 to 25. Murakami in fact ended up with her nose in front after the affirmative action weighting was applied, but Ramsay successfully appealed the result to the state party’s administrative committee over an unspecified procedural issue.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read Bowe’s blog, The Poll Bludger.