Electorate: Barron River
Margin: Labor 2.3%
Region: Northern Cairns
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Electorate analysis: Barron River covers the northern suburbs of Cairns and beyond for about 25 kilometres as far as Ellis Beach. The electorate was created in 1972 when it was won for Labor by Bill Wood, previously member for Cook and later to return to politics in the Australian Capital Territory in 1989. Wood was defeated in the 1974 landslide by Martin Tenni of the Country Party, who held the seat until his retirement in 1989. It then fell to Labor’s Lesley Clark with the election of the Goss government, whose electoral reforms put an end to what Antony Green described as an electoral boundary helpful to the Nationals.
Clark lost the seat in 1995 when Liberal candidate Lyn Warwick prevailed in a three-cornered contest, but won it back with a 0.6 per cent margin amid the upheaval of 1998. One Nation candidate Peter Starr narrowly failed to beat Warwick into second place on that occasion, and would most likely have won the seat with Warwick’s preferences had he done so. Clark, Warwick and Starr again took the field in 2001, a contest further complicated by Cairns councillor and independent candidate Sno Bonneau who finished second with 19.0 per cent. The three-way split in the non-Labor vote helped Clark to a 7.3 per cent two-candidate margin over Bonneau. Normality was restored when the Liberal vote doubled at the 2004 election, when Clark won with an uncomfortable two-party margin of 3.1 per cent.
Clark retired in 2006 and was succeeded by criminal lawyer Steve Wettenhall, who benefited from a strong Labor performance throughout the region in both 2006 and 2009, which respectively produced swings of 2.0 in favour of Labor and 2.4 per cent against. Wettenhall was promoted to parliamentary secretary for tourism after the 2009 election, moving to the portfolios of assisting the Premier and economic development in the far north in the February 2011 reshuffle. His LNP opponent is Michael Trout, who won preselection from a field of four identified by local blogger Michael Moore as building and pest inspector Ian Lydiard; Lisa Dunkerton, who was a vocal advocate against public housing at Palm Cove and Trinity Park; Federal policeman Murray Ferguson, and Scott Elliot. White Rock funeral director Brendan Fitzgerald has been endorsed as candidate for Bob Katter’s Australian Party, after originally being pencilled in as the candidate for its predecessor the Queensland Party in Mulgrave.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.