Margin: Labor 17.9%
Region: Regional City
Outgoing member: Robert Schwarten (Labor)
Click here for Electoral Commission of Queensland map
Electorate analysis: The city of Rockhampton is located on the Bruce Highway about 650 kilometres north of Brisbane. The electorate bearing its name contains the entire city barring the eastern suburbs of Norman Gardens and Koongal, which are in Keppel, along with the town of Gracemere six kilometres to the south-west. Rockhampton has existed as an electorate without interruption since 1865, except from 1960 to 1972 when it was split into Rockhampton South and Rockhampton North (the latter survived until 1992 when it was succeeded by Keppel). Rockhampton South had a Liberal member from 1960 to 1969, but otherwise the area has been represented exclusively by Labor-identifying members. The member for Rockhampton from 1972 to 1984 was Keith Wright, who was Opposition Leader from 1982 to 1984 and subsequently the federal member for Capricornia until 1993, when he was compelled to resign to fight child sex charges that ultimately led to his imprisonment.
Rob Schwarten entered parliament as the member for Rockhampton North in 1989, but was defeated in 1992 when the redistribution forced him to contest Keppel against the Nationals member for the similarly abolished Peak Downs. Schwarten became member for Rockhampton at the 1995 election upon the retirement of Paul Braddy, and has been a front-bencher since the Goss government lost office seven months later. His decision to bow out at the coming election prompted a preselection contest between Bill Byrne, a former Army officer who had the backing of Schwarten and Anna Bligh, and Martin Flanagan, a Q-Build worker and colleague of Byrne’s in the Labor Unity faction. Flanagan had enough of a share of head office’s half of the vote that he would have won the endorsement if he had pressed the issue, but he and Byrne had mutually agreed that the local branch vote should determine the result.
A three-horse race for LNP preselection in September delivered what was reportedly an easy victory to Mount Morgan mayor Gavin Finch ahead of Shayne Melkis and Shawn Mills. Katter’s Australian Party will be represented by Shane Guley, who on several past occasions has been a Labor candidate for the unwinnable state seat of Gregory and the federal seat of Maranoa. Guley was dumped as candidate for Maranoa ahead of the 2007 election as Labor sought to distance itself from colourful union antics, having earned a reputation for robust behaviour as an AMWU delegate after being dismissed as a QRail worker.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.