Gaven by-election

The Poll Bludger has been a bit preoccupied lately, and failed to notice that a Queensland state by-election now looms in the Gold Coast seat of Gaven after Labor MP Robert Poole "chose to resign rather than do as Premier Peter Beattie demanded and return early from a trip to Thailand". The seat would naturally lean slightly towards the Coalition, but was won comfortably by Labor at the 2001 and 2004 landslides.

Labor’s preselection will be held on March 18 (the day of the South Australian and Tasmanian elections) and it looms as a contest between the Left’s Phil Gray, Poole’s former campaign manager, and Labor Unity’s Liz Pommer, described by the Courier-Mail as "a 43-year-old career bureaucrat who has headed the Government’s efforts to control Schoolies week". The prize is none too tempting – Antony Green gives Labor no chance of retaining the seat, which seems a sensible assessment in view of the circumstances of Poole’s departure and Labor’s defeats last year in Chatsworth and Redcliffe. However, the victor will presumably get the opportunity to build their profile for another crack at next year’s state election.

Absurdly, the National Party maintains its claim on Gaven within the context of the Queensland Coalition, despite uniformly humiliating performances in the rapidly-changing Gold Coast area throughout the current decade. A reader informs the Poll Bludger that the Liberals "had a candidate who was already campaigning until it was ruled that only the Nats would contest the seat, prompting the angry resignation of state Liberal Vice President Jim MacAnally". While this could potentially create the conditions for a successful independent challenger, the Nationals appear to have done well in preselecting Alex Douglas, a GP who has worked in the local area for 18 years and is married to Gold Coast City Councillor and Nationals senior vice-president Susie Douglas.

UPDATE: Graham Young at Ambit Gambit brings us results from a TNS poll of Gaven voters published in today’s Sunday Mail showing Labor might not be as doomed as you would think. The reason – what Young describes as "the most cack-handed negotiations you have ever seen in your life" in which the Liberals conceded the seat to the Nationals. As Young puts it, and as the Poll Bludger has been arguing for some time, urban areas of south-east Queensland contain large numbers of "Liberals who will never vote National, and enough of these might vote third party and exhaust their preferences to give Labor a win". The poll has Labor on 26 per cent, the Liberals on 25 per cent and the Nationals on a derisory 8 per cent, the catch being that the Liberals are not allowed to field a candidate. However, a note of caution is in order given that TNS only managed to extract a response from about 230 voters in the rather small sample of 300, with 24 per cent registered as don’t know, informal or refused.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.