Seat of the week: Bonner

As anyone with a passing interest in Australian electoral matters can tell you, Queensland looms as the key battleground for this year’s federal election. Labor holds just six of the state’s 28 seats, and will be more than half way to a parliamentary majority if only it can even the ledger. The most marginal of the Coalition-held seats is Bonner, which extends from the bayside Wynnum-Manly area in the north-east to Mount Gravatt in the south-west. Bonner was created at the 2004 election from territory which had previously been in the Labor seats of Griffith (providing about 38,000 voters) and Bowman (28,000), and the Liberal-held seat of Moreton (18,000 voters); also included is the lightly populated area south of Tingalpa Reservoir, formerly in Fadden.

Historically, this area was part of Oxley until 1922 in Mount Gravatt’s case, and 1934 in Wynnum-Manly’s; both areas were absorbed by Moreton until 1955, when Wynnum-Manly was taken over by Bowman. Bowman covered the entire area from 1969 until 1977, when Mount Gravatt went back to Moreton. Griffith first poked its nose in at the 1996 election, first absorbing Mount Gravatt and then assuming an area between the two main centres in 1998. Moreton was a conservative seat until 1990, notwithstanding Jim Killen’s famous 120-vote victory when the Menzies government had its brush with death in 1961. It was henceforth held for two terms by Labor’s Garrie Gibson before being won by the present Liberal member, Gary Hardgrave, in 1996. Bowman has traditionally leaned towards Labor, but was held for the Liberals through the period of the Fraser government by David Jull (who returned as member for Fadden in 1984). It was thereafter won by the Liberals only at the 1996 election, at which Labor was reduced to two seats in Queensland. Another casualty on that occasion was Griffith, which had been fairly safe for Labor since a redistribution in 1977. The losing candidate was Kevin Rudd, who had better luck on his second attempt in 1998.

Labor’s unsuccessful candidate in Bonner at the 2004 election was Con Sciacca, a Keating government minister who held Bowman from 1987 to 1996 and again from 1998 to 2004. With a notional Labor margin of 1.9 per cent, Bonner was a greatly more attractive option for Sciacca than the redrawn Bowman, where the loss of Wynnum-Manly and the gain of the Redland Bay area from Fadden produced a notional Liberal margin of 3.1 per cent. Nonetheless, Sciacca was unable to hold the new seat, suffering a 2.4 per cent swing and losing by 795 votes. The successful Liberal candidate was Ross Vasta (left), a former restaurant owner and staffer to Senator Brett Mason who ran unsuccessfully against Kevin Rudd in Griffith in 2001. The following map shows the two-party preferred results for localities containing one or more polling booths; as with my earlier maps for Stirling, red indicates a Labor majority and blue a Liberal majority, and the size of the numbers varies as a rough indicator of the number of the votes cast.

This is broadly instructive in demonstrating Labor’s strength at the northern end of the electorate; however, its limitations are indicated by the following map showing the remarkable inconsistency of the swing. Most striking is the degree to which the variations correspond with the old boundaries, suggesting a greater influence of personal support for sitting members than urban electorates are normally credited with.

In particular, Labor suffered a mass exodus of support among Griffith voters who had lost the opportunity to vote for Kevin Rudd. By contrast, Con Sciacca was able to pick up a small swing from his existing constituents in the area that had been in Bowman, and in the Moreton area where Gary Hardgrave also appeared to enjoy strong personal support. The strength of these variations can only partly be explained by demographic factors, specifically the greater concentration of voters in mortgage-paying households in the Griffith area (32.8 per cent on 2001 census figures, compared with 28.0 per cent in the Bowman area, 23.9 per cent in the Moreton area and 26.5 per cent nationally).

Ross Vasta’s main source of publicity since entering parliament has been his involvement in the scandal surrounding misuse of electoral printing allowances, which resulted in his office being searched by the Australian Federal Police in March. However, the printing job which was the subject of the investigation was reportedly not ordered by Vasta, and the main principals of the affair were his Brisbane Liberal colleagues Gary Hardgrave and Andrew Laming (the member for Bowman). The Prime Minister’s public backing of Vasta last month was seen to indicate that he would escape charges. His Labor opponent is Kerry Rea (left), who has been on Brisbane City Council since 1991. Rea’s Holland Park ward coincides with Bonner around Mount Gravatt, the remainder being in Griffith and Moreton. A member of the Left faction, Rea reportedly won preselection “comfortably” ahead of school teacher Chris Forrester. Forrester was Labor’s unsuccessful candidate at the by-election for the state seat of Chatsworth in August 2005, and initially aspired to run again at last September’s election. He was persuaded to withdraw in favour of Channel Nine sports commentator Chris Bombolas, who went on to defeat Liberal member Michael Caltabiano, as part of a deal that gave him factional backing in Bonner. Matthew Franklin of The Australian reported that this deal unravelled following a rebellion in local party ranks, where Rea had overwhelming support.

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.

46 comments on “Seat of the week: Bonner”

  1. This seat strikes me as one which was lost due to the Latham factor in 2004. You’d have to think that whether Labor wins government or not later this year, that they will win this seat. However, other blogsters on the ground may have a different view. Anyone out there live in Bonner?

  2. Very nice maps, William, and the one on which you overlap the old boundaries with the swings is very informative.

    I don’t recall the historical voting trends for the Mt Gravatt area, but certainly the voting results for the rest of the seat are broadly in line with long-term voting patterns – there are no surprises there.

  3. Good stuff!

    Extraordinary personal vote effect across the whole seat. Rudd must have been a highly popular local member even before coming to national attention.

    Interesting to note in the Wynnum-Manly area: Labor got a swing to it due to Con Sciacca’s personal vote. The loss of that vote at this election probably means the seat is a little “safer” than the paper margin.

  4. Kerry Rea was first elected to the Brisbane City Council in 1991 (along with Jim Soorley) for Ekibin, a Ward to the west of Holland Park and from memory, she’s held Holland Park since the 1994 or 1997 elections, when the Liberal councillor retired. She might have a high profile in the Mt Gravatt part of the seat (local Brisbanites might want to comment on this) – and les in the other parts of the electorate.

  5. Thank you William!

    Brisbane Southside is my area, and although I live in Rudd-land, I’m close to Bonner and could walk there in five minutes.

    Ok, some goodies:

    The above are mobile phone photos of the front page of this weeks local suburban paper carrying a negative article about Kerry Rea.

    Sorry for the poor quality but it’s readable.. kinda.

  6. While my other comment is awaiting moderation, I have another comment about Bonner.

    Bonner is well known as a seat won on Family First preferences. Family First got 3400 votes.

    The suburb of Mansfield is sometimes called the bible-belt of the southside, containing Queensland’s biggest church, the Christian Outreach Church with 10k? attendees a week and Garden City Church (looks really big).

    Mumble did an analysis about six months ago that concluded if Family First had preferenced Labor this seat would have fallen, so that’s an event to watch for.

  7. Mr Speaker,

    Can you enlighten us as to Kevin Rudd’s popularity in his seat? From the 2004 Bonner results he seems to have a very high personal vote.

  8. I reckon Bonner and Moreton are a done deal (unless Rudd walks under a bus and is replaced by Gillard). Even if Labor’s national swing is only 1-2% they should both fall.

    Given Hardgrave’s carrying on in recent times, and the Sciacca factor in the northern part of the electorate, Vasta might have a slightly better chance than Hardgrave.

  9. Marcus:
    Rudd is highly popular in Griffith and there is a feeling of excitement in the air that the local member might be the next prime minister, however he doesn’t really set off the Queensland State parochial feeling that would bring in a flood of votes across the state. His talking style is too fancy-pants for that.

    I’ll call Bonner for Labor regardless of whether they win the election or not.

  10. Hugo

    Not a lot of people read local papers, but those that do trust them more then papers with larger circulations. Small papers can have unusually large effects, in urban areas its not usually significant but in really outer suburb rural areas it can make or break a campaign

  11. Marcus,

    The following stats from Dr Adam Carr’s invaluable site tell the story…

    1998 1st pref + 2.9% … 2pp + 3.9%
    2001 1st pref + 4.4% … 2pp + 3.3%
    2004 1st pref + 3.2% … 2pp + 2.4%

    The 1998 swing to Kevin Rudd was below state average, but the last two (the two since he was elected member,) have been well above state average. In total there has been a 2pp movement of +9.6% over the 3 elections, most since he has been member, and against the state tide.

    All of this was before appearances on sunrise etc and would be due to his local networking / appearances (school fetes, presentation nights etc) bicycles for schools project, and opposition to parallel runway, up to the point that it became unpractical to continue the fight.

    I live in Bonner (suburb of Mansfield) and was previously in Griffith until a redistribution shifted us in 2001 (to Bowman from memeory then shifted again to Bonner last time.) (Before all that we were in Moreton, but at the same address!)

    I expect that a ‘Rudd factor’ will assist in all of the contiguous electorates, but whether it will be enough, given some big margins with some…?

    Bonner, I would call for the ALP now, and if they can’t win it, they certanly will not be winning the election or even getting close.

    Hugo… yes the Quest newspapers of which the Souther Star is but one of many covering greater Brisbane are widely read, in fact I would say far more widely read then the Courier Mail (locally) and multiples of multiples more than The Australian. I am not sure which particular paper the article linked to above by The Speaker came from, (Maybe the South East advertiser ?) but our Southern Star had the same basic story on page 3 last week, and it is the second time they have run it (the first about a month or more ago). Nevertheless, I don’t think it will have much of an affect.


  12. I think that there is a wild card in Qld… and that is a possible SEQ anti-Beattie feeling that may translate to a federal vote unless it rains enough sometime before the federal election to near fill a dam or two.

    We are already on level 5 restrictions and see here for dam levels…

    This influences public perception of every other negative story about the Qld State Gov’t from the ‘hospitals crisis’ to the ‘Police Staffing Levels Crisis’ to the ‘Ambulance Staffing Levels Crisis’ … all of which get reported and re-reported in turn, again… and again… and again.

  13. One of Labor’s more startling losses in 2004. Like most here, I think this will be an easy ALP pick-up in 2007.

    That is indeed a very interesting set of results on that second map, William.

  14. Hi William,

    Something I thought of at about 3am last night…

    Re… “Rea represents the Holland Park ward, which only coincides with Bonner in Mount Gravatt, the remainder being located in Griffith and Moreton”.

    There is a bit more of Holland Park ward in Bonner than just the suburb of Mt Gravatt. Mt Gravatt East and Mansfield are also included. Mansfield is not named on the map (see link below) but it is the area to the right of right hand edge of the sign that says ward office. Mt Gravatt East is named and is just above the sign.


  15. As a Liberal and a resident in the area for over 20 years, my take is that Vasta is gone. He was never the strongest candidate to begin with and his victory last time was quite a surprise.

    Kerry Rea is hardly a popular or competent local member but she will be a stronger campaigner than Vasta.

  16. ha ha! Funny to think that the whole Pauline thang wouldn’t have happened if the Labor Ipswich city council wasn’t thoroughly on the nose in the early 90s leading to the Independent Pauline being elected to the council and then preselected as the Lib candidate in Labor’s safest Qld federal seat.

  17. Thanks Fargo – the BCC site was down yesterday and I had to work off the ECQ’s map, which was very hard to interpret. I have modified the bit about the ward boundaries.

  18. Is this confined to Bonner? Or a new federal election thread?

    Assuming it’s the latter, the Adelaide Advertiser today speculates that right-wing powerbroker Don Farrell, secretary of the Shop Distributive abd Allied Employees Association, will nab a spot on Labor’s SA Senate ticket at a special convention next month. Two sitting senators – Penny Wong of the left and Linda Kirk of the right – are up for preselection and there’s pressure from the right to dump Kirk, who supported Kim Beazley and stem cell research in defiance of the faction. She is not going quietly.

    Farrell, son of a DLP candidate, is variously known as The Pontiff or The Don. He has a legal background and is regarded as tough but honest. If he makes the jump he will join his left-wing counterpart, Mark Butler, Labor’s new candidate for Port Adelaide. Together they control the ALP in SA.

  19. If anyone is interested in seeing a barbeque invitation Kruddy sent me I’ve just posted it on my site:

    Yes I know it’s off-topic and not even psephological, but its slightly interesting right ? Anyway, I’m guessing since there are 150 seats, the election will be called long before William even thinks about safe old Griffith, so a topic on Bonner is the closest I’m going to get.

  20. Some Cut and Pastes from the May political briefing of the NSW ALP
    Results of nominations in round 2 of pre-selections:
    Barton: Robert McClelland
    Kingsford Smith: Peter Garrett
    Cook: Mark Buttigieg
    Mackellar*: Christopher Sharpe, Patricio Chavez
    Farrer: Christopher Ryan
    Prospect: Chris Bowen
    Grayndler :Anthony Albanese
    Reid: Laurie Ferguson
    Greenway*: Michael Vassili, Jason Olbourne, Shane Smithers, Sue Kealy
    Sydney: Tanya Plibersek
    Hume: David Grant
    Watson: Tony Burke
    Hunter: Joel Fitzgibbon
    *Ballot Required – The Preselection Ballots will take place on Saturday 26th May 2007.

    b) The National Executive meeting on 1st May also called for nominations for the ollowing NSW Federal Seats, with Preselections to take place in accordance with Section N of the NSW Branch Rules, under an abridged timetable;
    Banks, Chifley, Cowper, Cunningham,
    Gilmore, Newcastle, Shortland, Werriwa
    The timetable was as follows:
    Nominations Open: Tuesday 1st May 2007 at 12 noon
    Nominations Close: Friday 4th May 2007 at 5.00 pm
    Local Credentialing: Saturday 5th May 2007
    Challenges Close: Thursday 10th May 2007 at 12 noon
    Ballot (if necessary): Saturday 26th May 2007

  21. Bonner should fall to the ALP, I believe all the state seats are held by the ALP and with Kevin Rudd’s seat being next door and many locals would have experienced Rudd as a local MP so if he was a good MP this will be remembered and can only help.

  22. What about Roger Price in Chifley? I’m hoping against hope that this might be an alternative seat for George Williams.

  23. Darryl Melham wasn’t challenged. There were very few challenges – I believe that there were/are challenges in Greenway and Mackellar. People have been talking about interesting factional deals in relation to the NSW preselections, and interesting things are apparently happening in the preselection that Doug Cameron wants to win.

  24. It would appear that a number of bloggers are getting a little ahead of themselves with the possible Bonner result.

    Here’s some food for thought.

    Last election we had an Italian candidate (Sciacca) up against an Italian candidate (Vasta) who were vying for the ethnic vote in an electorate high in ethnic voters. Final result was a win by Vasta of 795 votes.

    This time around we have Kerry Rea up against Vasta. I believe that Vasta has already secured a large proportion of the Sciacca ethnic vote from last time to add to what he had already picked up in his own right meaning that the current margin of 0.5 % is not accurate. I believe the true margin of Bonner is closer to around 6-7% and will not be such an easy pich up by the Labor Party at this election.

    Just my thoughts.

  25. Ajaxxx:

    Bonner doesn’t have a high number of ethnic voters that I’m aware of ?
    And if it does, it would be asian rather than italian/mediteranian voters.

    Neighbouring Moreton contains Sunnybank which is the Chinese capital of Queensland.

    Being the geek that I am, I have the ABS stats for every seat at home, however it is from the previous census that didn’t include Bonner..

  26. I crunched the 2001 census numbers suburb by suburb and came up with the following stats for number of residents born overseas – not a perfect indicator of ethnicity, of course:

    Bowman area: 17.0%
    Griffith area: 20.7%
    Moreton area: 24.0%
    Bonner total: 20.2%
    National: 21.9%

  27. RE Bonner & Bowman
    Labor had a poor result in Queensland in 2004
    the result in Bonner a Labor loss was unexpected
    Bowman with no serious ALP candidate (like Canning WA) swung about
    9% against Labor.
    probably Bonner is a Labor seat & Bowman is not as Liberal
    as 2004 figures suggest will depend on the election climate

  28. Sciacca having a strong personal vote in 2004 election at the northern end is doubtful. He was a lazy and complacent member who had lost interest in grass roots campaigning long before he lost the seat. Rea’s support in the southern end of the seat should be decent given her BCC role and the benefits of a strong personal vote for local government incumbents. The smart money is on Rea. Pity Con didn’t tap the mat earlier. Rea would’ve had a better chance of holding the seat.

  29. Brisbane South residents would concede that Labor Councillor Kerry Rea is not particularly popular. As quoted in The Courier Mail a few weeks ago, she considers her councillor position “pretty much full-time”, which is an absolute insult to her true position as councillor of the Holland Park Ward. Residents of Bonner will see that if she is truly serious about winning the seat in the upcoming election, she must quit her role on council. Ross has a strong personal vote in 2004, and furthermore, has a strong relationship with the Family First Candidate, which tend to draw alot of first preferences (due to the Mansfield Bible Belt area in Bonner). It is most likely Ross will pick up these first preferences. Additionally, this $24,000 which he paid to the Finance Department was actually re-embursed back to him as credit in his federal account, as he didnt actually have to pay the money back. The AFD is really meddling around with Ross and the supposed misuse of printing funds.

  30. Hi there. I live in this seat & my gut feeling is that Vasta is going to lose this seat this election. The so called “printing scandal” is about the only thing Vasta is known for – unfortunately. Not what i would consider a high profile candidate. Given that most people are cynical when it comes to politics should this “affair” not be cleared up before the election then i believe it will prove to be detrimental to Ross Vasta at the forth coming election. It is really strange that the AFP doesn’t seem to be moving alot faster on this & the electorate will see this as stalling of sorts.

    Also with regards to the maps above can someone pls elaborate on what the actual numbers mean?


  31. Vasta himself it is rumoured has conceded the seat,even to the ALP candidate Kerry Rea.
    I’ve lived in this part of the southside all my life(50+ years)We’ve been in Griffith and Bowman in the past and are now in Bonner since the re-distribution.
    I can assure you all the Bible Belt days of Mansfield are long gone and this area is Labor territory now.Courtesy of Goss and Beattie.The local ALP member,Reeves has a habit of increasing his vote every election.
    In the next federal poll,this seat will return to the ALP,lock,stock and barrel,you can count on it.

  32. In support of the comment above from Bob from Bonner, I can report that yesterday afternoon and this morning I spied 6 signs for Kerry Rea in people’s front yards and none for anyone else.

    I deliberately went through some relatively wealthier streets in Mansfield on my walk this morning, as well as past some houses that have had Liberal signs in past elections.

    Other than a mail-out on Commonwealth letterhead there appears to be no effort or funding directed here at all by the Liberals.

  33. I definitely agree with the last comment by Fargo. The Libs seem not to bothering campaigning at all. While Rea is phoning all the residents of Bonner and talking to them about what they belive are issues, Vasta’s barely trying. All I’ve heard from him is some lame radio ad on b105. Oh, and to LiamB, she has now resigned as counciller due to a lot of negative publicity, time that needed to be spent campaigning and the effort of raising two school aged kids.


  34. I must admit I am getting tired of all this material from Mr Vasta bagging unions . In the 3 years he has been there our household has never seen him I am a swinging voter , but a union member , and with the employer I have , it pays to be a member .

    Its time for change in Bonner and the country too .

  35. I wrote a few days ago about my intention to vote ALP , and from this time I have heard the various promises about what was going to be spent . But I must admit the promise of $180,000 to the Hemmant Marina by Mr Vasta and his party is simply spending money on a small section of the Bonner electorate, what a waste . I don’t have a boat and can’t afford one and neither can my friends. I understand its the Federal Government that controls Doctor places and funding , I would have thought it far better to spend the money on more needy causes instead of a Marina . Well its confirmed my intention to vote for change. Its a bit like all these letter I am getting from Mr Vasta telling that Unions thugs will be running the country , maybe they won’t waste money on Marina’s .

    Yes its certainly time for change in Bonner

  36. I’m volunteering for Kerry Rea, we’ve been doorknocking the so called ‘Liberal heartland’ in the middle of this seat and the 50-50 areas in the South. The response has been great in most areas, Wakerley and Mt Gravatt feel like Labor territory now and the Carindale/Mansfield/Belmont areas, while they are clearly more conservative than the North and South parts of the electorate, seem to be looking like they might move a few points closer towards the 50% mark. So far, i’ve spoken with a fairly even number of Liberal/Labor voters (maybe 53-47 Liberal, although we’re mainly doorknocking near the 58-63% Lib booths from last time) with most of the swinging voters leaning Labor this time. Personally, i’m yet to speak with anyone who voted for Sciacca who plans to vote for Vasta this time, but i’ve talked with at least three or four people who voted for Vasta and plan to vote for Rea this time. I don’t think the swing will trump the statewide average necessarily, but it’ll be more than sufficient for Kerry to win the seat. I’m expecting 53-56% Labor 2pp on election day in Bonner. Kerry’s a great candidate and she’ll attract a massive personal vote after a term or two – I think she may even do what Kevin Rudd did in Griffith and turn Bonner into a safe Labor electorate over time.

  37. In any case, from my time spent doorknocking, doing postal votes, events, etc out and about in the electorate, i’m going to predict that we pick up a 3-4% swing in the Labor suburbs in the North of the electorate, a 5-6% swing in the Liberal voting booths near the middle and a 6-7% swing in the Mt Gravatt area down south. Everyone I speak with is saying that they have been visited by the Your Rights At Work campaign and contacted by the Kerry Rea campaign but all they have received from Vasta is a bunch of glossy anti-union mailouts. I think the Libs have given up on Bonner and are busy trying to defend Bowman and Blair and maybe Moreton.

  38. Well, apparently Vasta has conceded defeat before election day, i’ve heard from good sources that he’s given up and privately conceded defeat. We’ve got this one.

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