Seat du jour: Moreton

This series will hopefully be picking up the pace in the next few weeks, hence the change of name (though it won’t quite be daily). Today we visit the inner southern Brisbane electorate of Moreton, held for the Liberals by Gary Hardgrave on a margin of 2.8 per cent. Moreton extends from the wealthy riverside suburbs of Sherwood, Chelmer and Yeronga southwards through Labor-leaning Moorooka and Archerfield, and on to Liberal-leaning Runcorn and Calamvale (see my 2004 booth result maps for Crikey here). The redistribution has produced a 1.4 per cent shift in Labor’s favour through an extension into the Labor-voting inner city at Annerley, along with a less consequential exchange of Algester for Karawatha in the south. This adds to the 1.7 per cent turn in Labor’s favour when the seat was substantially redrawn in 2004, ceding Mount Gravatt to newly created Bonner and acquring the area from Sunnybank to Calamvale in the south. In between came a 1.6 per cent swing to the Liberals at the 2004 election, an extremely modest result by Brisbane standards that can be attributed to a pro-Labor swing in the north, consistent with a national trend in inner-city areas.

Moreton has existed in name since federation, but it was based on the Gold Coast and Brisbane’s southern outskirts until McPherson was created in 1949. It then began its long drift north into the inner suburbs, a process that made the once safe conservative seat marginal. Labor’s first near-miss came with Jim Killen’s famous 130-vote win in 1961, achieved with help from Communist Party preference leakage, which allowed the Menzies government to survive with a two-seat majority. Labor would not get over the line until 1990, when Liberal veteran Don Cameron was defeated by Garrie Gibson. Gibson held on in 1993 before succumbing to the Queensland Labor bloodbath of 1996, when Gary Hardgrave won the seat with a 4.9 per cent swing.

Hardgrave (right) came to parliament after a spell as media adviser to Senator David MacGibbon, having earlier been a disk jockey and reporter on the Channel Seven children’s program Wombat in the 1980s (those in the Poll Bludger’s thirty-something age cohort will better remember the puppet Agro, especially if they were privy to the outtakes videos compiled for Channel Seven’s staff Christmas parties). After surviving a 4.2 per cent swing in 1998 and consolidating by 1.9 per cent in 2001, Hardgrave was rewarded with the job of Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, to which he added Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in 2003. The earlier portfolios were exchanged for vocational and technical training after the 2004 election, but he was not reckoned a great success as a minister and was demoted to the back-bench in January, ostensibly so he could devote his energies to retaining his seat.

Hardgrave’s bad year continued when the Australian Federal Police raided his office in March, as part of an investigation into claims taxpayer-funded printing allowances were rorted to assist the Liberals’ state election campaign. Also targeted were two other members for dicey Brisbane seats, Bowman MP Andrew Laming and Bonner MP Ross Vasta. The AFP also interviewed Hardgrave’s electorate office manager, Peter Catanzariti, over the creation of a “phantom” staff position for a niece of Hardgrave’s partner Lorraine Ralph (who was herself contentiously given a job in Hardgrave’s office), which was funded from Laming’s payroll. According to The Australian, Catanzariti said in a statement that the worker told him she had never spoken to Laming, who nonetheless maintained she legitimately worked briefly in Hardgrave’s office on his own direction. Catanzariti was sacked two months later “without explanation”, although Hardgrave denied this was related to the AFP interview. After much criticism about the slow pace of the investigation, it was reported last fortnight that the AFP was finalising its brief for the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider whether charges would be laid.

Labor has again nominated its candidate from 2004, Graham Perrett (left), an adviser to the Queensland Resources Council who had earlier worked as a ministerial staffer and official with the Queensland Independent Education Union. Perrett won a preselection vote over Paul Crowther, who was backed by the Old Guard/Unity sub-faction of the Right, by 131 votes to 49. Crowther subsequently escaped expulsion from the party after going public with concerns over the preselection process, which saw six members disqualified from participating on the day before the vote. The six included Russell Carr, state secretary of the Left faction Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union and husband of state Environment Minister Lindy Nelson-Carr, who had participated in a preselection vote in another electorate five months previously. Crowther professed himself unconvinced by Carr’s insistence that he was not planning on lodging a vote.

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.

35 comments on “Seat du jour: Moreton”

  1. Hardgrave and Vasta are dead men walking. I doubt whether the Libs are taking these seats seriously anymore.

    I also think the laying of corruption charges (given Howard’s luck this past year I have little doubt it won’t happen) against the 3 QLD MPs would be absolutely devastating to the government’s re-election chances.

  2. My first marginal seat ever.

    I want a hospital, security of tenure for tenants, more public housing and a revamp of the Fairfield library with an extra area for the kiddies.

    More than happy to play my role in bringing this one home for the ALP.

  3. Basically, you’re open to being pork-barrelled…

    But I’m sure if and when it happens, you’ll be throwing tantrums about Howard’s “cynicism” and appeal to “greed”.

  4. ‘doctors wives in the north’ of the electorate? hard to find a doctor at present! the ‘north’ of the electorate, eg annerley, is very multicultural (due partly to large-scale refugee re-settlement). dominated by a fetid truck route lined only with op-shops, real estate agencies and car yards: think parramatta road between annandale and strathfield.

    no, brilliant background william. taught me stuff and i’ve lived here for years.

    mr hardgrave is, as one might expect from an ex-tv ‘personality’, a fair self-promoter, but been largely a time-server, and kept in his place for being a moderate. his opponent should win in a canter, though he’s completely unscintillating.

    each day i’m amazed at the number of ‘your rights at work’ stickers you see on cars in the electorate. dunno if that is a sign.

  5. I have always like Gary Hargraves, but Moreton looks gone, he has done well to hold this seat for as long as he has and from my understanding he is considered a good local MP, but in saying this I’m tipping a confortable win for the ALP.

    If I understand this part of Brisbane correctly the state seats in this area have been at the bedrock of support for Beattie.

    I’m tipping a 55-45 result. Kevin Rudd’s seat is next door and I can’t see anything in this area that would save Hardgraves if there was a swing on, but the tricky thing for the ALP is sometimes its harder to get the required swing in the marginals while safer seats move around.

  6. This should be the first seat to fall on election night. If it isn’t then the ALP has no hope.

    When will the DPP make a decision? Surely it will be before the election is called.

  7. William,

    Hardgrave was also a popular Qld Top 40 DJ in the Late 70’s/Early 80’s as well. mainly on 4IP (now 4TAB).

    Here is a pic of him doing his DR Spock Impression 🙂

  8. Thank you Graeme. I now see that I was a bit imprecise with the doctors wives remark – I gather this might be true around Chelmer and Sherwood, but not so much Moorooka. Annerley of course was largely (entirely?) outside of the electorate in 2004.

  9. Adam Says:
    August 18th, 2007 at 10:18 pm
    Ruddock has announced that all doctors’ wives will be placed under control orders until after the election. Apparently it was Brendan Nelson’s idea

    But will Mrs Nelson be exempt as she’s a “Doctor’s Wife” 🙂

  10. I’m glad I don’t live in a marginal seat. I would hate to have a bad hospital decision made and people I love die in it like will happen in Braddon.

    But the money would be good if only it got so desperate that they just gave handouts.

  11. No pork barrels for Moreton yet Graeme ?

    Richard Jones @ 329

    In the meantime, John Howard is upturning sackfuls of cash in every marginal like some demented Santa Claus. Every sack he empties adds pressure on interest rates. Treasury must be rolling their eyes. No wonder some conservative Liberals are going for the conservative Kevn Rudd. He makes John Howard look profligate.

    Could this be the ‘triangulation’ wedgie ? Rudd says “We will spend less of the budget surplus (alleged) than JWH in our election promises”, thus shifting toward the Right (small spending Govt’s traditionally associated with Right Wing Coalition policy) in a pre-emptive (clever) strike.

    Rudd knows Howard can’t go further to the right because he has to buy his way out of trouble in key marginal seats.

    In fact, he has to go left and become Whitlam, a big spending Government (in marginal seats) like “Santa Claus” on steroids. Sure, he is doing it from a surplus budget base, not making promises and then having to go overseas to borrow the money to pay for all this stuff. But , but will the electorate notice or care about the difference?

    Will this “scare the horses” into thinking his pork barrells are going to push interest rates up again, before or after the election and, hey presto, the ‘Howard battlers’ start to think he is a bigger economic risk than Rudd ? If Rudd capitalises on this madness, it is game over. Surely ?

  12. William – some of Annerley has been in Moreton for years. You’re right the more northerly and hence more city end came across.

  13. Bonner and Moreton are gone regardless of how well Labor do across the country as a whole and despite any backlash in Qld in response to Beattie’s council amalgamation plan (is that really biting as much as the papers are suggesting?). The seats are too marginal to survive the increase in the ALP’s popularity AND the Rudd Qld influence.

  14. Was listening to Insiders this morning and Glenn Milne let slip that internal Labor polling in Bennelong had McKew in front by 8 points as told to him by Laurie Brereton. That was a little slip that even Matt Price raised their eyebrows and said “Is that on the record”?

  15. William…an interesting analysis of Moreton. I seem to remember that Gary Hardgrave once skipped an event in honor of President Clinton when the latter visited in 1996 because he was alphabetically supposed to be seated next to Pauline Hanson and he didn’t like the idea. Don’t quote me on that one but I seem to remember reading that somewhere

    But I do know that Hardgrave did raise allegations against Hanson staffer John Pasquerelli – accusing Pasquerelli of inappropriate behavior toward one of his staffers – during the first term of the Howard government.

    Hardgrave always seemed to be one of the more decent members of the ‘class of 96’ and it is kind of sad to see him dragged down in these ethical impropriety allegations. I agree that, if Labor fails to win seats like Moreton, it does not have a good chance of winning government

  16. Moreton isnt a contest its a liberal retain after what krudd admitted to its the labor marginals that are the key seats now.

    The contest is over!!!

  17. If anyone is interested, my domain expired and will be renewed shortly (I hope).

    Oh, and some Moreton information (probably already covered by someone else):

    – Heavy chinese/asian population centered around the suburb of Sunnybank
    – Griffith University student population (may have been pushed into Bonner somewhat, unsure)
    – Ipswich Motorway is a big local issue
    – Every election Gary Hardgrave campaigns on reducing trucks etc in his electorate. Last election Labor made fun of him for it in radio advertisements.. something similar to “Didn’t he promise to reduce traffic last election and the one before that ?”

  18. I was campaigning for Hardgrave last Saturday and the reception from motorists and passing pedestrians was excellent.

    I think both Hardgrave and Vasta will keep their seats, particularly with the state of Rudd’s affairs and also the whole council amalgamations thing with Beattie.

    I guess the question for people in the seat of Moreton is whether or not they want another unionist as their member of parliament.

    There seems to be a influx of candidates in this years election and if Gary looses his seat, yet another Union Member will be ruining parliament.


  19. I was campaigning for Hardgrave last Saturday and the reception from motorists and passing pedestrians was excellent.

    We hate Prince George, we hate Prince George.

  20. As ever proven in more recent times, the challenge for the candidate will lie in those Runcorn / Sunnybank booths. If, however, these can be ‘won over’, then the incumbent will be left to ‘tell his story walking’.

    Curiously, I think any trend towards Labor in the northern parts of the electorate will be consolidated following Minister Andrews’ recent comments (concerning Somalian refugees). Additionally,there is a fair bit of ‘rubbing shoulders’ that goes on between the north-eastern fringes of Moreton and the ‘western’ edges of Griffith.

    The candidate may not be all that ‘glossy’, but the side light from the Opposition Leader does cast well upon him. Plus, the candidate — by my understanding — has pretty much committed himself to ‘the cause’ in the time that has elapsed between the last election and now, so his ‘profile’ — which arguably may have been his biggest issue last time around — may be less of an issue now.

    Besides . . . what sort of uniform swing are we looking at here? About 4.6 percent? That’s in those Runcorn / Sunnybank booths alone.

  21. I have just heard that Hardgrave is now playing the race card in local media about Africans in Annerley & Moorooka. How low can this man go?

  22. I’ve lived in Moreton the last 15 years (when not OS). Gary Hardgrave is fairly popular but I think he can’t hold on. Graham Perrett has much more presence this time around. A few high-profile visitors can’t have hurt; Maxine McKew opened his campaign office in May; Peter Garrett was here in July; and of course Kevin is next door. Stephen Conroy is coming 31 Oct which I would like to get to.

    I’ve only had 1 letterbox drop from the Libs (apart from the usual mailouts – important message from the prime minister etc.). Had a couple of letterbox drops from Labor and now started doing my area’s drops.

    The local rag Southern Star only seems to publish anti-Hardgrave letters (his Sudanese comments; all talk no action on high volume of truck trafiic; etc.). I find this interesting – they’re a Quest paper, I wonder what line their other papers are taking in other electorates?

  23. Hi Andrew, Sorry but I’m one of them there secular humanists (despite descending from a long line of Baptists); so I can’t support you. But I wish you the best in life, if not the election …

    I have a (lame) caption for the St George fox photo on your website: “Andrew avenges Pitt the Younger” (ok I said it was lame – but Charles James Fox is one of my greatest political heroes, have to keep his memory alive).

    BTW I suppose you know that Graham Perrett comes from St George?

  24. Thanks for the friendly sentiment Wysi (I can call you Wysi?), and for the caption, which I’ll add to the photo page presently. No, I had no idea Graham hails from St George. That inspires in me an interesting but unchivalrous caption of my own, which it may be better to keep to myself.

    Now I’m off to watch that young Moreton voters clip.


  25. I received one Hardgrave letter as opposed to about seven ALP letters during the campaign. Perret will win the seat more than comfortably, Hardgrave hasn’t even attempted to get off his ass. Good on the Greens candidate for Moreton, Emma Hine, too. I hope she does very well today.

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