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.