Seat du jour: Flynn

For the second election in a row, a new seat has been created in Queensland to accommodate the state’s ongoing population explosion. As is often the case with new seats, Flynn is an ungainly entity made up of leftovers with no perceptible community of interest, covering areas which had previously been in Hinkler, Maranoa, Capricornia and Wide Bay. Starting from the industrial city of Gladstone on the coast, it extends inland through through a thin strip of territory including Blackwater, Emerald, Barcaldine, Longreach and Winton. It was originally proposed that the seat be called Wright, in honour of the poet Judith Wright, but objections were raised that it might be thought to refer to Keith Wright, the one-time state Opposition Leader and federal Capricornia MP who was imprisoned on child sex charges. Much of the electorate is heartland territory for the Nationals, whose two-party vote in 2004 topped 80 per cent at the pastoral settlements of Springsure, Rolleston, Taroom and Wandoan, contributing to an overall notional margin of 7.9 per cent. However, there are two centres that go heavily against the grain: Gladstone, home to about a quarter of the electorate’s voters, and the coal mining town of Blackwater 200 kilometres inland. The 2004 election produced heavy swings to the Nationals in the area which had been covered by Maranoa, and very substantial ones in the coastal area from Hinkler. However, Labor reversed the trend in the area which was transferred from Wide Bay to Hinkler and Capricornia by the 2003 redistribution, which can be explained by the loss of Warren Truss’s personal vote. Maps below show two-party vote and swing results at booth level, with the size of the numbers varying to indicate to number of votes cast. The vote result map is overlaid with the boundaries at the 2004 election, while the swing map is overlaid with those from 2001.

With the notionally Nationals-held new seat looming as a crucial contest at the coming election, the party asked Senator Barnaby Joyce to consider throwing his hat into the ring, but the offer was declined. The ensuing preselection vote was won by Glenn Churchill (right), police officer and Banana Shire mayor, ahead of Baptist minister Roger de Lafontaine and company director Kym Mobbs. Churchill’s local government background has given him a platform to campaign on the locally potent issue of council amalgamations, which will cut the number of councils in Flynn from 28 to nine. The Liberals have also chosen to field a candidate despite the area’s history as Nationals territory, leading to conjecture that vote-splitting will harm the Coalition’s chances. According to Mark Ludlow of the Financial Review, the Liberals approached “up to 40 people” in search of someone who would agree to run before landing on Jason Rose, described in the Sydney Morning Herald as “local manager of the Pirtek hydraulic hose group”.

Labor’s candidate is Gladstone councillor and solicitor Chris Trevor (left), who as candidate for the state seat of Gladstone did very well to reduce independent MP Liz Cunningham’s margin from 11.2 per cent to 2.0 per cent. Trevor was chosen after an eventful preselection process in which the nod was initially given to Gladstone businesswoman Jennifer Algie. The Right-backed Algie had been narrowly defeated in a local party ballot by the Left’s Danial Rochford, but this was overturned when the state party’s administrative committee upheld a challenge to the eligibility of six preselectors. When Algie withdrew in February for family reasons, reports circulated that Kevin Rudd had directed the federal executive to overrule plans for a local party vote, ensuring that Trevor was nominated ahead of Rochford. The party insisted this was not the case and that a local ballot would in fact proceed, but Trevor was ultimately left unopposed when Rochford withdrew.

Flynn has so far been spared the attention of public opinion pollsters, but Labor strategists quoted by Dennis Atkins of the Courier-Mail in early October spoke of “two party preferred votes north of 55 per cent” in regional Queensland. Madonna King also wrote in the Courier-Mail that Labor reckoned Flynn and five other Queensland seats to be “in the bag”, which Liberal observers “struggled to dispute”. Both sides have targeted Flynn with promised upgrades to the Bruce Highway, which runs through the electorate on its way from Brisbane to Cairns. In early October, the government promised to spend $2 billion out of a $5 billion national infrastructure package upgrading the road. A week earlier, Shadow Roads Minister Martin Ferguson signalled that a Labor government would prioritise upgrading the highway as far north as Gin Gin.

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.

39 comments on “Seat du jour: Flynn”

  1. Not one on my list of probables but not outside the realms of possibility if a big swing is on in QLD with a ‘domino effect’ : no clear indicators of anything like that yet up here.

  2. If Labor wins this seat, it will win 100 seats.

    It’s possible, but you wouldn’t bet your mortgage* on it.

    * Now harder to pay, because of Howard’s interest rate increase.

  3. I can see the ALP doing OK in this seat. The key for them is the Gladstone end and the coal mining towns of Moura, Blackwater and Emerald. These areas have never seen a determined, well resourced campaign for their vote, but will do so now. Workchoices, and coal loading and rail infrastructure along with the Bruce Hwy upgrades will be big vote pullers.

    Gladstone and the coal towns have a large union infrastructure in place to assist in any decent campaign.

  4. William, is there any chance of migrating the Bennelong seat du jour back to here? It’s a shame that it’s kind of disappeared over at the Crikey site.

  5. Actually, looking at the swings, there’s some votes out west in this electorate (Longreach/Barcaldine) for Labor to pick up. Though I’d guess that’s the area where the council amalgamations are actually relevant.

  6. This is a seat that Labor should be trying to win. This country needs some new provincial representation in government. The battlers in these places have got sweet f.a. from the Nats. Chris Trevor had a practice run in the state election. I got on at $2.80 with a modest bet. If not a Labor win, it will be one of those that remain in doubt at close of counting on Nov 24. Figured I’d get my monies worth with it being one to watch during the night.

  7. As a former Biloela boy, and because of historic Barcy, I’d love to see this seat go to Labor, but it will be tough. Labor has a large constituency here with the mining areas and Gladstone; and out west in the pastoral areas the workers outnumber the graziers. Closer to the coast though, many small farms and stations which would usually be the National heartland here – but a lot of the farmers would be hurting and heavily in hock to the banks.

  8. #14 MC – I didn’t put the house on it. That went on Maxine McKew, figuratively speaking 🙂

    I guess the markets reflect the fact that the majority of the population think Labor will win, but are nervous about exactly which seats after the first dozen or so more obvious ones. I put similar amounts on Sturt, Petrie and Ryan as I did on Flynn. I reckoned two of them would fall if Labor’s vote holds. I guess that suggests that I see Flynn as a 50:50 proposition. It probably depends a fair bit on whether Labor really target the seat or not. If they don’t, well they’ll lose it by 1 or 2 percent.

  9. Biloela swung to Labor because in shifted into Capricornia for the 2004 election, the swing was a result of the campaigning skill of the labor member for capricornia Kirsten Livermore.

  10. CHURCHILL, Glenn (NAT) 1.60
    TREVOR, Chris (ALP) 2.20

    “I got on at $2.80 with a modest bet. If not a Labor win, it will be one of those that remain in doubt at close of counting on Nov 24. Figured I’d get my monies worth with it being one to watch during the night.”

    You’re not the roughest now, Ed. Kevvie’s Queensland boy made good appeal is worth a couple of pecentage points to Chris Trevor in a parochial seat like this. It’s about time pollsters started asking voters north of The Tweed:

    “Do you think it’s time Queenslanders had their first ever Prime Minister?”

  11. I think its a better chance for Labor than it appears on paper. Qld Nats have a lot of “DLP/NCC” in them and are more likely to turn against workchoices than their southern brethren. Adam pointed out in another thread that Bob Katter Senior started out in the ALP, went to the QLP after The Split and then to the Country Party. That wasn’t an uncommon progrssion, back in the day.

  12. Don’t expect the Nats to get anywhere near 80% in Rolleston or Springsure this year – an enormous coal mine opened between the two in 2005 and will presumably have brought in its share of Labor voters.

  13. Below are my wagers on Qld seats.

    Bowman, $500 at 1.95
    Dickson, $100 at 2.95
    Dickson, $200 at 3.15
    Fisher, $100 at 8.00
    Flynn, $100 at 2.75
    Flynn, $200 at 2.55
    Herbert, $200 at 2.00
    Hinkler, $200 at 3.00
    Leichhardt, $500 at 2.25
    Longman, $500 at 3.05
    McPherson, $100 at 4.75
    Petrie, $600 at 2.40
    Ryan, $100 at 3.05

    As you can see I got Flynn at 2.75 and then placed another $200 at 2.55. Most of these odds have shortened since I placed my wagers (on Nov 1/2).

    I’m happy with this tactic of betting across a range of seats rather than simply backing Labour to win.

  14. Sorry, I should add that these bets are all on the Labour candidates.

    Oh, and the Fisher bet I only placed yesterday, after it had shortened from 10.00 to 8.00. I’m restraining myself from placing another $100 on Fairfax which has shortened from 10.00 to 7.75.

  15. Flynn is one of the harder seats for me to pick in Qld.

    The Nationals margin does look a little inflated based on the 2004 election results, although the large rural areas imported from Maranoa will not make this seat easy for the Labor Party.

    If Labor can do well in Gladstone, I see no reason why they can’t win this seat, although there are plenty of seats in Queensland that will fall before this one.

  16. William @ 17, I’m glad collingwoodlegend could answer that one – I’m well out of touch with Bilo these days.

    Just looked at the Biloela 2006 census basic community profile; the employment stats are interesting with the biggest sectors in order: mining, manufacturing, retail; with 3% unemployment (compare to nearby Mt Morgan with 15%). The manufacturing is I think largely related to agriculture as Callide Valley is an intensive farming area.

    Wish I could find similar stats for the whole valley but there doesn’t seem to be that sort of breakdown. I remember the farming community as quite an ethnic mixture especially german, italian, russian, and greek. Doesn’t show up in the stats for the town which is largely anglo-celtic. Quite a diverse farming community and not stereotype rednecks by any means.

  17. If Bruce Scott and Paul Hinker have any sort of personal vote, then this seat is emminently winnable for Labor.

    I’m curious as to which other ungainly entities William might have been thinking of. I shall guess Pearce, Corinella, Longman and Blair.

  18. This seat is very winnable for labor. The 2004 result in Gladstone was relatively poor for the ALP. Chris Trevor is a proven ‘vote winner’ in that area, and while Glen Churchill may be the mayor of the Banana shire his popularity was extremely limited.

  19. Neville has a definite personal vote in Hinkler that will be lost. The Qld coal towns are an interesting example of a provincial working-class region that has actually moved towards the ALP in recent decades, National party voting farmers’ sons have been replaced by their Labor sons.

  20. I’d rate Labor favorite to take Flynn. This Division is mostly made up of parts of Hinkler and Paul Neville can’t transfer his personal vote. There was a big swing against the ALP in Gladestone in 2004. Labor has chosen well with its candidate and the three corner contest will hurt the Coalition.

    William, you mentioned the loss of Bruce Scott’s personal vote from those parts of the old Maranoa ( which makes up about a quarter of the seat).

    Several towns such as Baracaldine, Longreach and Peak Downs were transferred from the Labor seat of Capricornia to Maranoa in 2004 but which have now been put into Flynn. In 2004, there were 2PP swings to Bruce Scott of 15.2% in Baracaldine ( the birthplace of the Labor Party); and 12.6% in Peak Downs, an interesting case study from last time of the loss of a personal vote ( and where the ALP didn’t seriously contest Maranoa).

  21. Enemy Combatant (19), Queensland long ago had its “first ever prime minister” – Andrew Fisher (Labor, 1908-09, 1910-13, 1914-15 – though he was born in Scotland). It also had two short-term PMs, Arthur Fadden (Country Party, 1941) and Frank Forde (Labor, 1945).

    We in SA are still waiting for our first PM, though Bob Hawke was born in Bordertown.

  22. The ALP candidate in Maranoa in 2004 was the infamous Shane Guley, I know that a lot of ALP people in Barcaldine found him very hard to vote for. I think there is a “Guley factor” in the 2004 results for the central west booths, i.e. Barcaldine ( was around 65% alp in 2001), Longreach and Winton.

  23. William Bowe Says:
    November 7th, 2007 at 9:47 pm
    Any idea why Biloela might have swung 5 per cent to Labor in 2004, Wysiwyg?

    William, I think the reopening of the Callide A Power Station and expansion of Callide B Power station would have resulted in an increase of the number of traditional Labor voters in Biloela which would have increased the Labor vote there in 2004.

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