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.