Seat du jour: Blair

Blair was created at the 1998 election to accommodate the hinterland beyond Ipswich and the Sunshine Coast. Two subsequent redistributions have seen it take over Ipswich from Oxley, the most recent gain being balanced by the loss of northern conservative rural areas including Kingaroy, Nanango, Esk and Kilcoy to Maranoa, Dickson and Fisher. Despite the compensating gain of safe Liberal Boonah Shire from Forde in the south, the exchange has produced a dramatic 5.7 per cent cut in the previously safe Liberal margin.

Ipswich gained its Labor orientation as a result of post-war industrial expansion, its host electorate of Oxley being won from the Liberals by Bill Hayden in 1961. Pauline Hanson memorably demonstrated that Labor could not take Ipswich for granted when she won Oxley in 1996, scoring 48.6 per cent as an independent after the Liberals disendorsed her for writing to a newspaper advocating the abolition of government assistance for Aborigines. Hanson was then done a poor turn when a redistribution created Blair from Oxley’s areas outside Ipswich, and she opted to contest the new seat rather than Oxley or (more sensibly) the Senate. Former Labor Senator John Black observed that Hanson had high hopes for “the so-called religious Right, from the Lockyer and Brisbane Valleys and the South Burnett region”, which he described as “Queensland’s demographic equivalent of the US Appalachian Mountain states”. The major parties’ mutual decision to preference each other at Hanson’s expense may have sealed her doom no matter which way she jumped, although she still came within 3.3 per cent of winning the seat. Liberal candidate Cameron Thompson won from third place on the primary vote, overturning first the Labor candidate on minor party preferences and then Hanson on Labor preferences.

Before winning the Blair preselection at the age of 37, Cameron Thompson (left) had worked for the ABC and as a staffer to Northern Territory Chief Minister Shane Stone and Queensland Treasurer Joan Sheldon. Among his competitors for preselection was Jim Killen, former Gorton and Fraser government minister and member for Moreton, making a quixotic bid for a comeback at age 72 in the hope of taking on Hanson. Thompson went on to absorb most of the disappearing One Nation vote in 2001, when he won an 8.5 per cent two-party margin over Labor. A redistribution ahead of the 2004 election clipped this by 1.8 per cent, but Thompson handsomely consolidated his position with a 4.5 per cent swing that was evenly distributed across the electorate. This was curiously reversed in the eastern part of Ipswich that was then in Oxley, as demonstrated by the booth and swing results maps shown above. Labor has again nominated its candidate from 2004, Shayne Neumann (right), after a preselection process that failed to attract the attention of the media. Neumann is a family lawyer and partner in the Brisbane firm Neumann & Turnour.

The Coalition has targeted Blair as part of its “firewall” strategy to grimly hang on in enough seats to retain a slender majority. A key element of this strategy has been a risky decision to fund a $2.3 billion Ipswich Motorway bypass at Goodna in the neighbouring electorate of Ryan. Former Queensland Liberal Party vice-president Graham Young wrote on his Ambit Gambit blog that Cameron Thompson was the only local politician who supported the option over the alternative of widening the motorway. The Prime Minister’s support for the Goodna option was put down to factional alignments, in which Thompson and the Santo Santoro faction were favoured over Ryan MP Michael Johnson and state Liberal leader Bruce Flegg, factional moderate and member for the affected electorate of Moggill. Blair has also been the target of a promised $700 million in Auslink funding for a second crossing of the Toowoomba Range, located in neighbouring Groom, and $215 million for the intersection of the Warrego and Brisbane Valley highways. In the second week of the campaign, the Courier-Mail reported that Blair’s special treatment was “starting to cause angst in Coalition ranks”, with Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce complaining he “wouldn’t have minded a bit of that money in a few other places”.

Blair was one of four Queensland electorates covered by a Newspoll marginal seats survey in the third week of the campaign, which showed a combined swing across the four of 9.6 per cent. Writing in the Courier-Mail in early October, Madonna King reported that Liberal insiders were struggling to dispute Labor talk that Blair, Bonner, Moreton, Herbert and Flynn were “in the bag”.

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.

15 comments on “Seat du jour: Blair”

  1. Labors odds in Flynn are still $2.35, which are much more generous than the other 4 mentioned in the Courier-Mail. If its “in the bag” those are great odds!

  2. Well as usual QLD will be the crazy state in terms of results…

    I look forward to seeing the coverage watching the QLD conservatives offer up excuses….

  3. This is one of the seats we are going to deliver to Kevin07 on 24/11,along with some other surprises like Bowman,Petrie,Flynn,Dawson,Herbert and Leichhardt,and that’s before we get to the marginals.
    Yep,a Queenslander for PM,elected.History is being made,and Queenslanders are going to make sure they are a part of it.

  4. “The Coalition has targeted Blair as part of its “firewall” strategy to grimly hang on in enough seats to retain a slender majority.”

    I can’t believe Team Rodent pays amateurs like Crosby Textor all that good money for advice about how not to get burnt in seats that will be wasted come Ash Saturday.
    CBet Blair:
    NEUMANN, Shayne (ALP) 1.16
    THOMPSON, Cameron (LIB) 4.50

    The Rat Army have lacked a competent War-Room General ever since Arthur S. walked. Just another little something that El Rodente has got to be sorry about, I guess. But not apologetic of course.

  5. Impossible to believe that Flynn is ‘in the bag’, Blair, Bonner and Moreton certainly but not Flynn. I think Dawson is better bet than Flynn, especially with the auditr report leaving a big pile of poo at Deanne’s feet.

  6. I think Rudd’s announcement on ethanol today may well bring Dawson right into play. Maybe Hinkler as well!! Howard used to be a strong proponent of ethanol usage a few years ago. Another Rudd wedge?

  7. Am I right the Liberals have spent a lot of money in Blair to save Cameron Thompson? It doesn’t seem to be working. I’d argue his 5% margin is inflated, and the redistribution made the seat much more winnable for Labor.

  8. Would it be fair to suggest that the only Queensland seats that are completely out of calculations are Maranoa, Groom, Moncrieff and Fadden?

  9. I suspect the coalition might just hold Blair and Flynn. I’ve got a theory that the swing to the ALP will be un-even with the rural areas swinging less than urban.

    People should keep more of an eye on seats like Ryan and Bowman.

  10. Flynn perhaps, Speaker. But the Blair prediction goes against all the evidence we have to hand.

    For what it’s worth, this is my Queensland breakdown:
    Definite: Bonner, Moreton, Blair, Herbert
    Probable: Petrie, Flynn, Bowman, Leichhardt
    Close: Longman, Ryan, Forde
    Outside chances: Hinkler, Dickson, Dawson
    Freak chances: Wide Bay, Fisher, Fairfax, McPherson
    Impossible: Fadden, Groom, Moncrieff, Maranoa

  11. Charlie just about right,with three of the probables moving steadily to the definate side of the ledger in the last couple of weeks.Dawson has only gone into freefall in recent times as well.But I have heard on reasonably good authority that Peter Slipper isn’t travelling very flash at the moment either.He’s in front still,just.But there’s still another week to go,don’t forget.

  12. I rate 6 seats in the bag for Labor in QLD (Bonner, Moreton, Blair, Ryan, Bowman and Herbert), with others to watch including Petrie, Dickson, Leichardt and Longman. As I opined before the election campaign proper, 6-10 ALP gains in QLD.

  13. I would not be putting too much money on the “Wolfdene Dam killer”, as I think the silent majority may spike his tyres. People do not forget who put South Qld in the prediciment they are in now.

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