A look at two seats in very different parts of Queensland which the Liberals are reckoned to be in serious danger of losing, despite double-digit margins. Leichhardt covers Cairns and the Cape York Peninsula, combining naturally marginal Cairns with strongly conservative Cooktown and rock-solid Labor indigenous communities to the west and north. The seat has the nation’s third highest proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, behind Lingiari in the Northern Territory and Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. Its other distinguishing features are a lare number of voters over 55, reflecting the popularity of Cairns as a retirement haven. With all three local state seats held by Labor, Leichhardt is considerably less secure for the Liberals than the 10.3 per cent margin makes it appear, particularly in light of the looming retirement after 11 years of sitting member Warren Entsch.
Leichhardt was created in 1949, Cape York Peninsula having previously been in Herbert until 1934 and Kennedy thereafter. It was won narrowly by the Country Party at its first election, but fell to Labor in 1951 and stayed with them until the Queensland wipeout of 1975. It has since changed hands along with government in 1983, when the seat was lost by the Nationals, and 1996, when it was won for the first time by the Liberals. New member Warren Entsch suffered only a 0.5 per cent swing with the 1998 correction, and subsequently built his margin up to double figures with swings of 2.3 per cent and 3.6 per cent. With Entsch’s retirement the Liberals have nominated businesswoman Charlie McKillop (left), while Labor has again nominated 2004 candidate Jim Turnour (right), an agricultural consultant and former staffer to Senator Jan McLucas.
Reports emerged in late September that the Liberals were continuing to beg Entsch and a number of other departing members to reconsider their retirement plans. Lisa Allen of the Financial Review quoted a Liberal source lamenting the loss of Warren Entsch’s 98 per cent name recognition in the electorate. By early October, Madonna King was reporting in the Courier-Mail that Labor considered the seat to be in the bag, which Liberal insiders struggled to dispute. This was supported by Tony Wright of The Age, who wrote later in the month that the Liberals regarded the seat as a lost cause. None of this was supported by last week’s Cairns Post poll of 310 respondents, showing McKillop on 41 per cent, Nationals candidate Ian Crossland on 6 per cent and Jim Turnour on 36 per cent. A similar poll published on September 22 had Turnour on 44 per cent, McKillop on 37 per cent and Crossland on 5 per cent.
The western Brisbane seat of Ryan was created in 1949 and currently covers the suburbs on the north bank of the Brisbane River to the west of the city, from St Lucia and Indooroopilly through Fig Tree Pocket and Moggill to Karana Downs, extending across D’aguilar Range to Peewee Bend and The Gap. The seat has been easily won by the Liberals at every general election since its creation, being held by Nigel Drury until 1975 and John Moore thereafter. After serving as Defence Minister in the early years of the Howard government, Moore retired in early 2001, precipitating a by-election which produced a 9.8 per cent swing to Labor and a narrow victory for their candidate Leonie Short. While this provoked much excitement in Labor ranks at the time, it in no way proved a pointer to the election held nine months later, at which the seat was recovered for the Liberals by Michael Johnson (left), a 34-year-old Hong Kong-born Cambridge-educated barrister of part Chinese extraction. Johnson had nominated for preselection at the by-election but was compelled to withdraw as he had not sorted out his British citizenship issues, the dubious prize going to former state party president Bob Tucker. Rivalries that simmered during this contest boiled over during the re-match, with Tucker successfully taking Supreme Court action against a move by the state executive to bypass a local branch plebiscite and install Right candidate Matt Boland. The plebiscite was duly held but Tucker was defeated by Johnson, who was widely accused of branch stacking.
Over and above the general difficulties facing the Liberals in affluent city seats, Ryan is thought to be in danger due to the government’s determination to build the Goodna bypass in the electorate’s far south, which has voters in the affected area complaining the value of their homes will be halved. The bypass was favoured over the almost universally preferred option of widening the Ipswich Motorway, with a view to shoring up the Ipswich-based seat of Blair. As Graham Young of Online Opinion puts it: People in Ipswich refer to the current motorway, which serves as their major link to Brisbane, as a carpark, and people in the western suburbs of Brisbane are happy to live in a quiet cul-de-sac and don’t want another link road with connections to them put through their area. The Prime Minister’s support for the bypass was put down to factional alignments, in which Thompson as a member of Santo Santoro’s faction was favoured over Michael Johnson and Bruce Flegg, the moderate state party leader and member for the corresponding state seat of Moggill. In early October, Michael McKenna of The Australian reported that the Liberals’ internal polling was worse in blue-ribbon Ryan than in any other Coalition-held Queensland seat, apart from Bonner. On Tuesday, the Courier-Mail cited leaked Labor research which had the party extremely confident of its chances of taking the seat. Labor’s candidate is Ross Daniels (right), Queensland University of Technology lecturer, former international chairman of Amnesty International and president of the Queensland Council of Social Services.