Local government is where this website normally draws the line, but there is one exception: Brisbane City Council, an entity unique in Australia in that it covers most of the metropolitan area and controls services such as public transport and water. Most importantly, its elections are rigidly partisan affairs which a psephologist can make sense of even without a local’s understanding of the issues and personalities. The election to be held on Saturday is of special interest because, as is so often related, the Brisbane lord mayoralty is the highest office in the land still held by a Liberal. Campbell Newman came to the position at the 2004 election after defeating Labor incumbent Tim Quinn, who had succeeded 12-year veteran Jim Soorley upon his retirement a year earlier. Soorley was preceded in turn by Sallyanne Atkinson, the only Liberal lord mayor prior to Newman, whom Soorley defeated in 1991. Labor’s candidate this time is Greg Rowell, a Property Council of Australia policy adviser and former state cricketer who was not a member of the party when it head-hunted him last May.
Of equal interest is the election for 26 ward councillors, who continue to be elected through a single-member electorate system that freezes out minor parties and independents even more effectively than the federal and state lower houses. Remarkably, Labor was able to win 17 of these wards at the 2004 election despite losing the lord mayoralty, the remaining nine going to the Liberals. This was caused not by vote-splitting among tactically minded Brisbane voters, but by a natural gerrymander which leaves Liberal votes locked up in very safe wards in the west of the city. Labor in fact scored 48.4 per cent of the total two-party preferred ward vote, only slightly better than Tim Quinn’s 47.5 per cent for the lord mayoralty. The split outcome has produced a curious division of official roles, with Labor holding six of the eight positions on the civic cabinet. The two Liberals are the lord mayor and his deputy, Wishart ward councillor Graham Quirk. The title of Opposition Leader is held by a Liberal, Jane Prentice.
A poll conducted by Galaxy and published in the Courier-Mail the Sunday before last showed Campbell Newman set for a landslide re-election with a primary vote of 59 per cent to Rowell’s 30 per cent, translating into 63-37 on two-party preferred. However, a separate question on ward voting intention had the gap at a mere 52-48. I personally find a disparity of this size very hard to believe, and point to the fact that polls of Senate voting intention greatly exaggerate the level of split voting. I suspect the poll has picked up a real sentiment that Labor does not need to be given yet more power along with general satisfaction with Newman, and that this will translate into a strong Liberal performance on the wards as well as the mayoralty. UPDATE: A dissenting view from Brisbane local Mark Bahnisch at Larvatus Prodeo.
The Liberals have further been assisted in this regard by last year’s redistribution, which went some way to redressing the imbalance by abolishing five Labor-held wards (East Brisbane, Runcorn, Acacia Ridge, Grange and Dutton Park) and creating two notionally Liberal ones among the replacements. The only drawback for the Liberals is that formerly blue-ribbon Wishart has become greatly more marginal, though not to the extent it is likely to be in danger in this election. UPDATE: As Antony Green‘s post-redistribution calculations make clear, the same goes for Toowong. The map below shows both new and old boundaries, the latter colour-coded in shades of red and blue to indicate Labor and Liberal margins in 2004 you can toggle between the two by clicking on it.
|Click on image to toggle between 2008 and 2004 ward boundaries|
I have made rough calculations of post-redistribution ward margins where it seemed worth the effort. Reflecting this roughness, I have only provided post-redistribution margins rounded to the nearest 0.5 per cent. It’s possible that a glaring error or two was made in this process, so anyone who thinks my margin estimates don’t sound right is encouraged to let me know.
Tennyson (New ward: approx. Liberal 1.5%): The new ward of Tennyson has been formed from Walter Taylor’s territory south of the river, along with the south of abolished Dutton Park and parts of western Moorooka, eastern Jamboree and south-western East Brisbane. Liberal candidate Nicole Johnston faces Labor’s Stephen Gay, both of whom are newcomers.
Parkinson (New ward: approx. Labor 2.0%): The new ward of Parkinson has been formed from the the bulk of abolished Acacia Ridge, along with the south-east of Richlands. The Liberals have nominated Angela Owen-Taylor, a staffer for state MP Jann Stuckey who contested Acacia Ridge at the last three elections. Labor’s Acacia Ridge councillor, Kevin Bianchi, is retiring; their candidate for Parkinson is Linda Paton.
Karawatha (New ward: approx. Labor 2.5%): Karawatha has been created from roughly equal remnants of two abolished Labor wards, Runcorn (margin 2.2 per cent) in the north and Acacia Ridge (3.8 per cent) in the south. It will be contested for Labor by Runcorn councillor Gail McPherson, who won preselection over Left rival David Forde, a former staffer to Health Minister Stephen Robertson. The Liberal candidate is John Olive.
Marchant (Approx. Labor 2.5%): The redistribution has pushed this ward southwards, adding the northern part of abolished Grange (whose sitting Labor councillor Maureen Hayes is not contesting the election) along with a smaller area of McDowall to the west. In the north, Zillmere and eastern Aspley have been ceded to Bracken Ridge. The changes have slightly reduced Labor councillor Faith Hopkins’ 3.8 per cent margin to around 2.5 per cent. The Liberal candidate is real estate salesperson Fiona King.
Holland Park (Approx. Labor 3.0%): The redrawn ward of Holland Park takes in more voters from the abolished East Brisbane (the western remainder of which has gone to the new ward of The Gabba) than from pre-redistribution Holland Park. The exchange of strong Labor territory in the south for marginal East Brisbane has produced a margin of around 3.0 per cent compared with 5.6 per cent before the redistribution. Holland Park was held for Labor by Kerry Rea until October, when she resigned to successfully contest Bonner at the November 24 federal election. Rea’s short-term vacancy was filled by Robbie Williams, Brisbane’s first indigenous councillor, despite the fact he had been preselected for Wishart. Williams died from a heart attack on December 20, and the seat has since been left vacant. The Labor candidate was and remains Catherine Bermingham, currently councillor for East Brisbane, who settled for Holland Park after losing her preselection bid for The Gabba. The Liberals have again nominated their candidate from 2004, human resources manager Ian McKenzie.
Morningside (Approx. Labor 4.5%): Morningside has exchanged a small part of its south (to Holland Park) for a new area in the east (from Doboy), with little effect on the margin. Their incumbent councillor is Shayne Sutton, a Labor Unity player reportedly set to succeed disgraced former minister Pat Purcell in the safe seat of Bulimba at the next state election. The Liberals have nominated Melina Morgan, who ran for Greenslopes at the 2006 state election.
Doboy (Approx. Labor 5.0%): The only change to this ward has been the loss of a small area at Cannon Hill to Morningside. Incumbent John Campbell faces Liberal challenger Glen Ryan, who ran in Mansfield at the 2006 state election.
Wynnum-Manly (Labor 5.8%): Unchanged by the redistribution, Wynnum-Manly has been held for Labor since 1994 by Peter Cumming, who is again seeking re-election. Ross Vasta won the Liberal nomination ahead of rival Jeremy Knight at a preselection vote on December 12, three weeks after his defeat in Bonner at the November 24 federal election.
Northgate (Approx. Labor 6.5%): The redistribution has added a small area in the south-east of Marchant, boosting Labor’s margin by a little over 0.5 per cent by my reckoning (the Courier-Mail maintains that the margin is still 6 per cent). Incumbent Kim Flesser will contest the seat for Labor against Liberal candidate Kevin Parer. Flesser has had a few accidents in recent months: he was first exposed urging branch members to bombard Parer with phone calls about local issues to use up his time, and is currently the subject of a police investigation over allegations he stole Liberal election signs.
Moorooka (Approx. Labor 6.5%): Pushed south-eastwards by the creation of Tennyson and abolition of Acacia Ridge to the south, Moorooka absorbs the northern part of the latter along with a small part of western Holland Park and a tiny sliver of southern Dutton Park. The changes have had little effect on the margin. Incumbent Steve Griffiths will attempt to hold the seat for Labor from Liberal candidate Marie Jackson.
Jamboree (Approx. Labor 6.5%): Jamboree loses territory in the east to the new ward of Tennyson, along with a very small transfer to Richlands. The margin has been little changed. Incumbent Felicity Farmer will attempt to hold the seat from Liberal challenger Matthew Bourke, a butcher shop owner.
SAFE LABOR WARDS
The Gabba (New ward): The new ward of The Gabba has been formed from the northern parts of abolished East Brisbane and Dutton Park. Preselection was contested between the Labor councillors for those wards, Helen Abrahams and Catherine Bermingham, with Abrahams prevailing. Bermingham will instead contest Holland Park, vacated by newly elected federal Bonner MP Kerry Rae. The Liberal candidate is Matthew Myers.
Enoggera (Labor 9.5% on old boundaries): Labor incumbent Ann Bennison suddenly announced her decision to retire in January. This led to an acrimonious preselection stoush between the Left and Labor Unity (Right) factions, the former reportedly reneging on an informal deal by throwing their weight behind Andrew McMicking. Labor Unity’s Michael Dart, an adviser to state Treasurer Andrew Fraser, won the day by just half a vote under a weighted preselection process.
Deagon (Labor 11.0% on old boundaries): Labor incumbent Victoria Newton faces Liberal candidate Tony Feagan, a former police officer and operator of a Sandgate consultancy business.
Central (Labor 12.0% on old boundaries): Held for Labor by deputy mayor David Hinchcliffe.
Richlands (Labor 15.8% on old boundaries): Outgoing councillor Les Bryant, 68, was dumped for preselection in favour of party state secretary Milton Dick.
SAFE LIBERAL WARDS
Wishart (Approx. Liberal 6.0%): The redrawn Wishart consists in equal measure of the southern part of the old Holland Park, around Mount Gravatt and Mansfield, and the north of pre-redistribution Wishart, the south of which has gone to the new ward of Macgregor. This has dramatically cut the Liberal margin from over 15 per cent at the 2004 election, prompting deputy mayor Graham Quirk to take his business to Macgregor. The Liberal candidate for Wishart is Krista Adams, daughter of former Holland Park councillor Gail Chiconi. Adams was preselected ahead of teacher Andrea Caltabiano, wife of Michael. Labor originally preselected Robbie Williams, who became Brisbane’s first indigenous councillor when he filled the short-term vacancy created in Holland Park by Kerry Rea’s election to federal parliament, but he died of a heart attack on December 20. The nomination has now gone to his widow, Trish Williams, general manager of indigenous services association First Contact.
McDowall (Approx. Liberal 8.5%): The redistribution has boosted the Liberals out of the marginal zone in a ward they won by 4.0 per cent in 2004, adding the safe Liberal area of Bridgeman Downs from Bracken Ridge to the north. Incumbent Norm Wyndham will contest the seat for the Liberals; Labor’s candidate is Peter Eickenloff.
Macgregor (New ward: Approx. Liberal 9.0%): This new ward has been formed from the southern part of safe Liberal Wishart and the northern part of marginal Labor Runcorn. It will be contested for the Liberals by Wishart councillor Graham Quirk, the council Opposition Leader. Labor’s candidate is Jacques Develder, a manager at Westpac.
Toowong (Liberal 12.7% on old boundaries): Former lawyer Peter Matic replaced Judy Magub last May when she retired after 13 years. This occurred without a by-election under a rule allowing parties to nominate their own replacement if an election is due in less than a year. Mark Bahnisch in comments notes that the Greens like their chances here. UPDATE: Antony Green puts the post-redistribution margin at a mere 1.8 per cent, so I should probably have put this on the marginal list.
Hamilton (Liberal 16.3% on old boundaries): David McLachlan will attempt to hold the seat for the Liberals after retaining the ward for the Liberals at a 2006 by-election, polling 58.1 per cent to Labor’s 27.8 per cent and the Greens’ 14.1 per cent.
The Gap (Liberal 17.0% on old boundaries): Held for the Liberals by Geraldine Knapp.
Chandler (Liberal 17.9% on old boundaries): Won in 2004 by Michael Caltabiano, who resigned to successfully contest the Chatsworth state by-election in August 2005, only to lose the seat at the September 2006 election. The ensuing by-election for Chandler was a two-horse race between Liberal candidate Adrian Schrinner and Labor’s Dimitr Helios, which Schrinner won with 62.4 per cent of the vote.
Walter Taylor (Liberal 18.9% on old boundaries): Held for the Liberals by Jane Prentice, who became Opposition Leader when Carol Cashman retired in July last year.
Bracken Ridge (Liberal 19.2% on old boundaries): The Liberal incumbent is Amanda Cooper, who replaced the aforementioned Carol Cashman last June. The redistribution has moved the strong Liberal area of Bridgeman Downs to neighbouring McDowall.
Pullenvale (Liberal 29.0%): Unchanged by the redistribution. The Liberal councillor is former Opposition Leader Margaret de Wit.
UPDATE: Antony Green has a guide to the BCC election up and running.