Viva Brisvegas

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.

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.


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.


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.

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.

72 comments on “Viva Brisvegas”

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  1. Cross-commented at LP:

    Ok, just putting it out there but here are my picks:


    Tennyson: Could be very close. Interesting Stephen Gay is running for the ALP. He was responsible for the infamous defection of a bunch of AWU peeps over to the Queensland Left of the ALP back in 98. Not sure how much ALP HQ love there is for him. Will be a very close contest but I’m picking Nicole (the Lib) here.

    Parkinson: The Libs AOT will win this one. She has run for Acacia Ridge in every election for the last 12 years, progressively halving the margin. She is a strong campaigner so I expect her to pick this up.

    Karawatha: Very close. Despite the great hair and the admirable local profile Gail McP is in real trouble. My understanding is that many AWU types who live in the area are boycotting her campaign. Olive is running an ok campaign as well.

    Wishart: Very VERY close but I think the Libs will squeak home here. THe ALP have a great candidate but the Libs candidate is formidable as well with strong funding behind her. One to watch.

    McDowall: Safe as houses

    Macgregor: Safe as houses. Paul Norton over at LP can tell you many stories about Jacques Develder from his time on the Griffith Uni student council.

    Marchant: With Hayes’ retirement and a more vigorous Lib campaign I think this seat will fall to the Libs.

    Toowong: Will be closer due to the reasonable but I think matic will be comfortable.

    Hamilton: Safe as houses.

    The Gap: Safe as houses.

    Chandler: Safe as houses.

    Walter Taylor: Safe as houses.

    Bracken Ridge: Safe as houses.

    Pullenvale: The Wit machine will ensure this ward remains a Liberal ghetto.


    Holland Park: My home ward. Birmingham should retain this. The Lib candidate has run a lazy campaign. Coreflutes by the side of the road in the mornings don’t win a campaign.

    Morningside: Sutton should sneak home with a reduced margin. Interesting that the prefs are going against her.

    Doboy: Fairly safe ward for Labor. Uninspiring Lib candidate.

    Wynnum-Manly: Will be close but I expect the Vastinator to lose. Many libs resent his presence out in the far East and he is very poor at one on one campaigning.

    Northgate: Despite the scandals, Parer (son of party prez), won’t pick this up even though he has tried previously. He really isn’t a great candidate and lacks the work ethic and toughness of Flesser.

    Moorooka: Marie Jackson works hard but the Lib party organisation here is really lacklustre.

    Jamboree: Great enthusiastic Liberal candidate but I fear the margin may just be too great.

    The Gabba: THe only interesting thing about this ward will be watching who comes third.

    Enoggera: Safe as houses

    Deagon: Safe as houses

    Central: Safe as houses, again watch for who comes third.

    Richlands: I would be VERY surprised if the ALP lose this ward despite the scuttlebutt that a swing is on.

    Overall predicted Lib majority in council 14-12.

    Ok now watch me get it totally wrong on Saturday night!


    if I read those right brisbane is about twice the size of tassie ? Don’t have time to read it properly, just a scan.

    Big councils aren’t about efficency, they are about reducing accountability. Big councils don’t oppose developers as well as small ones do, nor react to voter concerns.

    I live at Mt Crosby. Once we were in Moreton Shire. Rates were $250/yr. They didn’t do anything but they didn’t bother us either. We were happy. Then the state gov stuck us in Ipswich, rates went to $1400/yr and they still didn’t do anything for us. We complained so much they stuck us in brisbane. Now rates are lower and we’re still ignored unless they want to come aggrovate us.

    By the way I’m a passive observer in all this. I vote for M. DeWitt despite her liberal alliance not because of it. I don’t vote ALP, Lib nor Green at State or Federal level. I read up on candidates stance and vote for the person – usually independant – who best matches my attitudes. Thing is I’m in one of the safest conservative seats in Qld, so my vote doesn’t count anyway… I am merely commenting on the mechanics not the politics.

    AVP: Whoever wins we lose 🙂

  3. Damian

    I understand the trouble with big councils, but IMO your rates example at Mt Crosby is exactly why amalgamations are needed. From an engineering POV lots of smaller fringe councils piggybank the infrastructure built and paid for by larger urban councils. Thus Moreton and many other smaller councils were effectively subsidised by Brisbane and Ipswich ratepayers, who paid for all the trunk services that everyone then uses. Water, roads and electricity are good examples. I appreciate that everyone has their own preference, but the truth is that small rural blocks cost far more to service than people who live on them are charged. I have done sums for State governments that showed rural residential blocks would face differential headworks charges in excess of $50000 per block if the costs were distributed equitably.

  4. Hm.

    Electricity isn’t supplied by the council, it’s state government. Also the power stations are south and west of me, and the hi vo lines run through Karana Downs.

    There are three classes of roads in Australia, Federal, State and Local. Local council roads don’t cross council boundaries usually.

    Water ? That was council owned, now taken over by the state, but Brisbane council admits they were selling it at a profit so if Moreton was buying from them it wasn’t subsidised. BTW I live 200 yards from Brisbane’s pumping station and water treatment works and Winenhoe was in either Moreton or Esk, can’t remember.. Brisbane’s main water infrastructure was built in the 1800’s by the state. I live in the middle of it and am well versed in the history. The last pipe was built in WW2 by the Americans and there has been little work in all the years I’ve lived here.

    If your talking about land size that’s a completely different matter. I am not privy to your calculations so I can’t argue about that, but land size, zoneing, new development vs established suburb, they are all seperate arguments to council size.

    The fact is Moreton was a rural council who charged low rates. I am prepared to believe the state gov was subsidising that, although I’d want to see the numbers, but I can’t see how Brisbane council was. We have a natural boundary around us (the river and the mountains), it’s really easy to see how services flow here. They all flow out, not in. I believe Moreton’s low rates were a product of limited services, they didn’t even patch the roads much.

    If I have misunderstood you and your saying Moreton was subsidised by the state government I would argue the average tax contribution of people around here to state and federal gov properly makes up for any rates shortfall.

    I accept there is potential economies of scale with larger councils. The trouble is:

    The natural extrapolation of that is to do away with local and state government altogether.

    It is difficult to reconcile democracy and efficiency. Which is more important and where sould the balance lie ?

    Those economies of scale are often not apparent in the aftermarth of amalgamation, while a loss of representation is.

    BTW I’m a mechanical engineer. Not a council civil eng but I have some understanding of the issues.

    There is another issue I have with this which is changing the subject somewhat. While I accept the dampening effect of representative democracy vs popular democracy I reject the proposition that the electorate are capable of hiring the government but not of infuencing policy during the governments term. If there is widespread strong and sustained opposition to a policy then by definition the electorate should be obeyed. That was evident in the last round of amalgamations (and the one in the 90’s). Even if that decision is incorrect at least it’s the electorates error (and they ultimately pay for it) not one forced on them by politicians who move on…

    Anyway…I’m getting well off topic again. 🙂

  5. I think that Brisbane should have two-tier local goverment.

    One city wide council including the Gold and Sunshine Coasts with control over water, transport (including trains)(exept local streets), general planning policy and other maters best delt with on a city wide basis.

    Two dozen or so suburban councils dealing with more local issues.

    The elections for the two tiers would be on different days.

  6. #55

    And keep the state government as well?

    isn’t that just adding yet another layer of administrative bulldust for no apparent gain?

  7. My local Labor candidate in Enogerra sent me (and I assume everyone else) a letter today. After spending what passes for a campaign bagging Can Do Campbell, today’s letter says –

    “My pledge to our community is that if Cambpell Newman is elected again tomorrow (sic) I will work with him to ensure our part of Brisbane continues to thrive and our community and our community remains a great place to live. PS Being your local representative means being above political differences to ensure our local community comes first.”

    Reading beyond the bare-faced hypocricy, it appears the ALP have run up the white flag on the Lord Mayoralty

  8. Thats very SAD FernyGrover. They know their going to get a thumping this Saturday so they are putting on their best stockings & lip stick & getting tarted up like a bunch of $2 hookers!

  9. Yep I’ve no doubt the ALP are in for a thumping tomorrow (as the above mentioned letter would testify) but it remains to be seen whether it’s enough of a thumping to lose them their majority in Council. Lord knows their harping, bitching, childish carryings on over the last 4 years should cost them several wards.

    Trouble is, the Libs have been no better and they don’t deserve to be the beneficieries of Labor’s appalling performance.

    Both parties deserve a whacking lesson that we’ve had enough shenanigans. We elect them to lead, and that means acting in the best, long-term interests of our communties. So this long-term Labor voter will be voting Green – and I won’t be giving preferences. It’s the only way to make them listen.

  10. Ferny Grover, I agree, I just couldn’t believe that letter. He has already turned his back on Rowell before election day! The labor guy lives in Bardon and so all his “our community” rubbish is pathetic. Ive also had the displeasure of meeting him and he comes across as arrogant.

  11. Ha Alderlian! I didn’t know young Mr Dart lived in Bardon. They must pay Labor apparatchiks well. It makes the hypocrisy of that letter all the more glaring. The trouble with Labor staffers is that politics is a career choice – it has nothing to do with principles or values. They could just as easily slip into the Liberal Party if it was in the best interests of their career.

    But Labor is the party of values and ideals – which means its supporters are just as likely to turn on them if we see those ideals being ignored or trampled on by those hell-bent on self-interest.

    So, it will be interesting to see if the ALPs large margin can save the non-resident Mr Dart in Enoggera.

    Folks, it’s time … to take our community back.

  12. Gold Coast has a high profile overt Liberal campaign for the first time. Thought I might vote Green in my division, alas not a candidate. Hope the Libs get pi**ed on from a great height, send em back to their burrows.

  13. Second only to Brisbane Council is Logan. Should be interesting to track also. Turnup is supposed to be poor in brisvegas but word is saying there may be some protesting re- Amalgamations with informals too!

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