Seat of the week: Fisher

Despite an avalanche of controversy, polling indicates Mal Brough will have little trouble winning the Sunshine Coast seat of Fisher from its equally contentious incumbent, Peter Slipper.

Fisher covers the southern part of the Sunshine Coast, from Caloundra north to Mooloolaba on the coast and inland to Maleny and the Glass House Mountains. It originally extended inland to Gympie and Kingaroy when it was created in 1949, but assumed a progressively more coastal orientation as a result of the area’s rapid development. The seat was a fiefdom of the Adermann family for the first 35 years of its existence, being held for the Country Party first by Sir Charles until 1972 and thereafter by his son Evan. Evan Adermann moved to the new seat of Fairfax in 1984, and Fisher was retained for the Nationals by Peter Slipper.

The seat was one of a number of gains for Labor in Queensland amid the debacle of the 1987 Joh-for-PM push, which had found an ardent proponent in Slipper. For the next two terms it was held for Labor by Michael Lavarch, in which time the eclipse of the Nationals progressed. A redistribution in 1993 made the seat notionally Liberal, prompting Lavarch to move to the new seat of Dickson. Slipper then made an improbable return to the seat as a Liberal, and enjoyed double-digit margins between a 14.0% swing in 1996 and the statewide crunch in 2007, when there was a 7.9% swing to Labor.

Slipper managed to win promotion to parliamentary secretary for finance and administration after the 1998 election, despite lingering memories John Howard may have had of 1987, but he was pushed aside to make way for Peter Dutton after the 2004 election. He became increasingly marginalised thereafter, copping an avalanche of bad press in the local Sunshine Coast Daily newspaper and receiving the smallest swing of any Queensland LNP candidate at the 2010 election, when his margin went from 53.5% to 54.1%. It was reported during the campaign that Howard government minister Mal Brough, who had lost his seat of Longman in 2007, had sought to have Slipper disendorsed in his favour, but that Slipper’s position was secured by the terms of the Liberal National Party merger which guaranteed endorsement to all sitting members.

With a clear expectation that he would not again win preselection, Labor identified Slipper as a weak link in the Coalition after losing its majority at the 2010 election, and bolstered its position slighty by successfully nominating him for the deputy speakership at the expense of Coalition nominee Bruce Scott. Shortly afterwards, Brough confirmed that he would contest preselection in the seat. In November 2011 the government went one better in persuading Slipper to take on the Speaker’s position at the expense of incumbent Harry Jenkins, resulting in his expulsion from the LNP and a fierce campaign against him from elements of the media, most notably Sydney’s News Limited tabloid the Daily Telegraph.

In April 2012, a staffer to Slipper, James Ashby, launched legal action claiming he had been sexually harassed by Slipper, and presented evidence purportedly showing Slipper had misused Cabcharge vouchers. The matter soon embroiled Mal Brough, who initially dismissed suggestions he knew of Ashby’s actions in advance before conceding he had met him on multiple occasions and sought legal advice on his behalf. In December 2012, a Federal Court judge dismissed Ashby’s sexual harassment charge on the grounds that it was an abuse of process in which Brough had been directly involved.

None of this prevented Brough from winning a strongly contested LNP preselection in July, after spearheading a vigorous local recruitment drive which reportedly doubled the local party membership. The preselection contest played out against a backdrop of conflict going back to Brough’s tenure as president of the Queensland Liberal Party before the Liberal National Party merger was effected, which saw Brough stand down from the position over dissatisfaction with the terms of the merger.

A surprise late entrant in the preselection race was James McGrath, who had been the director of the LNP’s hugely successful 2012 state election campaign and was thought to be set to secure preselection for the neighbouring seat of Fairfax. McGrath’s backers included Malcolm Turnbull, Joe Hockey and Julie Bishop. Brough was nonetheless able to win the support of more than half the 350 preselectors in the first round, and McGrath has since been accommodated with Senate preselection. Also in the field were Peta Simpson, director of a local recruitment agency, who had backing from Brough foe Barnaby Joyce; Richard Bruinsma, a former adviser to Slipper; and Andrew Wallace, a barrister.

Labor’s call for Brough to be disendorsed after the Federal Court ruling on the Ashby matter met short shrift from Tony Abbott, who contented that Brough had been “quite transparent and upfront about his involvement”. The following month, Slipper received a Federal Police summons concerning the allegations he had misused Cabcharge vouchers.

In the immediate aftermath of the Ashby ruling, a ReachTel automated phone poll of 661 respondents suggested Brough was unlikely to suffer electoral damage, putting him at 48.4% on the primary vote against a derisory for 2.7% for Peter Slipper (who remained publicly committed to seeking re-election as an independent), 21.2% for Labor, 11.7% for the Greens and 7.4% for Katter’s Australian Party. Brough was viewed favourably by 41.8% of respondents against 34.0% unfavourably, while the respective figures for Slipper were 6.9% and 75.5%. Brough’s involvement in the Ashby matter made 37.3% of respondents less likely to vote for him, against 39.8% for no difference and 22.6% going so far as to say it had made them more likely to vote for him.

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.

852 comments on “Seat of the week: Fisher”

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  1. Here’s another Queensland seat where the LNP is doing nicely despite the Slipper-Brough imbroglio and Can-do nothing right publicity.

    Where’s the swing?

  2. [Ruh roh! Fisher! Prepare for the conversation to get ugly!]

    Why would the conversation turn ugly?

    The only question for me about Fisher is whether Brough retains preselection. Although with the Ashby stuff going nowhere, it would seem that he will.

  3. [A gun was left in the bathroom of a Michigan public school by an armed guard paid to protect it, according to the school’s director. The Chatfield School, a charter school that teaches K-8 students, hired a retired police weapons instructor to provide armed protection after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary.]

    And the NRA response is….?

  4. Toorak Toff, in the old thread, cited Whitalm’s 1967 remark about the Victorian ALP

    [only the impotent are pure]

    This of course was a strawman. The Victorian ALP was not at the time ‘pure’ in any meaningful sense of the term, and neither are we Greens. We have principles and we adhere to them, but we have been willing to negotiate, as the MPCCC process showed. We weren’t happy with tax cuts for big business but we waved it through. We weren’t happy about the MRRT either but again, we didn’t block it.

    We have however, campaigned for a very long time against mandatory detention, including in the last election, and it would have been a complete breach of principle to have supported not only mandatory detention but rendition (including of children) and refugee trading.

    The choice is not between ‘purity’ and power but between being able to wield power to advance worthy ends or being granted “power” only to be the catspaws of others and to spit on principles one is bound to defend. Such ‘power’ is illusory because the more one wields it, the more politically bankrupt and enfeebled one becomes.

    Such “power” is pyrrhic — your enemies invite you to repeatedly shoot yourself in the foot and elsewhere, and loving the sound of the weapon and its feel in your hands, you oblige them until you cannot stand, whereupon the take the weapon and hand it to some other fool and invite them to do likewise. Those who might once have felt sympathy as you lie abandoned on the road and bleeding bear you nothing but disgust. Your ruin has after all been at your own hand.

  5. Slipper will get more than 4% of the vote without campaigning. Let’s say he gets 8k votes – 8000 x whatever the allowance is at the moment = a substantial sum. Slipper won’t be able to resist.

  6. [Abbott’s position has been that Rudd and Gillard have run a flaky government, and that he offers strength and certainty. The way to reinforce that, and embarrass/put pressure on the independents, would have been to effectively make the government govern according to a legislative agenda shaped by the Coalition. This is effectively what the US Republicans did to Obama in his first term.

    To do this would have required the Coalition to get down in the weeds of debate and argue clause by clause for legislation. They would’ve had to eschew personality politics – one nasty comment across the chamber would have seen Wilkie and/or Oakeshott flee to Labor in high dudgeon – but slow, patient policy-focused work would have been the anathema of the way Labor used to work. The focus on “announceables” as practiced by Rudd, and by Gillard in her first year or so as PM, would have been negated by a parliament that produced legislation at variance with the press releases.

    A record of legislative success on the part of the Coalition would have vindicated Abbott and played on the darkest fears of Labor (particularly the NSW Right and its adherents) that the Coalition really are political geniuses and have a lock on what it means to govern this country. The Coalition would go into this election with the benefit of the doubt that they simply do not have, but which the media wishes to give them so that it can maintain its pose of ‘balance’.

    With a legislative record, the Coalition would have something to run on: you’ve seen what we support and don’t support, so vote for us and we’ll do more of that. Because they have no record, two things have happened – neither good for the Coalition.

    First, Labor have come back with actual governing ability and a record to run on (negating the idea that the Coalition have a natural talent for governing and winning elections).

    Second, we are forced to question everything the Coalition says against an absence of proof. Any funding commitment risks being sucked into the surplus fetish and the Budget Black Hole.

    This lingering doubt undermines the benefit of the doubt that Abbott, Hockey (and most of the press gallery) assumes the Coalition have. It is further undermined by women who doubt Abbott on equality and reproductive issues. Both of the above points are good for Labor, bad for the Coalition.

    The Coalition could spend the first half of this year avoiding personal attacks and getting down in the policy weeds; it would throw the government right off balance and force the press gallery to change the way it works too. This is unlikely to happen. It would require a complete cleanout of staff and a replacement with people who do not appear to exist, unless the Feds want to start pinching jaded staff from the state governments. It would also be a tacit admission that the gainsay-everything tactic has failed in some way.

    As with control over both Houses in 2005-07, the Coalition will realise the opportunity it lost after it has gone, and not before, when it might have made a difference. Since 2006 the Coalition have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. No wonder they want to go back there and start again, hoping against all evidence that the rest of the country hasn’t moved on from then either.]

    Interesting comment left by Andrew Elder at joe’s and BB’s.

  7. Rather strange Tas news: former Pembroke Labor MLC Allison Ritchie, who resigned due to ill health in 2009 at around the same time as a nepotism scandal over the appointment of family members in her office, wants her old seat back at the election this year. She is running as an independent and apparently calling for increased sentences for paedophiles, which she also pursued while in parliament. Liberal incumbent MLC Vanessa Goodwin can probably hardly believe her luck!

  8. Fran Barlow@8

    Toorak Toff, in the old thread, cited Whitalm’s 1967 remark about the Victorian ALP

    only the impotent are pure

    We have principles and we adhere to them, but we have been willing to negotiate, as the MPCCC process showed.

    Green “principles” are a curious breed in general. For instance we currently have Milne, Rhiannon, Brown et al (but apparently not Whish-Wilson and even SHY has more sense) defending a sharemarket hoax conducted by lying (Whitehaven) and equating it with the history of civil disobedience.

    I think such things as the Greens won’t compromise on, whatever they are, are better described as goals than principles.

  9. Confessions quoted Elder:

    [To do this would have required the Coalition to get down in the weeds of debate and argue clause by clause for legislation. They would’ve had to eschew personality politics …]

    Of course, they couldn’t do this in practice because to have done so would have shattered the unity of the coalition base and nearly as bad, they’d have had to do the hard work of policy specification consulting that disrupted base and all of its sub-factions. The coalition would not have been able to stay united for 2 hours let alone 2 years.

    Carbon pricing is case in point, but the NBN, asylum seekers, industry assistance, coal seam gas, fiscal policy — it would have been a nightmare and entirely outside Abbott’s skill set — which basically amounts to putting on an industry/constituency-relevant hat and jacket, posing for a happy snap and announcing that he just loves whoever he is in front of and damn this Labor government who is wiping them off the map.

  10. Kevin Bonham

    [I think such things as the Greens won’t compromise on, whatever they are, are better described as goals than principles.]

    It’s been a bugbear of mind that our website is a bit vague on wording calling things that seem like goals ‘principles’ (when really in that context they are key features of hoped for policy).

    Our principles really are about social justice, equity, environmental sustainability and peace. Just those four. Human rights falls under social justice. Asylum is a human right.

    More broadly though, it’s our practice to mainatin good faith with those who support us, and that group look to us to stand strong against mandatory detention and brutalisation of asylum seekers. You can call those principles in a broader sense too because that is what our supporters expect.

    [Yesterday at 11:50 AM
    David Brooks Now Totally Pathological
    By Jonathan Chait

    Moderate Republicanism is a tendency that increasingly defies ideological analysis and instead requires psychological analysis. The psychological mechanism is fairly obvious. The radicalization of the GOP has placed unbearable strain on those few moderates torn between their positions and their attachment to party. Many moderate conservatives have simply broken off from the party, at least in its current incarnation, and are hoping or working to build a sane alternative. Those who remain must escape into progressively more baroque fantasies.

    The prevalent expression of this psychological pain is the belief that President Obama is largely or entirely responsible for Republican extremism. It’s a bizarre but understandable way to reconcile conflicting emotions — somewhat akin to blaming your husband’s infidelity entirely on his mistress. In this case, moderate Republicans believe that Obama’s tactic of taking sensible positions that moderate Republicans agree with is cruel and unfair, because it exposes the extremism that dominates the party, not to mention the powerlessness of the moderates within it. Michael Gerson recently expressed this bizarre view, and the pathology is also on vivid display in David Brooks’s column today.]

  12. We have a handy sidebar of current polling trends compiled by William.

    It would be great if, instead of being mystified as to where federal Labor gets its support, people gave it a glance now and then.

    It would also be great if people stopped conflating State and Federal polls.

    We know that people are perfectly comfortable voting one way in a State election and another nationally – otherwise we wouldn’t have had the majority of states with Labor governments whilst the Federal government was Coalition.

    So, yes, the WA state polls aren’t good for Labor and noone seems to be contesting that the Coalition will win the WA State election. But that doesn’t stop Labor polling well (comparitively) on a federal level in WA.

    And yes, there’s a lot of lingering resentment in NSW about State Labor. (There was a lot of active resentment during the 2010 election, too – which I would expect would have had more effect than any feeling now). Yet the bludgertrack says it’s sitting on a 3% swing (which is really situation normal for most governments at this stage of the cycle; Howard won from worse positions).

    We know that individual seats will go against national trends, so – even if the Lilley poll was 100% on the money – all you can say is that Wayne Swan’s seat is marginal (as it has been for a lot of the time he’s held it – remember, he even lost it once).

  13. When the Murray Darling Basin plan and the Wheat Bill legislation was brought up, it made me more optimistic about the ALP’s chances in WA and SA. There are several Liberal seats in WA on slim majorities, and Boothby is far easier for Labor to win rather than for the Liberals to win Hindmarsh. Not being from either state I’m not sure what real impact the friction in the Coalition over these issues and the fact that the ALP has put forward these issues which the last Coalition government did not will have. I assume it would only be positive for the ALP. Queensland will be Queensland, and its really open for either party to take seats I guess.

    In Victoria gaining Dunkley and Casey are more a case of wishful thinking than anything else. Tony Smith hasn’t really achieved much more than being a face on a fridge magnet, and certainly doesn’t have the same personal respect as Fran Bailey did, but I doubt many of the people in the rural part of his electorate realise he wrote a broadband policy that actually put them worse off, and the towns around Lilydale will probably always be conservative.

  14. That last post was kind of a response to Zoomster, but rambled a bit. I’m clearly not a fan of my local member, but I guess there are worse out there…

    On Bludgertrack, I think Psephos mentioned “William’s tables” a few times as some authorative source, I take it he meant Bludgertrack and not some post-election analysis?

  15. Full ReachTEL figures for Lilley:

    ALP: 38.0%; LNP: 45.2%; GRN: 7.5%; KAP: 6.2%; Other: 3.1%

    Compare 2010: ALP 41.1 LNP 41.2 GRN 12.2 FF 3.1 Ind 2.4

    Green prefs went 76-24 last election so if other preferences went nowhere then Swan would lose about 51.6:48.4.

    Bit hard to tell how to distribute KAP preferences when they have never contested this area federally.

  16. Kevin

    I will get shot down for this but I think Swan is not liked by the electorate. Merely an opinion but he has something about him which grates with people.

  17. MTBW

    Several bludgers have commented that he doesn’t have much kerb appeal. Seems nervous, theoretical. He might be a terrific Treasurer (his figures prove it) but I doubt his ambition to be PM will ever be fulfilled. 🙂

  18. [Kevin

    I will get shot down for this but I think Swan is not liked by the electorate. Merely an opinion but he has something about him which grates with people.]

    Yes, perhaps.

    I don’t think he’s terribly popular, but I also think people overestimate the electorate’s dislike of him — it smacks of revenge from the right against the electorate’s refusal to warm to Costello.

    The media runs with it also of course in their quest for specious balance: “if Howard had an unlikeable Treasurer, then so must Gillard!”

  19. Take it from this Nambourean: the Adermann fiefdom was more what is now Fairfax than what is now Fisher.

    If Swan – along with Elliott and Rudd – survive, they’ll be joined by Senator McGrath. All from the one semi-rural State High School. An odd fecundity.

  20. lizzie

    I think you are right and given that having been one of the so called “Nambour Twins” and then having deserted Rudd would not have played well with the electorate.

  21. MTBW @ 25:

    But Swanny has been re-elected before? How many times? So, the narrative of Swan’s unpopularity is just a myth? Sread/spun by whom?

    Apart from a defeat in his seat in 1996 (Labor lost a lot of support, not just Swan), he has been in Federal politics for 20 years? Remember. Howard (an inumbernt PM no less) was ousted by his electorate.

  22. P.S. I placed a question mark after many *statements* purely because I am quite uncertain. I would be happy to be corrected.

  23. MTBW, yes, I undestand, but the final arbiter is the poll on polling day, not what we read in the Murdoch press about a ‘feeling’.

    My recollection is that Treasurers are hardly ever popular, but almost always get re-elected.

  24. Have we ever had a popular Treasurer? I think they have all been in safe seats.

    So goes Swan, so goes the Government. That’s my conclusion from that poll.

  25. Note, that last observation about Treasurers and their popularity has an asterisk placed after it. A Treasurer would be hardly ever re-elected (or if so, would not be the Treasurer) when his party lost the election.

  26. One poll of 400 voters in Lilley by Reachtel and all of a sudden there is gloom and doom by some.

    Wayne Swan is disliked, labor is doomed unless Kevin comes back etc etc etc. Same ol same ol from some so called labor posters.

    This is a phone poll of 400. Nothing more nothing less. Individuals will make of it what they want.

    To me the more interesting question is why is United Voice Queensland doing polling of individual seats and why are they releasing that polling ?

    I seem to remember the Queensland branch of the union doing the same thing late last year and getting a bit of a slap from the national office.

  27. Fess, my point exactly (and I’m not arguing with MTBW here, ’cause I think we actually agree).

    So. any guesses as to who is pushing the meme of Swan’s unpopularity? 😉

  28. A Rwepublican Senator hires an advisor who is an “ultra-Hawk” who has called for not just a strike on Iran b ut for an offensive to remove the Iranian Govt…as they did in Iraq…with even more catastrophic effects for the world

  29. Doyley:

    As Bushfire says we’ve become a nation of whingers, always looking for someone else to blame, always trying to talk down our country’s achievements. It’s becoming almost universal, and frankly it’s bewildering.

    Clearly positivity is so last century.

  30. But, MTBW, where does this view come from? Where so you hear it? The water cooler and generat conversation is limited to one person’s sampling. Polls (unless rigged) are not wrong, so is ‘Fess right? The inference from her post are that the electorate DO like him more than other candidates.

    True, the media’s representation (generally, not just Murdoch) is that he is unpopular. Think 7.5, The Insiders. Lateline, etc, and most radio stations. Are they wrong or being mischeivous?

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