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”

  1. Harry “Snapper” Organs@450

    As you note above that Brough appears to have suffered little damage electorally from the Ashby affair.
    Can you point to dis-endorsements, by the Libs. other than Pauline Hanson’s?
    It’s very interesting, the question of just what someone has to do or say to get disqualified to stand for a party, I think.

    Liberal code = Don’t get caught or your on your own ,bye.

  2. TT:

    Do you really think KAP will make preference deals based on the individual leadership of a party rather than whatever populist leverage KAP can get for its constituents and voters?

  3. Toorak Toff@524

    One thing is puzzling. Labor is improving at state level in Queensland but not, it seems, in federal seats like Lilley and Fisher – despite all the messy business involving Slipper, Brough and so on. Even though Labor seems to have picked up a bit in most national polls.

    In the case of Lilley I’m just not that convinced by the poll – mainly given it is basically an internal poll that the commissioning source has chosen to release. In the case of Fisher, we should keep in mind that Slipper was dragging the Coalition vote down there at the last election, so with him gone the points Labor gained from that factor return to the LNP.

    But in any case, we should expect Labor to improve at state level in Queensland because they are coming from rock bottom and there is a new government there that is annoying people. Federally the base is higher and the government hasn’t changed. So it doesn’t follow generally that improvement at one level carries through to the other.

    Toorak Toff@545

    Does anyone know what’s happening with the Tasmanian forests deal?

    It is currently undergoing an Upper House inquiry which is not likely to finish until March, following which the Upper House may vote on it.

  4. It’s simplistic to say the zonal system robbed the Qld Libs of the Premiership. They scored more votes than the Nats until the split because thy ran in more seats. Typically as also rans to Labor in large swathes of Brissy and Townsville. The Country Party tended to win most of the seats it contested; and when it went ‘National’ and open war broke out with the urban Libs, it decimated them.

    The Libs were historically weak in Qld due to a host of factors – decentralization, their own institutional lameness and the lack of a strong mercantile or manufacturing class… No wonder it was a century between Digby and Can-Do.

    All that has changed now, and the ‘right’ to govern Qld rests, besides the Brisbane suburbs, in a sprawling set of nouveau coastally seats from Noosa through the Tweed. In a way, the latter are less naturally fertile ground for a social democratic ALP than the original zonally weighted agricultural and provincial seats were for the old AWU ALP.

  5. And, of course, Labor would be very happy to dip slightly in seats it already holds (as long as the dip doesn’t mean a loss) if it improves its numbers in seats it doesn’t.

    Which is what good campaigning is all about.

    Swan is an experienced campaigner in what has always been regarded as a marginal seat. We’re only at the beginning of the campaigning year. I think he’d expect to be in the position he is now, even if the poll is accurate (and read Kevin Bonham’s excellent analysis of why it should be taken with a grain of salt).

  6. Personally I would have been much happier if the 2PP result at the QLD election had been around 54/46 and am not surprised the LNP has lost the support they have since the election. A little surprised it has happened as quick as it has.

    Basically the new government had a few things going against it from the start. A majority of seats difficult to manage. At least two internal cliques which traditionally have only lived together out of need rather than sharing values and at times openly hostile. A leader inexperienced in the role and a little too arrogant to realize this. Interest groups with differing wants expecting the new government to look after their interests eg mining v farming. And just plain inexperience in how to go about governing.

    I think the second year will be more important and telling for the LNP than the first 12 months which have been rocky to say the least. To still lead 54/46 is a positive providing they overcome a pretty ordinary start.

    Time will tell.

  7. I’ve been in banana bender territory for about 9 years now and can confirm that it is indeed a very odd place. People like Katter and Joh are more the norm than the exception.

    It would be wrong to imply that most of the voters of Queensland are brain dead troglodytes in need of a good rogering with a Brillo pad on a stick but imply it I must.
    I would love to know the secret of getting voters to vote against their own interests and bottle it. Eau de la Dickhead perhaps?

    I note a couple of comments about Bligh and Newman re- the flood in 2011. The world in which we live has become so topsy-turvy. A few insincere photo-ops featuring a bunch of people who sought to wring some political capital out of a grizzly disaster is all a lot of Queenslander’s remember, politically speaking.

    My dearest other half ( who I’ve spent a quarter of a century trying to educate) said to me the other day, “say what you will about Bligh but she was magnificent during the flood” which caused me to almost spill my ’91 Hill of Grace Shiraz. He vacillates between voting Lib/ Greens ( my cross to bear) and spouts 2GB/ 2UE ‘wisdom’ at me even though he is remarkably clever in many other ways.

    Just one other thing before I slink off. I saw the word malapportionment used a couple of times and had to look it up. It looks like a bastard cross between malapropism and a pneumatically assisted pin-up girl from the 40’s (think Betty Grable impaled upon the Washington Monument).

    Again, thanks for the political education. Some of you I learn from and some of you I burn from.

  8. Incidentally when I say that interest groups (like the one commissioning the Lilley poll) don’t release polls if they don’t like the results, I am not just speculating – I know this happens sometimes, as I have personally seen polls that have been commissioned by interest groups and not released because the results were deemed to suck. With the increasing prevalence of cheap robo-pollsters, cherrypicking of commissioned polls is going to become a bigger problem.

    Nate Silver not long ago argued something to the effect of that internal polling generally is probably less accurate than public polling, because over time parties tend to gravitate towards pollsters who tell them what they want to hear rather than the facts; parties struggle to apply complete objectivity when it comes to assessing the quality of polls.

    Elder re Ashby: Elder really is remarkably good at taking arguments apart.

  9. KB

    I’ve also pointed out here before that internal polling SHOULD be disproved by events – because its purpose is to identify problem areas and thus help the party target its campaign.

    The internal Labor poll showing that the Greens would win Melbourne in the by election is a case in point.

    The reaction from Labor was to step up its campaign.

    The polling was proved wrong because Labor won the seat – but it may not have won the seat without the kick in the pants the poll provided.

  10. Its a very poor list for Australian of the year. Cricket players, olympians, CEO of Telstra, Julia Gillard, CEO of Virgin. Very few of the nominee’s get close to worthy in my book.

    Im backing Bess Price to take the gong or the young scientist.

  11. I am as normal as you are ordinary cw. I do not hold anyone in contempt. I try to find common ground and this is no longer common.

    I came out of the shadows as I have followed this blog for a long time and think some of the basic niceties of social discourse have been hijacked by a few showboating drifters who cannot tell the difference between restraint and reverential worshiping of their own perceived wisdom and intellect.

    The last few months in particular have seen more lurkers come forth and participate and I think it is because they can see lapses in logic, lapses in manners and most tellingly, lapses in good natured banter.

    If you are shy or timid or unsure and enter a room full of loud mouthed, intellectually aggressive and ironically challenged bruisers who confuse conversation with competition then you will invariably beat a hasty retreat.

    As for currying favour, nothing could be further from the truth. The people I name-check I simply admire and like I said earlier, there are many more but modesty prevents me from launching into an Academy Award type ick-fest.

    A lot of blogs suffer the same sort of problems where you have lots of regulars who think they own the blog and then do the exact opposite of what they purport to believe in. I call them ReVoltarians as they are forever dragging up that quote about defending the right to say something but when it comes to the crunch, the strength of their counter ‘arguments’ are nearly always met with the circling of wagons, suspect and frankly hagiographical lectures about shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded cinema, the closing of ranks and the final gaucheness of back patting once the intruder is ‘sent to Coventry”

    Today was a good example. Someone was ejected for saying ‘homo’ and yet no-one raised an eyebrow when BB made disparaging remarks about the CEO of QANTAS’s sexuality.

    I come here crikey whitey to take what’s left of my wits for a turn around the room just like you and all the other contributors.

  12. [Someone was ejected for saying ‘homo’]

    No, they were not.

    They were ejected for a post which was clearly homophobic.

    There’s a huge difference.

  13. [Homo is the genus of great apes that includes modern humans and species closely related to them. The genus is estimated to be about 2.3 to 2.4 million years old,[1][2] possibly having evolved from australopithecine ancestors, with the appearance of Homo habilis. Several species, including Australopithecus garhi, Australopithecus sediba, Australopithecus africanus and Australopithecus afarensis, have been proposed as the direct ancestor of the Homo lineage. Each of these species have morphological features that align them with Homo, but there is no consensus on which actually gave rise to Homo.]

    It’s all a matter of context.

  14. Don’t nitpick zoomster. It ill becomes you. If BB can make homophobic remarks and it is accepted by the PB ‘elite’ simply because he is ‘one of us’ then the lapse is the hangman’s noose that you cannot escape from. Enunciate this huge difference for me if you can.

  15. Dorrie
    You’r right about Q’Land and odd politicians…they go back a long way…before Katter/Hanson/Joh and Flo(what a double act there)

    In the post-WW2 times there was madcap MP for one of the northern seats called “Bombshell Barnes” who always got kicked out of the House for endless disruption…but had the public’s attention at all times

    Then in the 40ies they twice elected a Communist MP.Paterson..a decent hardworking lawyer who was a victim of the onset of the Cold War…and a severe bashing by the Brisbane police in a demo in 1948..and had severe brain-damage as a result…and he a MP
    and there was old Premier Vince Gair …staunch Catholic and DLP senator(but with a roving eye..and hand …for any young woman within reach)
    and there were all the corrupt police in Joh’s Golden Days too…ah Queensland …nice .. but it’s not Melbourne is it?? !

    Love your stuff Dorrie
    Keep it up

  16. Wow deblonay that is quite a list of infamy. When I first got here all the men seemed so gay. I came from Sydney where all the men are basically brought up to be second hand versions of their own sexually challenged fathers.
    It is the reddest of the red necked states in the country. They weather is gorgeous. If only I could convince the locals to move it would be a lot more tolerable.

  17. O.E.D

    2 dated light-hearted and carefree: Nan had a gay disposition and a very pretty face

    3 dated brightly coloured; showy: a gay profusion of purple and pink sweet peas


  18. dated definitions….they work well enough for me. Things were not always as they are now, nor as they seem to be, thankfully.

    You bring a nocturnal peckishness to PB, Dorrie. In the same way that others raid the fridge, you seem to want to enjoy some fruit or almonds with a port. And PB is mostly bring-a-plate at this time of day, so you can regale yourself. I approve of this, of course. It helps us to sleep. There’s nothing worse than trying to sleep on an empty stomach.

  19. Once researching some items on Australians soldiers in Egypt in WW!,I came across a newspaper report which spoke of a grand ball organised by a British General
    in Cairo at Shepherds Hotel(a famous one at the time)
    The report spoke of ” ballroom full of gay diggers”
    I kid you not!!
    …but it was a different era and the word gay had a certain innocence about it then

  20. The only ones set in their ways my dear and eminently pretty davidwh are the ones who come here with all the learning of the world and end up sowing their seeds on the stoniest of grounds imaginable.

    PB Gods: We know what’s best and you will listen to us!

    The Plain People of Poll Bludger: How do we know we can trust you?

    PB Gods: Because we read lots of books.

    The Plain People of Poll Bludger: Why should we believe you?

    PB Gods: Because no-one has ever questioned our integrity before.

    The Plain People of Poll Bludger: What does integrity mean?

    PB Gods: Whatever we goddamn well mean it to be punk.

    With apologies to Flann.

  21. cinnamon in the plums too, and oodles of purple liquid that had reduced during the stewing, immensely satisfying on a humid night with no breeze to speak of

  22. Tats?…Possibly. It’s taken me a while to come to terms with tats. But since they wouldn’t come to terms with me (I’ve said it before, I am old-fashioned), I have come to see tats as personal graffiti. I can go with that.

  23. You really should not flirt with me briefly. The OH is 3 feet away and insists on knowing what all the feverish tapping is all about.

    I used to think that the PM shift was full of crazy and deranged folk who could barely string a sentence together but now I am here, I like it a lot.
    I silently sat and watched proceedings today and was struck by 2 things. The lazy reactions to posts and the even lazier intellectual rigor of the posters who probably would be more affectionately remembered had they died swallowing one of those toys with small parts that we all read about.

    How is the book coming along? I have no idea how old you are but don’t delay. The older you get sees a hardness set in that is fatal for aspiring authors.

  24. I had a deep and meaningful this afternoon, with my mother, after fox-proofing her chicken run.

    It will be a very muscular and probably two-armed fox with a shovel and a pick that can break in now – that could tunnel in and raise pandemonium.

    The deep was at least waist-high; the meaning was lucid. She is growing tired, my mother. She is knocked over by the heat. Her little skinny legs and bony shoulders can carry her along, but they cannot carry all the many many years as well. She is sad (a little, but we won’t go into that) too. She has always been a profound and endless well to drink from. Now she seems to be running low. Maybe it is the heat. The weather here has been insolent. Her garden is showing signs of dejection, fatigue.

    Time is running away.

  25. DE, I always flirt with people I like. I can’t help it. How else to enjoy a meal?

    Thanks for asking about the book. I think I have a strong idea – or series of ideas – and that the form is achievable. But I have no idea if I can do it. I want to try, though it will take time.

    I have a very clear series of images – of events/spaces/characters/understandings – and think they are worth building.

    But then I have another couple of ideas too, for later.

  26. Re Downton Abbey
    Dorrie are you (like me) a bit of a fan of the above?

    Clever social history it is ,and there is a great article in “Counbgterpunch ” today looking at the history of the”Upstaris/Dowenstairs”stuff in british history..and literature and films…not to mention TV. Then there was
    Bertie Wooster the ultimate clot and his Butler Jeeves…and more recently a great novel’The Remains of the day” and a great film tooof the novel …and scads of Agatha Christie and many murders in great houses…and Maggie Smith in “Gosford Park”.. and “MMidsummer Murders “.like Jane Austen caught in an affair with Inspector Wexford

    How the Brits have us all in the hollow of their hands

    but are you a Downton Fan ??

  27. RE Kiwi Bank
    In Fisher’s first term as a majority Labor Government 1910-19132,he set up the Commonwealth Bank and every Post Office in Australia was a branch of same
    One could deposit and withdraw with a Bank that office only
    I had once such in the war years and they remained in place for many years afterwards.and many school kids had same too

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