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. zoomster – would you consider leaving a comment re MT on Mumble’s blog? This Malcolm myth just goes unchallenged all the time. I can only think of a couple of few articles that have ever done so.

  2. [When was the last time MT argued for a republic? He spat the dummy after the referendum was lost, and hasn’t said boo about it since.

    Keating OTOH never shied away from his vision for Australia.]

    Keating always had visions for Australia and achieved a great deal, Malcolm only has visions for Malcolm and lost his chance to be a father of the Australian Republic with Howards fixe ref.

  3. [as was Rudd.]

    What a stupid thing to say. Rudd’s problem was he WASN’T beholden to the factions. If only he’d obeyed Paul Howse he’d still be prime minister.

    On the other hand Malcolm’s faction just wasn’t big enough for the crazies who now run the libs.

  4. poroti@702

    MT = Paul Keating ? MT might own a French carriage clock and um ah umm well that’s about it.

    MT owns shares in the French NBN and will buy some AU NBN shares when Abbott flogs it off to Rupert.After the COSTello 179 Tonne of Gold bars sale in 1996-97 , is there any left for them to sell ?

  5. [WWP:

    Beholden doesn’t mean what you seem to think it means.]

    No I looked it up and it means exactly what I thought it meant. No idea what you think it means.

  6. WWP:

    Beholden means owing thanks or a duty to someone in return for something.

    As leader, Rudd was most certainly beholden to Caucus, and the factions. His problem is that he didn’t think he was.

  7. WWP:

    You may be right about Rudd and the Labor Party factions. Perhaps this alignment is closer to both yours and Rudds heart.

    ” Rudd’s loyalties lie not with the grassroots but with a group of much more genuinely faceless men (and a few women)—big business and captains of industry.

    ABC journalist Chris Uhlmann revealed that as well as briefing journalists before publicly launching his leadership challenge, Rudd buttered up the rich behind closed doors.

    During the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting last November, Rudd’s chief of staff Phillip Green met with several business leaders, to reassure them that any future Rudd government “would not revisit past issues” and would “move on” over “workplace laws, emissions trading and the mining tax.”

    By far the most important thing to stop Labor’s shift to the right is class struggle. That is also the reason that Rudd and others want to end the unions’ influence inside the party. Socialists can’t be neutral about fights inside the Labor Party.

    Without union influence and their block vote, the ALP would truly be just “Another Liberal Party”.

    Amy Thomas ”

    from Solidarity Online….March 2012

  8. [Concern over the provision of life-saving equipment and training in schools became an election issue yesterday when the Barnett Government was accused of putting lives at risk by cutting funding for the management of children with severe food allergies.

    Labor promised to reinstate a dedicated anaphylaxis program to cope with the growing number of children diagnosed with potentially lethal food allergies or yet to discover they have the condition.

    The former program had cost $6.6 million since 2007. Labor said $750,000 would be made available immediately to kickstart the scheme should it win the March election.

    “Mr Barnett has withdrawn funding from anaphylaxis treatment and training in schools,” Labor leader Mark McGowan said.

    “What that means is that children are put at risk and potentially could die.”]

  9. Just read Mumbles article on Rudd and Turnbull and generally agree with what he says. Not sure Turnbull is as arrogant as Keating but there are similarities. Keating had more political smarts than Turnbull has displayed to date.

    Can’t disagree with his comments on Rudd.

  10. I believe Malcolm also owns shares in the Spanish version of the NBN.

    Funny, isn’t it. He’s happy to invest in two foreign countries’ fibre-to-the-home networks, but he keeps telling us that Australia doesn’t need and can’t afford the very same thing. We are obviously third-rate in Malcolm’s august eyes.

    As for comparing him to Keating – there isn’t a comparison.

  11. “@nickharmsen: John Rau picks up Industrial Relations #reshuffle #saparli”

    “@nickharmsen: Gail Gago picks up State/Local Govt Relations #reshuffle #saparli”

  12. Tragic:


    I don’t think most people know what the local council does.

    Bunkum! Utter Bunkum! Local Government business, members, actions, controversies – whether the Council be huge (eg Brisbane City) or small – is the stuff of local & state newspaper articles (&letters to editors, SMSs, tweets etc) and TV segments (inc commercial channel “current affairs”).

    I know what my local government does. Why are you telling me?

    Do we have civics lessons in our schools? I can’t recall ever having one …

    Again, unless you’re visually, aurally disabled, you obviously paid no attention in class to your civics/ social studies (by whatever name, in any state or territory), there’s no excuse for your attributing to others what you don’t do yourself.

    OTOH, you could be deliberately “misspeaking” or seeking attention.

    I ended with a question that quite obviously leaving myself open to “not having paid attention in class”. That is both a fair assumption and partly my point. Perhaps what I learned was simply too far removed from my living experience up until then. Or perhaps I’ve retained the knowledge and simply don’t recall the source.

    Anyway, even with all you words, none of what you’ve said comes close to informing me how well informed ‘most people’ are.

  13. @nickharmsen: Jack Snelling gets Health, Mental Health #saparli #reshuffle

    @nickharmsen: Jennifer Rankine gets Education & Child Devt #saparli #reshuffle

    @nickharmsen: Tom Koutsantonis gets Conlon’s gigs, Transport, Infrastructure, Housing #saparli #reshuffle

    For the rest Probably up at SA Parliament and OM will catch up

  14. Confessions@729

    Not that I could find. Taking into account the Australia Channel attempted rort I would guess that it’s pretty close to the truth.

  15. [668


    Have just read the entertaining interaction between your self and Dorrie Evans last night and thoroughly enjoyed the exchange.

    As Deblonay said we should hear more from Dorrie. He has a style of his own as do you and I absolutely agree with the comments he makes.

    You two add colour and context to the site.]

    Why thank you, MTBW. I like Dorrie too, but perhaps that’s because I’ve been spared the fire-hose of her criticism. It does come with ample force and can bowl you from one end of the shopping mall to the other, not stopping for do-nuts on the way.

  16. [Can’t disagree with his comments on Rudd.]

    Me either. The timidity has been a hallmark of Labor shown by both Rudd and Gillard, at least until Gillard’s firing up in parliament.

  17. @davidwh/727

    I would – for anyone to be arrogant they would have to “exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities” – which has been demonstrated a number of times. Not to mention probably just about everyone else in Parliament.

    Also I really do think that Labor should reverse all Centerlink changes:

    This doesn’t look good for Labor.

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