Seats of the week: Forde and Herbert

A double feature encompassing two of the LNP-held seats which Labor is eyeing greedily on the back of its Queensland poll resurgence.

UPDATE (Morgan): The weekly Morgan poll is little changed on last time, with Labor down half a point to 41.5%, the Coalition steady on 41%, and the Greens up two points to 9%. There is actually a slight move in Labor’s favour on two-party preferred as measured using preference flows from the previous election, presumably because of rounding, their lead up from 51.5-48.5 to 52-48. On respondent-allocated preferences, the lead is steady at 52.5-47.5. Regrettably, the poll does not come with state breakdowns, which keen observers among us had started to think would be a regular feature (as it surely should be with such a large sample size). We will surely have Newspoll along later this evening, while the regular Essential Research is delayed this week and will be along tomorrow.

Two for the price of one this week as I scramble to catch up with the Queensland seats suddenly deemed in play under Kevin Rudd 2.0 …

Seat of the week #1: Forde

Straddling the southern edge of Brisbane, Forde was one of a number of Queensland seats which fell Labor’s way under Kevin Rudd’s leadership at the 2007 election, only to be lost again in the wake of his demise three years later. The electorate contains the eastern part of the municipality of Logan City around Beenleigh and extends southwards along the Pacific Motorway to accommodate, somewhat awkwardly, the rapidly growing suburb of Upper Coomera at the interior northern edge of the Gold Coast. The latter area was acquired in the redistribution which preceded the 2010 election, when Forde provided the new seat of Wright with about a third of its voters in rural territories extending to the New South Wales border.

Forde was created with the expansion of parliament in 1984, at which time it covered Brisbane’s outer south-west. Liberal candidate David Watson won the seat on its debut by 43 votes, but was unseated after a single term at the 1987 election by Labor’s Mary Crawford. Watson would later return to politics in the state parliament, eventually leading the Liberal Party into a disastrous result at the 2001 election. Crawford meanwhile built up a handy margin on the back of swings in 1990 and 1993, before a punishing redistribution pulled the seat into the rural Beaudesert region on the New South Wales border. Thwarted in a bid to be reassigned to an outer suburban seat, in part as a consequence of the party’s determination to accommodate Kevin Rudd in Griffith, Crawford was left with no buffer to defend herself against the savage swing that hit Labor across Queensland, which struck in Forde to the tune of 9.6%.

Forde was then held for the Liberals throughout the Howard years by Kay Elson, who retained comfortable margins in 1998 and 2001 before enjoying a further 5.9% boost in 2004. Elson’s retirement at the 2007 election was presumably a factor behind the spectacular 14.4% swing to Labor, making the seat one of three in Queensland where Labor was able to overhaul double-digit Coalition margins. It was then held for a term by Brett Raguse, a former teacher, local newspaper publisher and TAFE college director who had more recently worked as an adviser to state ministers associated with the AWU/Labor Forum sub-faction of the Right. The aforementioned redistribution improved Raguse’s margin from 2.9% to 3.4%, but this proved insufficient at the 2010 election in the face of what by Queensland standards was a fairly typical swing of 5.0%.

The seat has since been held for the LNP by Bert van Manen, a financial planner from Slacks Creek who had run as the Family First candidate for Rankin in 2007. Van Manen’s Labor opponent at the coming election is Des Hardman, a radiographer at Logan Hospital. Brett Raguse meanwhile re-emerged as a candidate for the preselection to succeed Craig Emerson in the neighbouring seat of Rankin, in which he was narrowly unsuccessful despite claiming support from Kevin Rudd.

Seat of the week #2: Herbert

The Townsville-based electorate of Herbert has been in conservative hands without interruption since 1996, although it has been highly marginal throughout that time. The seat has existed since federation, at which time it extended north to Cairns and south to Mackay. More recently it has covered central Townsville and a shifting aggregation of surrounding territory, the pre-2010 election redistribution having transferred the southern suburbs of Annandale and Wulguru to Dawson and added Deeragun and its northern coastal surrounds from Kennedy. The strongest booths for Labor are generally around the town centre, while those in the outer suburbs tend to be more volatile as well as more conservative, having moved strongly with the statewide tides toward Labor in 2007 and against it in 2004 and 2010. Lavarack Barracks makes the electorate highly sensitive to defence issues, with the sector accounting for about one in eight jobs in the electorate. Presumably as a consequence, the electorate is unusually youthful, the median age of 32 being four years lower than for any other seat in regional Queensland.

Herbert was a working class and Labor seat for much of its history, being in Labor hands until the 1960s and turning in a 34.2% vote for Communist Party candidate Frederick Paterson in 1943 (Paterson went on to win the state seat of Bowen the following year, the only such success for a Communist candidate in Australian history). A watershed moment came with the victory of Liberal candidate Robert Bonnett in the 1966 landslide, which was followed by further Liberal swings against the trend of the 1969 and 1972 elections. The seat came back on Labor’s radar after the 1980 election, when their candidate Ted Lindsay succeeded in reducing the Liberal margin to below 1%. Lindsay went one better when he ran again in 1983, gaining the seat with a 3.7% swing and retaining it throughout the Hawke-Keating years. Together with most of his Queensland Labor colleagues he was unseated at the 1996 election, when unrelated Liberal candidate Peter Lindsay won off a 9.0% swing. Ted Lindsay came within 160 votes of pulling off a comeback in 1998, before Peter Lindsay consolidated with swings of 1.5% in 2001 and 4.7% in 2004. He survived another close shave by 343 votes in 2007, a swing to Labor of 5.9% being slightly below a statewide 7.5% which cost the Coalition eight seats.

Lindsay bowed out at the 2010 election and was succeeded as candidate for the Liberal National Party by Ewen Jones, an auctioneer for local real estate agency Ferry Property. Jones’s Labor opponent was Tony Mooney, who served for nearly two decades as mayor of Townsville and earned a footnote in Australian political history when his failure to win the 1996 Mundingburra by-election for Labor led to the downfall of the Goss government. Perhaps reflecting the loss of Lindsay’s personal vote, Jones picked up what by Queensland standards was a modest swing of 2.2%, which was nonetheless enough to secure his hold on a seat which the redistribution had made, by the narrowest of margins, notionally Labor. Jones’s Labor opponent this time is Cathy O’Toole, a former chief executive of a disability employment service and member of the Left faction.

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.

2,266 comments on “Seats of the week: Forde and Herbert”

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  1. [You certainly can arrive in Australia by plane, and then seek asylum. More Australia asylum seekers have come by plane than boat in the last decade. ]

    I suggest you fly to a foreign country, post your passport home, then try to get on a plane home. See how far you get.

  2. Mod Lib –

    The issue was “loss of control of our borders”.

    Who, apart from Sinodinos, was talking about “loss of control of our borders”?

  3. Pegasus

    Unlike most Greens, it seems, I have actually read the details of the Greens’ policy statements.

    Not content with the open-ended invitation to the 45,000,000 to get on boats to Australia, you guys want to add hundreds of millions by creating the definition of environmental refugees to the numbers over the next century.

    Nowhere have I seen a reasonable description by a Greens about what this would mean in practice.

    But you guys are all care and no responsibility. Oh and you are all compassion while the rest of us are anti-semites, cruel and unfeeling.


  4. Interesting point though “we cannot take all 45 million”.

    Well no. But I’ve never seen in this public debate a serious attempt at coming to a reasonable figure a) about how many people we can take and b) how many would actually want to come here rather than somewhere else.

    I’d love to see the PBers deal with those questions sensibly.

  5. 2201

    And this is how the people smugglers make their money. When there is an easier and cheaper legal way there is no smuggling.

    If you want to stop the leaky boats that make the organised criminals lots of money then let the asylum seekers on the planes.

  6. QandA next week? Yes, you guessed it. Not a Minister vs Shadow policy debate. Rather we have Trioli , Ellis, Frydenberg and others.

  7. @jv/2198

    Fixing our society takes ages, it’s not a overnight situation, nor in the next century, and not the governments job, they get accused enough to interfere with people’s lives already, lets not get them upset over society issues.

    If people don’t want to take their accept their own issues, then there is no try to get people to accept other races, etc.

    Our society is mostly our own fault.

  8. confessions@2200

    Why isn’t Sinodinos a shadow minister when the useless Member for Dickson is?

    The shadow ministry is locked in due to a reduction in the Shadow Ministry numbers which has been grandfathered in.

    If Abbott wants to promote one person to the Shadow Ministry he has to sack three.

  9. Sinodinis came across better than I expected. But isnt he the geezer who made a fortune out of the Obeid land sales?

  10. [ If it is about numbers, what relevance is mode of arrival?]

    Because, as you know, travel documents cannot be destroyed and identity erased as readily when air travel occurs.

    Travellers without valid visas are returned at airline expense.

    People smugglers are not trafficking people directly on regular airline arrivals,etc.

    But you already know this.

  11. [Psephos
    Posted Monday, July 22, 2013 at 10:32 pm | PERMALINK
    You certainly can arrive in Australia by plane, and then seek asylum. More Australia asylum seekers have come by plane than boat in the last decade.

    I suggest you fly to a foreign country, post your passport home, then try to get on a plane home. See how far you get.]

    What has the presence or absence of a passport got to do with the numbers of asylum seekers around the world?

    I say again, and this question is really not that hard for the combined wisdom of this blog, notwithstanding the continued reluctance to address it:

    If the issue is about there being too many potential asylum seekers around to world so Australia has to have severe policies…….why do they only apply to boat arrivals?

    What has mode of arrival got to do with the total numbers?

  12. What’s the difference between arriving by boat or by plane?

    This is the sort of stupidity from the Greens that everybody, both Labor and Libs are constantly pestered with!

  13. [People smugglers are not trafficking people directly on regular airline arrivals,etc.]

    What has the presence or absence of people smugglers got to do with the numbers of asylum seekers?

    If you are arguing that we need to be cruel because of the numbers of asylum seekers, what relevance is mode of arrival?

  14. [James Harrison @JamesHarrisonAUIf this is about punishing people smugglers, then punish the smugglers – not the innocent people seeking a better life. #QandA]

    So anyone “seeking a better life” has automatic right to entry anywhere? or Just Australia??

    Damn, why cannot I have the same right?

    This is the “issue” the Greens have reduced being “left-wing” too!!!

    They are intellectually facile wankers.

  15. “Environmental refugees” sounds like a dubious concept. Famines and so on are typically political in cause.

  16. TLBD

    Its what people who bully want. So I am pointing out I will not.

    Instead when it gets to point I cannot cope I will complain to William.

    This will not be running to momma as some bullies like to crow. Its taking appropriate action under the rules.

    Easy for people to avoid. Don’t bully

  17. [why do they only apply to boat arrivals?]

    Two reasons.

    1. Every person who enters Australia by air does so with papers, ie, with authorisation. We know who they are and where they’ve come from. If they apply for refugee status, we can make an accurate assessment of the merits of their claim. This is not the case with people who arrive by boat, because they have either no papers or unreliable UNHCR papers which can be easily bought in Pakistan.
    2. People arriving by air have left their country legally, with a passport. Therefore, if they apply for refugee status, and we determine they are not genuine refugees, we can send them home. (We in fact send home substantial numbers of Chinese tourists and students who claim refugee status because they want to stay in Australia.) People who come by boat are very difficult to repatriate regardless of what determination we make about them, a. because we often don’t know where they’re actually from, and b. their home countries (notably Iran) won’t take them.
    3. Coming to Australia by boat is inherently dangerous, and over 1000 people have died trying to do so in the past six years. To my knowledge no-one has ever died while coming to Australia by air. And since people coming to Australia by air always have valid reasons for doing so (ie, they have a visa), we have no grounds for trying to deter them.


  18. Centre@2221

    What’s the difference between arriving by boat or by plane?

    Are you completely stupid, or just pretending to be stupid?

    As Psephos has said again and again, try getting on a plane at a foreign airport en route to Australia without a passport. You will then understand the difference.

  19. Kevin Bonham

    [“Environmental refugees” sounds like a dubious concept. Famines and so on are typically political in cause.]

    It is likely that some countries with low-lying land are already being directly impacted by sea level rise and/or increased sea surges.

    These may be “anthropogenic”, and indirectly political, they will give rise to political refugees.

  20. Folks this is old. Back when the ALP was dismantling the program which worked the line was trotted out about numbers by plane and boat when boat numbers were on the rise.

    The core issue is that anyone without passport/ID is very hard to determine the status of. Storylines which ‘work’ are learnt while passports are tossed.

    Australian intelligence agencies are right to be concerned. You come here by plane, we have a very good chance of knowing who you actually are and assessing risk because you boarded with a passport.

    Now, suspicions may be minimal, it could be the 0.1% of the 40 000, it could be fewer.. however, Boston recently has shown us that it only takes a couple.

    If that couple of men sought asylum here via plane, there is a very strong chance, with their family records, that they would have been flagged. If on a boat, you would have very close to zero chance of raising suspicion.

    It is precisely because the rise of the last decade has been in countries like Iran, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka that the concern has arisen. All three countries have thriving, known and has had continuously operational terror recruitment for a very long time. It is the reason that many countries just won’t take AS from those nations.

    The most dangerous thing about an AS on a boat is the lack of identity.

  21. [These may be “anthropogenic”, and indirectly political, they will give rise to political refugees.]

    Damn: I meant to say: These may be “anthropogenically” caused, and indirectly political, but they will give rise to environmental refugees.

  22. guytaur

    “Not exactly true. There is a reason Abbott has been running from it”

    Q&A’s reach is a lot deeper if it features a LOTO or a PM, true.

    But far and away the core audience of Q&A are political tragics and hipster twitterers. If Abbott bombed on the show I doubt it would be the PR disaster he obviously thinks it would be.

  23. Psephos

    [You cannot arrive at an Australian airport with no papers and seek refugee status.]

    Yes you can, if you destroy them en route, forged or otherwise. But that isn’t the point anyway.

    Displaced people can arrive at an Australian airport on a visa – real, forged, or destroyed en route – and then seek asylum.

    Displaced people can arrive in Australia by boat on a visa- real, forged non-existent, and then seek asylum. Same.

    Each group at the point of arrival is in exactly the same legal position. The nature of the documentation or lack of it makes no difference at that point.

    Why is one group in exactly the same legal position kept onshore (with 20-30% found to be genuine), and taken to Villawood to be processed, while the other group is sent to buggery (94% found to be genuine)?

    Yes, the answer lies in the seat of Lindsay.

  24. [don
    Posted Monday, July 22, 2013 at 10:47 pm | PERMALINK
    What’s the difference between arriving by boat or by plane?
    Are you completely stupid, or just pretending to be stupid?

    As Psephos has said again and again, try getting on a plane at a foreign airport en route to Australia without a passport. You will then understand the difference.]

    You can insult me to your hearts content, but it doesn’t address the question. If the concern is numbers, what relevance is the mode of arrival?

    How is possession of a passport relevant to the total number of people needing help in the world?

    If Australia printed 45 million passports for them for their home countries is the problem solved in your minds is it?

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