Seat of the week: McPherson

The Gold Coast seat of McPherson has been in conservative hands since its creation in 1949, and has been served by a succession of low-key members since 1980.

Teal numbers indicate booths with two-party majorities for the Liberal National Party. Red numbers would indicate booths with two-party majorities for Labor, if there were any. Click for larger image. Map boundaries courtesy of Ben Raue at The Tally Room.

McPherson is the southernmost coastal electorate in Queensland, covering the Gold Coast from Coolangatta at the New South Wales border north through Tugun and Palm Beach to Burleigh Heads, and extending inland to Robina and Merrimac in the north and the semi-rural Tallebudgera and Currumbin river valleys further south. An area of intensive and ongoing population growth, the most recent redistribution before the 2010 election saw it lose 5600 voters at the inland end of the electorate to the newly created seat of Wright without it needing to receive any new territory in return. The regional is demographically unremarkable on most measures, excepting a lack of ethnic diversity and a slightly above-average median age.

The electorate was created with the expansion of parliament in 1949, prior to which the Gold Coast had been accommodated by Moreton, which was pushed over time into its present position in southern Brisbane. McPherson has since been anchored in the state’s south-eastern corner, at first extending much further inland to include Beaudesert and Warwick. Its inaugural member was Arthur Fadden, a leader of the Country Party who briefly served as Prime Minister after Robert Menzies’ resignation in August 1941. After six weeks in the role he was defeated in parliament when he lost the support of two key independents, although the beleagured United Australia Party continued to support him as Opposition Leader until the 1943 election defeat. Fadden moved to the newly created seat in 1949 after previously serving as member for Darling Downs, which has since been re-named as Groom. He held the seat until his retirement in 1958, at which point he was succeeded by another Country Party member, Charles Barnes.

The rapid development of the Gold Coast changed the electorate’s complexion in the decades following the war, drawing it away from its rural base and towards the coast and weakening its identity as a Country Party stronghold. When Charles Barnes retired in 1972, Liberal candidate Eric Robinson won the seat after narrowly edging out the Country Party candidate in the preference count. The electorate was at the centre of a political controversy in 1978 when it was alleged that Robinson, then a minister in Malcolm Fraser’s government, had sought to influence the electoral redistribution commissioners after they determined to change the electorate’s name to Gold Coast, which under the terms of the coalition agreement would have entitled the National Country Party to contest the “new” seat. A royal commission into the matter cleared Robinson of wrongdoing but found another minister, Reg Withers (who had won fame as the Opposition’s Senate leader during the 1975 crisis), to have acted improperly. This resulted in Withers’ dismissal by Fraser, to the chagrin of many in the Liberal Party. Robinson went on to resign from the ministry the following year over an unrelated falling-out with Fraser.

Robinson died in January 1981 and was succeeded at the ensuing by-election by Liberal candidate Peter White. White won an easy victory with help from Labor preferences over National Country Party candidate Glenister Sheil, who had resigned from the Senate to run at the by-election and would later return to it in 1984. Sheil had won a position in the ministry in 1977 only to lose it before being sworn in for expressing support for South Africa’s apartheid system. Peter White held the seat until his retirement at the 1990 election, by which time the National Party was no longer competitive in the area at the federal level. He was succeeded by John Bradford, who went on to quit the Liberal Party in 1998 to join Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic Party, standing unsuccessfully as its Queensland Senate candidate at the election later that year. The seat then passed on to Margaret May, who won Liberal preselection from a field that included former Brisbane lord mayor Sallyanne Atkinson.

When May announced her retirement ahead of the 2010 election, Liberal front-bencher Peter Dutton sought to move to the seat in preference to his ultra-marginal existing seat of Dickson in Brisbane’s outer north. However, it quickly became apparent that local party operatives who had been jockeying for the succession were not going to be deterred, despite Dutton’s move having the backing of John Howard and then-Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull. The result was a rebuff for Dutton, who was said to have come within a handful of votes of victory on the first round of the local preselection ballot but was ultimately defeated by Karen Andrews, a Gold Coast businesswoman and chair of the party’s local federal electorate council. The prospect of the party’s state executive intervening by refusing to ratify the result was promptly ruled out amid talk of a potential rebellion in the local party. Dutton was accordingly compelled to remain in Dickson, which he had no trouble retaining amid the much-changed political circumstances which prevailed by the time the election was held. Andrews meanwhile picked up successive swings of 1.6% and 2.7% to hold the seat by a margin of 13.0% after the 2013 election.

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.

2,218 comments on “Seat of the week: McPherson”

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  1. Jackol on that definition of rorting then I agree it’s rorting. It really doesn’t matter if you repay it when caught it’s still rorting.

  2. kevj
    [I don’t understand why the fact a seat is marginal or not matters in justifying this claim. If anything it shows Abbott only went for party political purposes and not parliamentary duties. Shouldn’t the Liberal party fork up for these trips not the taxpayer.]
    Probably, but then who paid for Gillard’s week in Rooty Hill?

  3. Those of you who were not indoctrinated as roman catholics should know what an act of contrition is.

    (1) You go to confession.
    (2) You enumerate your sins.
    (3) You make an act of contrition.
    (4) You are given a penance.
    (5) You do the penance.
    (6) Your soul is pure again.

    There are several dangerous stupidities here. The first is casting an international insult to an islamic nation in catholic sectarian tersm. The second is that the acts of contrition may well not cut it in international diplomacy. The third is this: ‘If that was the contrition, what penance is Abbott supposed to undertake? The fourth is this: Abbott is dangerously misguided if an act of contrition cleanses either Abbott’s or Australia’s soul. That is not how it works in international diplomacy.

    Phil Coorey discussing this now. He says, ‘There are probably more subtle ways of being diplomatic.’ Criticises Abbott’s breaching of the convention when he apologised for what a Labor Government had done.

    Paul Kelly, says that it was not really a formal apology at all. He thinks, of course, that ‘…there was no problem with it.’ Naturally, Kelly does hagiography. Abbott is a saint who is demonstrating ‘humility’.

    As opposed to craven, bapaking cowardice, I suppose.

  4. is he signing our death warrens to USA on TPP?

    No need to go over the top on the rhetoric. We won’t know the full detail of the TPP until it’s signed, unfortunately, but at least then the government will have to back it up with legislation and we can have a big old debate here about how badly they’ve sold us out.

    In the meantime, Abbott has cunningly telegraphed to the Chinese about how desperate he is to sign up to anything with them. Excellent negotiating tactic. A sure way to get the best deal for Australia.

  5. [Probably, but then who paid for Gillard’s week in Rooty Hill?]

    Or when she used the government plane to travel to a wedding. The grey areas happen when you mix government, party, community and personal activities and where you draw that imaginery line.

  6. Australia’s biggest taxpayer rorters 2010-2012

    Juliar Dillard: $3.4 Million Dollars

    Kevin Dudd: $3.25 Million Dollars

    Tony Abbott: $2.73 Million Dollars

    Barry Hasse(WHO THE FARK IS THAT?!): $2.5 Million Dollars

    Craig Emerson: $2.36 Million Dollars

    Wayne Swan(no wonder he never posted a surplus): $2.3 Million

    Tony Burke: $2.3 Million Dollars

    Read the rorts of shame page here:

  7. Abbott’s grovelling act in front of the Malaysian PM doesn’t seem to be reported yet in the Malaysian media. However the “weird news” section of one outlet today has this:

    [Abbott in running for Australian sexism awards

    “Vicious” commentary about Australia’s first female leader Julia Gillard dominates entries for the annual “Ernie” awards for sexism with Prime Minister Tony Abbott the “most constant” offender, organisers said Tuesday.]

    Abbott doesn’t seem to have a high reputation in SE Asia at present.

  8. I agree that the best solution to this is to may MPs more and abolish the whole entitlements system. The cost of ministerial travel would still be borne by departments, but all backbench travel would be paid for by the MP. Overseas “study trips” for backbenchers are a complete rort and should be abolished.

  9. [Manly only know how to whinge.]

    Shellbell LOL

    There were too many mistakes made by the refs all which went against Manly, if interested only to happy to list in point form.

    The worst were in the first half which gave Roosters enormous possession and an undeserved lead at half time.

    Still, Manly shot to an 18-8 lead in the second half and should have got the cash from there regardless.

    By the way, the penalty try to Lyon was totally bloody justified but how about another penalty when the Manly captain was blocked chasing a bomb which would have levelled up at 20-20.

    Let’s not go there about the blatant forward pass which led to the try which put the Roosters ahead.

    [Wolfman needs a haircut]

    Eff me, at least attempt to catch a bomb. I wonder if they were the tactics to let Tupou catch it then catch him?

    Bloody nightmare – unbelievable!

  10. Now, listen up.

    Remember back on July 28, 2010, when Glenn Milne tipped a bucket over Abbott’s Battlelines rorts?

    (And, even then, he was a few thousand dollars short, in Abbot’s favour.)

    Battlelines was launched in Sydney by Sarah Murdoch on July 28, 2009 – exactly a year to the day before The Drum article.

    According to Milne, parliamentarians’ expenses for July-Dec 2009 were tabled on the “eve of the election” (which in 2010 was on August 21), so obviously just before the election was called on July 17.

    This means details of the expenses were not available to the public, nor to the journos (unless expensive FOI requests wer made), for 6-12 months after they were incurred.
    i.e. Expenses incurred in July 2009 were not available until July 2010 (12 months) and those incurred in December 2009 (6 months).

    Nowadays, after Labor reforms regarding transparency and accountability, the expenses are published online during the month following the 6-month period in which they are incurred.

    Keep that in mind, when next you come across the screeching about the $4000 the then Deputy LOTO repaid in early March 2007 about the expenses incurred by her partner, Tim Mathieson, apparently for commercial purposes.

    According to forensics carried out by Michael Smith (thanks Mike), Tim Mathieson was included as a driver on Gillard’s Commonweath-supplied car on May 2, 2006.

    Running true to Howard govt obfuscation, the details for the 6-month period of Jan-Jun 2006 would not have been available for public consumption until tabled in parliament, and ditto for the details of the expenses for Jul-Dec 2006.
    Given what happened to expose Abbott’s rorts of the system, then that period could have been anywhere up to 6-12 months after the event. However, one presumes pollies are immediately privy to that information.
    Therefore, once Gillard became aware of Tim ‘ripping off the taxpayer’, she immediately repaid it (assuming he didn’t use the car for presumed commercial purposes during the May 2 –June 30, 2006 period).

    This has been framed in some sections of the MSM as Labor being ‘concerned’ about Mathieson’s improper use of Gillard’s car, after Gillard became leader on December 4, 2006 which in turn forced Gillard to make the repayment.

    I call BS on that. I think Gillard is an honest broker. Full stop.

    Why wouldn’t Labor have been concerned about it if Gillard had merely remained a Shadow backbencher? Doesn’t make sense, does it? A rort’s a rort after all.

    Furthermore, Abbott attended Slipper’s wedding on August 12, 2006 (as did Rudd.

    Abbott claimed travel expenses because he attended the CIS’s Consilium held at the Hyatt Regency (now Coolum (hello Clive Palmer)) Resort on the Gold (or is that Sunshine) Coast.

    Was that a legitimate expense, considering the Consilium is held over three days, with attendees registering on the Thursday prior to the intelligence-fest?

    Why even GG Jeffery attended the Consilium dinner that year.

    And Rudd and Gillard attended the 2006 Consilium too.

    Apparently Gillard even gave a speech, while Abbott was the then Health Minister. Did either Rudd or Gillard claim expenses?

    Did Gillard stay at the Rudd residence, considering Rudd was actively ‘courting’ Gillard for a tilt at the leadership in a coup against Beazley?

    Or did she take her erstwhile companion Mathieson and stay in sublime surroundings on the taxpayer (even though she was entitled to claim)? As was Abbott.

    So, the question is: Is it okay to claim attendance at a forum that is ostensibly for self-promotion and book the expenses to the taxpayer? I say no.

    But, if it is okay, then it was perfectly reasonable for Abbott to claim this on the taxpayer, even though he attended (late, ha ha, is he ever on time) Slipper’s wedding on the Saturday evening.

    But just where does the personal become the political and vice versa?

    If you are on legitimate political business in another state, or indeed in your home state but far from home, and you happen to sneak in a couple of hours of personal time, I don’t see why that has to impinge on your right to claim travel allowance.

    However, if you travelled purely to attend a personal function, but then added in a presser, or a political meeting, to claim at the expense of the taxpayer, then what comes first, the chicken or the egg?

    Buggered if I know.

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