Seat of the week: Leichhardt

Electorally volatile in recent times, the far north Queensland seat of Leichhardt has generally gone the way of the winning party at elections in the modern era, an exception being present incumbent Warren Entsch’s win for the Liberal National Party after he returned from retirement in 2010.

Teal and red numbers respectively indicate booths with two-party majorities for the LNP and Labor. Click for larger image. Map boundaries courtesy of Ben Raue at The Tally Room.

Leichhardt consists of the northernmost part of Queensland, including Cairns at its southern extremity along with Cape York Peninsula and the Torres Strait Islands. Naturally marginal Cairns provides it with about two-thirds of its voters, the remainder coming from conservative-leaning rural areas along the coast immediately to the north, and Labor-voting indigenous communities beyond. The electorate ranks sixth out of the nation’s 150 electorates for the highest proportion of indigenous persons, behind the two Northern Territory electorates, neighbouring Kennedy, Durack in northern Western Australia, and Parkes in interior New South Wales. Another distinguishing features is a large number of voters over 55, reflecting the popularity of Cairns as a retirement haven.

The electorate was created with the expansion of parliament in 1949, prior to which its area was mostly accommodated by Herbert until 1934 and Kennedy thereafter. Herbert and then Kennedy were in Labor hands from 1928 to 1949, but Leichhardt was narrowly won by the Country Party at its inaugural election, which saw the Menzies government come to power. However, Labor won the seat at the subsequent election in 1951, and it remained in the party fold until David Thomson gained it for the National Country Party amid Labor’s statewide debacle of 1975. Warren Entsch became the seat’s first Liberal member when he unseated Labor’s Peter Dodd with the defeat of the Keating government in 1996, polling 31.8% to the Nationals candidate’s 20.4%. Entsch suffered only a 0.5% swing at the 1998 election, compared with a statewide swing of 7.2%, and subsequently built his margin up to double figures with swings of 2.3% in 2001 and 3.6% in 2004.

Entsch’s local popularity was further illustrated when he bowed out temporarily at the 2007 election, Labor gaining the seat in his absence with a towering swing of 14.3%, the second biggest of that election after Forde in Brisbane’s outer south. The result also underscored the local eclipse of the Nationals, whose candidate polled only 4.0%. Incoming Labor member Jim Turnour managed only a single term before falling victim at the 2010 election to the combined impact of a statewide Labor rout, which cost them seven out of their existing 15 Queensland seats, and the return from retirement of Warren Entsch. Labor’s margin of 4.1% was easily accounted for by a swing of 8.6%, to which Entsch added a further 1.2% at the 2013 election.

Warren Entsch came to politics after serving in the Royal Australian Air Force from 1969 to 1978, then working as a maintenance fitter and welder, real estate agent, farmer and grazier and company director. After winning election in 1996 and re-election in 1998, he was promoted to parliamentary secretary but thereafter rose no higher, and went to the back bench upon announcing his retirement citing family reasons in 2006. During his subsequent three-year interregnum he was director of Cairns construction company CEC Group and the Australian Rainforest Foundation, but talk soon emerged of a political comeback, first in relation to the 2009 state election and then for his old seat. With this accomplished he served for a term as the Coalition’s chief whip, before relinquishing the position to Philip Ruddock after the 2013 election victory.

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.

669 comments on “Seat of the week: Leichhardt”

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  1. [ then working as a maintenance fitter and elder, real estate agent, farmer and grazier and company director. ]

    minor typo William, I think that should be “fitter and welder”.

  2. [The Defence Department has admitted that transcripts of interviews with senior military officers about Australia’s strategic failures in Iraq and Afghanistan have been destroyed.

    A scoping study commissioned by the department in 2013 found that some high-ranking military officers thought Australia’s capacity for strategic thinking in conflicts had diminished.

    During the course of the report, which was led by consultants Noetic Group, a number of senior military officers said the defence forces were “not good at strategy”.

    But in response to a freedom of information request from Guardian Australia, the department said it could not provide interview records from then major general Angus Campbell, one of the participants, because transcripts from the study were not retained.]

  3. Good morning Dawn Patrollers.

    ABSOLUTELY MUST READ! The most beautifully written article I have read for a long, long time. It’s about the chosen death of the writer’s husband. Take the time to do it.
    Now AS policy reaches new venal heights.
    MUST READ! Mike Carlton on the inevitability of the Iraq debacle, the union RC and praise to Barry O’Farrell.
    A good look at Kathy Jackson – whistleblower or crook (or both)?
    How will Abbott and Morriscum react to this High Court decision I wonder?
    A showdown looming over religious school chaplains. It will be interesting to observe the political dynamics.
    Stephen Koukalis hits back at The Australian over its seemingly ridiculous support of Big Tobacco.
    The Saturday paper has a very good examination of the chaplaincy case.
    Bob Ellis gives many examples of mothers who will miss out on the proposed PPL payments. If he is right it is a disgrace.
    Hardly a surprising conclusion.

  4. Section 2 . . .

    Michelle Grattan swipes Brandis over the “terminological clarification” regarding the occupied Palestinian territory.
    John Hewson not impressed with Abbott. But Hartcher gives his boy a kiss at the end of the article.
    What can one say?
    Mike Seccombe shines the light on Gerard Henderson. As usual a very good article.
    Why consumer confidence is so low.
    This disgusting FoFA change makes my blood boil. I is typical of the values and integrity of this government. And doesn’t the photo of Cormann so beautifully capture his innate smugness!

  5. [ This disgusting FoFA change makes my blood boil. I is typical of the values and integrity of this government. And doesn’t the photo of Cormann so beautifully capture his innate smugness!]

    The FoFA change makes my blood boil too. There is absolutely no rational justfication for changing the laws. None.

  6. This is yesterday’s news, but I think it expresses the opinions of many Labor supporters.

    It ends:
    [I’m tired of having to listen to the party getting it wrong, sometimes disastrously so. Why can’t Labor collect and act on the best possible advice? After all, we have a wonderful example before us of a government that despises expertise, and relies wholly on its favourite vested interests for policy guidance. Show how different you are. Mean something by renewal. It’s not enough to know that we have the worst government Australia has ever seen; we need a principled, vital and informed alternative. And that’s your challenge Bill. You can’t imagine how much I want you to succeed.]

  7. [8

    This disgusting FoFA change makes my blood boil. I is typical of the values and integrity of this government. And doesn’t the photo of Cormann so beautifully capture his innate smugness!

    The FoFA change makes my blood boil too. There is absolutely no rational justification for changing the laws. None.]

    The changes will have to either be subject of new legislation or regulation. In either case the Senate will have the opportunity to thwart them. I expect they will.

  8. lizzie

    and isn’t that part of the problem? People want well thought out policies based on expert advice — and they want them yesterday.

    IF people want the party to consult their base and the general community, want it to talk to stakeholders and experts in the field, want the policies to fit together into a coherent strategy, and want them sold well — they have to be prepared to give the party time to sit there and say nothing while the policies get sorted out.

    Otherwise we end up with the kind of government we have now, who scribbled out policies over a couple of weeks and then stuck to them even when it became obvious they were badly flawed – – because the pressure to come up with an instant response didn’t allow any other approach.


    [The world’s peak science body has put the Australian Government on notice, warning it could lose out on lucrative contracts following cuts to science in the federal budget.

    In Hobart, the CSIRO’s staff numbers are being cut and the Australian Antarctic Division is being forced to find efficiency measures.

    Medical researchers are also bracing for an indirect impact as the structure of PhDs change.

    “I would be worried about the cuts to basic grant funding to the Australian Research Council and to some of the world-renowned organisations like the CSIRO,” the International Council for Science head Steven Wilson told 7.30 Tasmania.

    The council lobbies on the interests of 141 countries and said Australia was going against the worldwide trend of boosting investment in research and development.]

  10. Morning all

    Thanks BK for this morning’s offerings.


    The coalition are doing exactly what they planned. Stall renewable energy in favour of continuing to get as much coal mined. Throwing away environmental protections in the process.
    Utilise funds for road tollways in favour of public transport and shift the burden for education and health into a greater user pay system.

    The big question is does the electorate want to go down this path.

  11. zoomster

    I think the writer is expressing the reservations that some Labor supporters have, that recent decisions to support Coalition legislation are going against the known policies of Labor.

  12. Good Morning

    Regarding Bill Shorten. People are panicking. They think Mr Shorten should be out there screaming about things every day.

    At the moment I disagree. Abbott did that and look at his approval ratings before the budget.

    The important thing is to block in the Senate. Besides stopping the damage the blocking is going to increase the political damage to the LNP immensely.

    Even the Murdoch press will have to report that reality, though trying no doubt to blame the Senate for it. We know the damage to expect. The last time a budget was blocked was Fraser blocking Whitlam. So no constitutional crisis but for sure a political one

    Given what is coming I think not being out there screaming every day is the right strategy. Leave the screaming and impression of panic to Abbott

  13. lizzie

    [I think the writer is expressing the reservations that some Labor supporters have, that recent decisions to support Coalition legislation are going against the known policies of Labor.]

    and you wonder whether they’ve done the research and consultation they expect the party to do in arriving at this conclusion!

    Now, I haven’t – but on the Green Army, reading the comments from the Shadow Minister, it is obvious his concerns were to do with the regulations surrounding the program rather than the legislation.

    So if the legislation is purely along the lines of ‘let’s employ people to work on envirornmental projects’ you can imagine that there’s not a lot to actually oppose.

    As for the tax on highly paid workers, I can’t see any Labor supporter objecting to that. My only wish was that they’d amended it to make it a permanent rise.


    …but these can scarcely be described as the kind of well researched, evidence based policies that the letter writer wants Labor to adopt.

  14. Lizzie

    I agree about Labor getting flack over some decisions. I agree with the flak because I do not think Labor’s reasons about the more general view are correct. eg. Chaplains.

    I think Labor should oppose on the basis it imposes inequality against the party platform. I think the government can fund through the states and will just have to negotiate more.

  15. guytaur

    yes, it’s amazing the sense of crisis some people are generating, given the present state of the polls and the stage we’re at in the electoral process.

    Many Labor strategists I’ve spoken to say that one of the reasons Howard kept winning was that the polls were always so close. Labor never had the clear air it needed to play around with policy positions, because it always looked as if they were going to win the next election and thus they couldn’t afford to take risks.

    That kept us in the ‘sensible centre’ rather than allowing us to test the waters with some more radical ideas.

    We seem to be facing much the same problem now – but at least we do have a raft of policies formulated whilst in government to fall back on.

  16. zoomster

    I don’t think there’s a sense of crisis, just uncertainty about a new and comparatively untried leader.

    I hope Abbott isn’t cutting through with his “Bill Shorten’s just a complainer” stuff. Most of the electorate are in a complaining mood about Coalition atm. As they should be.

  17. zoomster

    [but these can scarcely be described as the kind of well researched, evidence based policies that the letter writer wants Labor to adopt.]

    Of course.

    What Labor can do is remind the electorate that what the coalition are doing is exactly what they intended. Only thing is that they did not inform the electorate beforehand.

  18. Deja vu –

    [ Russia Reignites The Proxy War: Putin Offers “Complete Support” To Iraq Prime Minister Scorned By Obama

    The situation in Iraq, already a jumble of domestic sectarian violence, is now pitting virtually all major (and regional) international players against each other as well.

    There is:

    – US which tacitly supports Iran intervention in the region, but may have suddenly cooled in its support of Maliki despite sending naval and troop forces in the country after partially evacuating its embassy

    – Saudi Arabia which wants to remain friendly with the US but is antagonistic to the Iraq regime, is potentially aiding the ISIS forces, and clearly refuses to allow Iran entrance in Iraq

    – Iran, which has suddenly become America’s best friend in the region, which is willing to enter Iraq and protect its holy sites

    – Syria, whose president is sitting back amused at last year’s failed campaign by the US to remove him from power, and whose army is at a stalemate with the local US-armed and funded rebels

    – Qatar, which is supporting the Syrian rebels, but so far has not made its stance clear on Iraq. Like Saudi, it too may be indirectly backing ISIS

    – Jordan, which is a close friend the US, and which may have hosted ISIS in a secret base on its territory with the US instructing the jihadist group according to an unconfirmed report

    – Turkey, which is on constant alert to Kurdish escalation across the border, the same Kurds which now have far more leverage courtesy of ISIS crushing the Iraq army in the north and handing over Kurds access to oil fields in the north.

    And of course Russia: because while Putin clearly benefits from rising crude prices, it is his Lukoil that is developing (and investing vast amounts of money in) the vast Iraqi West Qurna-2 oil field. It is not clear how he would feel about it falling into ISIS hands.

    So what does Putin do? Why announce his undying support for Maliki, of course, and as AP reported, the former KGB spy offered Iraqi premier Nuri al-Maliki Russia’s total backing for the fight against fighters who have swept across the country, as well as his full support for the embattled prime minister.


  19. [Pensioners and seniors who face hundreds of dollars a year in cuts to their concessions have voiced their anger at a forum in Perth.

    The turnout at Friday’s forum, which was co-hosted by the Council of the Ageing, was so strong that the Town Hall’s 400-person capacity was exceeded and seniors were turned away.

    While several Labor politicians attended, co-host Fairfax radio told listeners to the live broadcast that West Australian MLA Tony Simpson was the only Liberal who had agreed to turn up.

    WA Senator Chris Back called into the program but was often drowned out by boos from the audience.]

  20. As per article linked above. Surely Fiona Nash cannot remain in her role?

    [Fairfax Media has been attempting to get hold of a letter Senator Nash said Mr Furnival wrote outlining how he would ensure his co-ownership of the lobbying company Australian Public Affairs would not interfere with his role in creating healthy food policy.]

    Read more:

  21. Oops I meant to post this bit

    [But a freedom of information request to the Ministry of Health has been rejected on the grounds the documents “cannot be found, do not exist or have not been received”.
    News Corp journalist Sean Parnell also had a request to the office of the Special Minister of State, which manages ministerial standards, denied on the grounds “the document does not exist”.]

    Read more:

  22. zoomster –

    So if the legislation is purely along the lines of ‘let’s employ people to work on envirornmental projects’ you can imagine that there’s not a lot to actually oppose.

    Right. So paying significantly below the minimum wage is not a problem?

    Taking money from Landcare to fund the Green Army isn’t a problem?

    Trying to duck OH&S considerations is not a problem?

    Not knowing what the Green Army is actually going to be doing is not a problem?

    The Green Army should never have been voted through by the ALP.

  23. Jackol

    did you read my post?

    [Right. So paying significantly below the minimum wage is not a problem?

    Taking money from Landcare to fund the Green Army isn’t a problem?

    Trying to duck OH&S considerations is not a problem?

    Not knowing what the Green Army is actually going to be doing is not a problem?

    The statement from the Shadow (Butler?) was that these were all matters for regulation, and that if he was assured that the regulations covered these issues adequately, then the vote for the legislation would go ahead.

    One assumes – without knowing any better – that that’s exactly what happened.

    As I said, if at the end of the day all the legislation says is along the lines of “We’re going to employ people to work on environmental projects’ then there’s not much to object to there.

    Given the nature of the amendments moved (and rejected) and the fact it was passed with no dissension recorded by anyone (Greens, indies, Labor etc) it seems the legislation itself was pretty innocuous.

  24. Love knows no political colour. Pity you cannot say the same about journalistic rigour.

    Chris Uhlmann and Gai Brodtmann on politics and pillow talk Gai Brodtmann and Chris Uhlmann take political conflict in their stride, writes Megan Doherty.
    Gai Brodtmann and Chris Uhlmann have always been one of Canberra’s most intriguing couples. Not just because of their jobs (she is a federal politician, he a nationally recognised journalist charged with keeping those politicians in check). Not just because of their politics (she in the right faction of Labor, he is somewhat ‘‘more conservative’’. Uhlmann, a former trainee priest, once stood on the ticket of conservative Christian independent Paul Osborne in the ACT Legislative Assembly election of 1998 and later worked as his senior adviser.]

  25. dave

    Russia has his own jihadis to worry about so they may be part of Putin’s equation. The most effective part of ISIS are a large group of Chechens.

  26. [Taking money from Landcare to fund the Green Army isn’t a problem?]

    this one isn’t a matter for regulation (sorry) but it may not have been in the Bill.

  27. zoomster – I understand what you are saying. I simply don’t buy the “innocuousness” of it all.

    Whether the regulations (to come presumably) are adequate or not is kind of irrelevant. You don’t legislate in a vacuum. There is a specific program that has been announced and it has certain properties (such as bizarrely ignoring OH&S and paying below minimum wage etc). We know that is the intent because the LNP have told us. Whether this legislation which provides the basic building blocks to work towards the plan we have already heard could have decent regulation to do something entirely different to what the LNP have actually announced is irrelevant.

  28. BK

    Thank you as always for the links and letting me be your twitter conduit, for next couple of weeks will be on an island with very limited internet access, so will miss your links for a while

  29. Psephos

    [Even if Fukushima in the long run does kill 2,000 or 20,000 or 200,000 Japanese, that is still less than the number who will die if we don’t stop burning carbon.]

    True, and one might add that if Fukushima had not opened in 1964 then Japan would absolutely have emitted somewhere between 30 and 50 times the CO2 it emitted from the Fukushima complex operation during those years.

    Fortunately, it’s most unlikely that as many as 200 people will die prematurely in the long run as a result of the disruption to the plant complex. The problem with Fukushima was that recommendations for independent power during a SCRAM incident (emergency shutdown) was not adopted in 1999, largely because the plant was slated for decommission. Had they done one or another, there’d have been no serious incident.

    Of course, building the plant at sea level, while cheaper, was mad. The 1960 Val Verde tidal wave reached Japan, so they ought to have known better. This was a failure of governance rather than the technology.

    [If we can do that by turning to renewables, fine. But the evidence at present is that we can’t, at least not for a long time.]

    I don’t agree here. Certainly, including nuclear power in the mix makes things a good deal easier in theory and my party is wrong to oppose nuclear power on principle, but there’s no persuasive body of evidence that renewables alone couldn’t get us where we need to be on the timelines needed. The problem in Australia is that for obvious reasons, none of the parties will propose nuclear power. So the question is really — what other suite of technologies can we adopt to make rapid progress towards decarbonisation in the interim. We cannot afford to waste this time. If you’re in a hurry to get somewhere, and you don’t know when the next bus is coming, waiting about because the bus is more efficient than walking briskly and hitching is silly. If people agree with nuclear power in 2020 and we get it by 2035 covering the last 40% great, but in the meantime let’s end thermal coal and keep gas to a minimum.

    Renewables can do that, while at this stage and for the foreseeable future nuclear can’t do that. The coal people have their enemies wedged if we make this nuclear v renewables.

  30. mari
    Next year in September Mrs BK and I and a group of 20 (long story) are going to do a 3 weeks tour of Turkey and it will include a 7 day stint in a gulet sailing around the coast. Yor comments about the lovely Greek Islands at this time of the year were duly noted.
    Hope the back isd getting a bit better!

  31. Zoomster

    First, let me say that I appreciate your calm analytical and mostly optimistic take on the present state of play, while a number of people here seem unable to even absorb the significance of Labor’s solid lead at this early stage of the electoral cycle.

    That said, I am a little puzzled at the almost total absence of Albo in the day to day cut and thrust at present. He is such a good street fighter and head kicker that I thought he would be ideal for the role, especially with the wealth of material there is to work with right now.

    Given that he was a contender for the leadership after the election loss I can only wonder whether the party is concerned that a prominent role like that could possibly ignite further leadership speculation, or that Shorten is deliberately keeping him under wraps to make sure he doesn’t become a threat.

    Then again, it might simply be that Albo feels he should stay out of the limelight and let Shorten strut his stuff so that the electorate gets to know him better. Albo has always been the consummate team player.

    Anyway I’d be very interested in your take on it.

  32. BK

    How wondeful I loved Turkey, a fair bit further north but think same will apply weather wise

    Back a fraction better a long way to go unfortunately

  33. Darn

    my impression is that Albo is playing as much a role as any Shadow – and that Shorten is deliberately letting the team share the work rather than making himself the centre of attention.

    Albo’s certainly out and about – appears to be doing appearances across the country and getting good local media off the back of it.

    I doubt that either Albo or the party see him as a future candidate for leadership. They would be planning on the basis that Shorten is there long term, and that any replacement for him is more likely to be from the younger set.

  34. [BK
    Posted Saturday, June 21, 2014 at 10:09 am | PERMALINK
    I’d love to have a BBQ with Albo. I reckon he’d be a scream!

    Yeah, me too. I reckon he’d have a lot of interesting stories to tell.

    BTW like many others here have already done, I would like to thank you for the sterling job you do every day for all of us in locating and linking the various articles for our reading pleasure. There must be a good deal of work involved in that and it is very much appreciated. It’s almost like walking into a small political library each day and it adds such an important dimension to what is by any standard an excellent political blog.

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