Seat of the week: Dickson

Peter Dutton’s parliamentary career began when he unseated Cheryl Kernot in 2001, and he was doubtful enough of his capacity to keep his seat out of Labor hands that he sought refuge elsewhere before the 2010 election.

Located at the western edge of Brisbane’s northern suburban corridor, Dickson is one of six seats which have been created to deal with Queensland’s population boom since the expansion of parliament in 1984. From south to north, it presently encompasses the marginal hills district suburbs of Ferny Hills, Arana Hills and Everton Hills; a strongly conservative area around Pine River including Albany Creek and Eatons Hill; and Labor-leaning suburbs along Gympie Road and the Caboolture rail line including Strathpine, Bray Park, Lawnton and Petrie (that latter being confusingly located outside the electorate that bears its name). It also extends westwards beyond the metropolitan area to Lake Samsonvale and the interior edge of the D’Aguilar Range, including the townships of Dayboro and Samford. The populous part of the electorate had hitherto been accommodate mostly by Fisher after 1984, Petrie after 1949, and Lilley beforehand.

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

Dickson was won for Labor on its creation in 1993 by Michael Lavarch, who had previously been the member for Fisher. Lavarch went on to serve as Attorney-General in the second term of the Keating government, before becoming one of its highest profile casualties of the 1996 election. The Liberal candidate who defeated him was Tony Smith (not to be confused with the current member for Casey in Melbourne), whose career imploded when he was questioned by police after being seen leaving a building that housed a brothel. Smith forestalled preselection defeat by quitting the Liberal Party and declaring his intention to run as an independent, which he did with little success. By this time it had emerged that the Labor candidate for the 1998 election would be defecting Democrats leader Cheryl Kernot, who had announced her determination to win a marginal seat for Labor. At first it appeared that her bid had failed, prompting her to lash out on election night at an ALP network that had deprived her campaign of resources. She would in fact go on to win the seat by a margin of 276 votes, but her career as a Labor MP was limited to a single disastrous term, after which she was unseated by a 6.1% swing at the 2001 election.

The new Liberal member was Peter Dutton, owner of a Brisbane child care centre who had earlier worked for the National Crime Authority, the Queensland Police sex offender squad and the Department of Corrective Services. Dutton consolidated his hold on the seat with a 1.8% swing in 2004 and was subsequently admitted to the outer ministry as Workforce Participation Minister, going on to a minor promotion to Revenue Minister and Assistant Treasurer in January 2006. After surviving the heavy statewide swing to Labor at the 2007 election by a margin of 217 votes, Dutton was promoted to shadow cabinet in the finance, competition policy and deregulation portfolios, and then to health and ageing after he backed Malcolm Turbull’s successful leadership challenge against Brendan Nelson in September 2008.

Dutton’s career hit a speed bump when the redistribution ahead of the 2010 election saw Dickson exchange upper Brisbane River valley territory for suburban areas around Murrumba Downs, making it a notionally Labor seat at a time when few foresaw the problems that would engulf the government at the end of its term. Dutton believed he saw a lifeline in Margaret May’s retirement as member for the safe Gold Coast seat of McPherson, for which he nominated for preselection. However, well-organised locals had long had their eyes on the succession and were not of a mind to accommodate Dutton, being readily able to draw on the argument that he would serve his party better by fighting for his crucial marginal seat. Dutton unwisely sought to raise the stakes by declaring he would not fall back on Dickson if thwarted in McPherson, evidently hoping preselectors would baulk at the prospect of depriving the party of his services. Despite backing from Malcolm Turnbull and John Howard, this proved to be a miscalculation: the local preselection vote was won by local favourite Karen Andrews, with Dutton reportedly meeting opposition in the branches of the newly merged Liberal National Party from those who had formerly been with the Nationals.

After alternative options failed to emerge, Dutton went back on his word and ran again in Dickson. However, such was the statewide backlash against Labor after the dumping of Kevin Rudd that he went untroubled, his 5.9% swing being well in line with the state average and enough to secure him a margin of 5.1%. Dickson again closely matched the state trend in recording a further 1.8% swing to the LNP in 2013, putting Dutton’s present margin at 6.7%. Dutton meanwhile has maintained the health portfolio since September 2008, serving as Minister for Health and Minister for Sport since the election of the Abbott government in September 2013.

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.

868 comments on “Seat of the week: Dickson”

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  1. Dutton seems so much like a trundler. He gets up each question time says his spiel and sits down probably thinking well that’s over for another day.
    A real noncombatant that performs like a piece of furniture. Necessary to fill the room.
    Fortunately only has health and sports to contend with and consequently no particular budget requirements because these areas no longer matter. Maybe sport.
    Given his previous experience:
    “The new Liberal member was Peter Dutton, owner of a Brisbane child care centre who had earlier worked for the National Crime Authority, the Queensland Police sex offender squad and the Department of Corrective Services.”
    I think criminal elements in child care could be given a vigorous review. Bloody kids.

  2. Caught the headline of The Australian while in the servo just now: “Carbon tax refunds to hit $100m” and thought wow that’s over 4 dollars for every person in the country, no wonder so many people devoted the last three years of their lives to whinging their guts out about it.

  3. Good morning Dawn Patrollers. Plenty of weekend reading here.

    A very good piece by Phil Coorey on Abbott’s budget problems.
    Rolf Harris’s sentence has been referred to the A-G for being too lenient.
    ASADA ups the ante on Essendon.
    The longer it goes the worse it gets for Abbott as the facts come out and the Senate gets its head around them.
    Lenore Taylor – Abbott has stopped the boats but the cost is catastrophic.
    A great interview with the impressive Graeme Innes.
    George Brandis’s creeping spy powers.
    Tony Abbott, terra nullius and Warren Mundine,,6637
    Wixxyleaks exposes the regime to which the Tamil asylum seekers are being handed back to. WARNING – disturbing graphic images included.

  4. Section 2 . . .

    Will Australia have its Kodak moment with the RET?
    Where inadequate funding for foster carers meets child abuse.
    What’s ahead for the new ABC and SBS boards.
    Judith Ireland – the reality of the new Senate his.
    This is a good read. Michael Short asks why is Australia not good enough for politicians.
    Adele Ferguson is not at all convinced by the response by the CBA.
    Ross Gittins muses on life after the mining boom.
    How long before the adjectives, hapless, embattled, controversial, etc are routinely associated with the Joint Strike Fighter program?
    It’s pretty crook when a church has to tell a Prime Minister to respect science!

  5. Section 3 . . .

    Nicholas Cowdery with another thoughtful piece on sentencing.
    And Jacqui Maley follows through on the subject.
    An excellent column from Mike Carlton today.
    MUST SEE! Alan Moir has been on fire this week. Here he focuses on Abbott’s “settlement” statement.

    John Spooner gives the CBA some advice on giving advice.
    Nice work from Pat Campbell on the freedom to be taken for a ride.
    Ron Tandberg continues to deride the Dishonourable Scott Morrison.
    Simon Letch unveils a new logo for the CBA.

  6. Sigh.

    Phone call at 2.30 am from irate neighbour – “Your horses are out and I’ve crashed my father’s car because of them” (interlaced with expletives which I accepted as understandable in the circs).

    Threw a raincoat over my PJs, slipped on some gumboats and went up to his place to investigate.

    My first sentence, “I’m surprised they got out of that paddock.” (There’s been a history of escapism, but my son and I have put serious work into rehabilitating the fences over the last fortnight).

    Neighbour very drunk, had driven home (only 100 metres) from other neighbours’ place in the rain. Claims a horse ran across the road, startling him and causing him to swerve into concrete fence post, doing serious damage to the front of his dad’s expensive car.

    I had no real reason to disbelieve his story, but said that all I could do at that hour of the night was try and get the escapees back into the paddock. Every time I say this I get the sense that something’s a bit off.

    First thing I do is go into the horses’ paddock. Not only all present and accounted for, but it wasn’t easy finding them – they were way down the other end of the property.

    They clearly hadn’t been anywhere.

    Hmmm, I think. You’re drunk. You crash daddy’s car. You know daddy has being emoting about the dangers of horses getting out on the road. What story is dad going to believe?

    Get eldest son out of bed, ask him to go out and confirm that all horses are in the paddock. Meanwhile, I ring the police, who tell me that any insurance he has will be void if there’s even a suggestion he’d been drinking.

    While I’m talking to the police, the ‘call waiting’ beep starts. End conversation with the police. It’s my neighbour (again, I still have no idea why).

    So I take my son up as a witness. Neighbour shows us ‘evidence’ – day old horse poop (yes, there was a horse out Friday morning, who was then put in the other, safer paddock) and what he calls a ‘skid mark’ but which looks like an ordinary tyre mark – the kind you get when a car goes over grass.

    Son agrees that neighbour clearly drunk.

    I know that I’m absolutely safe legally, but disputes with neighbours are nasty things, so I haven’t slept since.

  7. And from the Land of the Free –

    Colorado style service – with a smile and a gun! Are they barking mad or what?
    “Success” Texas style.
    The most corrupt states are Republican. What a surprise!
    The Young Turks hit FoxNews for burying good job numbers.
    Highway patrol California style.
    Jessie Ventura is not happy with the Supreme Court and its religious bent.

  8. Thanks also BK. The CBA case will be Australia’s Enron moment in terms of financial enforcement. There is evidence of systematic fraud – you go to jail for that. The CBA boss wants there to be no charges if they agree to pay some of the money taken back, in their own time, on their own terms. Why do the police not act, let alone ASIC?

  9. [So I take my son up as a witness. Neighbour shows us ‘evidence’ – day old horse poop (yes, there was a horse out Friday morning, who was then put in the other, safer paddock) and what he calls a ‘skid mark’ but which looks like an ordinary tyre mark – the kind you get when a car goes over grass.

    Son agrees that neighbour clearly drunk.

    I know that I’m absolutely safe legally, but disputes with neighbours are nasty things, so I haven’t slept since.]

    One would hope that more sober your neighbour would realise that lying for financial gain has a name in some jurisdictions and cut his loses at the cost of repairs.

  10. I’ve referred to the furphy that the carbon tax can be repealed in the first sitting week of the Senate before —

    [The government had hoped to use the changed numbers on the committee to alter its carbon tax repeal bill report date from July 14 to July 7. That would have enabled debate on the repeal to start on Monday rather than a week later.

    The government is desperate to have the carbon tax repeal through the Senate in the next fortnight because it has been advised that to delay beyond July means companies have to allow for the tax for up to another year.

    …and, of course, there have been previous reports saying that even pro-tax removal businesses have said there’s no point repealing it after September.

    Given Clive’s argument that his Senators can’t be expected to vote on legislation without being given extra staff, I can’t imagine they’ll be helping to rush things through.

  11. WWP

    I have no doubt he thinks he saw a horse. In the condition he was in, I’m surprised it wasn’t a pink elephant.

  12. [THE head of the Australasian Railway Association has confidently predicted overseas investment is ready and waiting to build a $114 billion high-speed rail system with a stop in Albury-Wodonga.]

    [Chief executive officer Bryan Nye addressed a gathering of councils including Albury and Wodonga on Thursday night and revealed overseas financial backing could be the breakthrough needed to advance the $114 billion project linking Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

    He said yesterday “political will” was the only hurdle standing in the way of making a start and urged councils to begin “agitating” for high speed rail.]

  13. BK

    [A very good piece by Phil Coorey on Abbott’s budget problems.]

    It’s hard to believe that Coorey actually wrote this.

  14. Regarding High Speed Rail, I find it hard to believe the overseas finance story. We always hear these claims made about projects that don’t merit local funds. Why would they do it? HSR may have community benefits but will not pay for itself for its operator for thirty years.

  15. That would be a troubling thing Zoomster. One can hope that once he gets over the panic of explaining to his father that he has pranged the car that he realises admitting he had been drinking would make things much worse.

    You might gently remind him that his secret remains safe with you unless his father confronts you about how the horses got out. You say that you’re simply going to say that they didn’t escape and tip the bucket. You advise him to tell his father some less inaccurate account about the collision.

  16. CTar1

    RN chaps could end up agreeing Maliki who said last week
    “We were fools to agree to buy American planes” . The megaship christened yesterday is designed to take F-35s .

  17. Anyone to RAAF chaps: “You were fools to agree to buy a plane that had not yet flown, for a price that was not yet final. You stupid prats.”

    These 58 fighters will cost $12.8 billion – over $200 million each. We could build a new high school, upgrade a hospital, or extend a rail line for the cost of each one. We could have paid parental leave for longer than the planes will fly for the same price. This decision was insane.

  18. [

    ELECTRICITY companies will have to refund at least $100 million to households in carbon tax charges, if the government succeeds with its repeal next week.

    Most electricity retailers have continued to charge the carbon tax, which costs $11 million a day on electricity, since July 1 rather than take a risk on a quick repeal of the measure.]

    We know the carbon price will be repealed, but at present it is still law.

  19. fran

    Yes, it’s awkward– son was sent up here by father several years ago after losing license for drink driving, and is employed by his father to manage the property.

    You can understand why he would be frantically trying to deflect blame – he stands not only to lose some money, but potentially his job and his home.

  20. poroti – The chances seem to be moving in the direction that the ‘B’ version is ‘pie in the sky’.

    That the whole project will collapse is unlikely.

    It’s heading in the direction of F-111. The Air Force version very late and once in the air it takes about a decade to fix. The Navy ends up with an A/C like the F-14 that has the bits of the F-111 technology that works but is less capable than what they wanted.

  21. zoom

    [Yes, it’s awkward]

    Difficult – some careful thinking before releasing the mouth required.

    I don’t envy you on this situation.

  22. [Only 7 per cent of voters were neither satisfied (31 per cent) nor dissatisfied (62 per cent) with the Prime Minister’s performance, according to yesterday’s Newspoll.

    In other words, there is certainty about Abbott’s unpopularity, making it that much harder for the Coalition to sell the budget, recover in the polls and ultimately win the next election.]

    Some frank words from PvO in his column today.

  23. sprocket

    [They’re a great catch! The men lug their huge fish to the shore after a successful fishing expedition together]

    The ‘men’ – the Murdochs don’t seem to be ‘lugging’ anything but the two guys in pink shirts are. Crew or Marina staff I’d say.

  24. It sounds as if you have a fair bit of leverage. Perhaps he will think better of it all on his own. Maybe pop around in a day or so to see how he’s doing, a smile and a comment about neighbourliness.


  25. [After alternative options failed to emerge, Dutton went back on his word and ran again in Dickson. ]

    William’s general description of Dutton, which I’m sure is objective, does nothing to recommend him. He has the perfect face and attitude for
    [the National Crime Authority, the Queensland Police sex offender squad and the Department of Corrective Services.]
    and I cannot imagine that he ever looked comfortable in a child care centre.

    I can only wonder why Abbott gave him a portfolio.

  26. This was obvious even from what little Abbott let slip before the election and yet it has taken until now for the “professionals” to discover it. NFFP.

    [Mark Kenny Projected savings from scrapping the carbon tax “dwarfed by withdrawal of other payments’.]

  27. lizzie:

    Dutton doesn’t seem sharp enough to hold down employment with law enforcement agencies. Although I can well see him as the big fish in a small pond of a corrective services facility.

  28. I think you mean the electorate includes the townships of Dayboro and Samford, not Samsonvale. Nothing at Samsonvale but some acreage housing, trees and cows! Samford has all the amenities and larger population that would class it as a township.

  29. confessions

    I think he’d make a better standover man than a subtle explorer of motivation! We don’t know how long he lasted in each job.

  30. Jobs for the boys. This really is the most cynical govt I’ve seen. They make no effort at trying to be non partisan.

    [Since coming to power, the Abbott Government has appointed former Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella to the board of the Australian Submarine Corporation – even though she had little defence industry experience.

    Former Queensland Liberal MP turned right-wing shock-jock Gary Hardgrave was last month named administrator of Norfolk Island and Howard government ministers Alexander Downer and Nick Minchin have been handed plum diplomatic roles.

    Mr Downer was dispatched as High Commissioner to Britain and Mr Minchin was made consul-general in New York.]

  31. For those interested in Dickson you should note that:

    That 69% Labor booth to the far west is Nt Nebo which probably went something like 30 ,30, 30 (ie the Greens got 30% or more. It is a green voting area. The two small booths in the inset are tiny RURAL hamlets.

    I think that the inner area of Dickson will swing towards Labor heavily. Watch the Stafford by election result because the populated areas of Dickson will be very similar.

  32. Actually I just checked – in 2010 Mkt Nebo went 43% green – but there are only 350 or so voters.

    Mind you it is silly that Mt Nebo is in Dickson – it is really a Ryan focused settlement ie the kids go to the Gap High School and the only bus route is to the Gap. There is only a steep and dangerous Road connection to Samford

  33. So Bolt is part of security assessments???

    [julianburnside ‏@JulianBurnside 4m
    Govt gives Bolt inside info about Tamil refugees, but Morrison refuses to tell public anything as he hands refugees to persecutors]

  34. Good Morning


    I hope for the best outcome for you. I see that advice has been offered and I have nothing to add to that.

    I have been following your timeline comments on carbon tax repeal and do think it shows how incompetent Abbott and company are.

    In today’s situation will Palmer vote against an ETS if the “carbon tax” applies for a year anyway?

  35. The ASIC much like the SEC and CFTC has the major function of protecting major corporations from investigation and prosecution from the sins they wish to perpetrate.

    Regulatory bodies world wide now days tend to have the function of regulating the public,not corporations or criminal individuals with high connections.

  36. Apparently The Lying Friar and his henchmen have been reading Lao tzu ‘The Art of War’

    [“@SunTzuSaid: When you capture new territory, cut it up into allotments for the benefit of the soldiery.” ]

  37. Phil Vee (from previous thread),

    [Tony Wright has helpfully explained Abbott’s “scarcely settled” statement. Wright believes the PM is legally correct but he mistakenly said it backwards so it came out wrong]

    I blame Led Zeppelin for planting Tones’ words backwards on the page. After all, they have form.

  38. Apparently, BOF’s memory problems are even more extensive than we thought following that bottle of Grange that slipped his memory.

    It seems he also has no recollection of correspondence with ex-ABC chairman, climate delusionist and enemy of renewable energy, Maurice Newman

  39. T.P

    [Regulatory bodies world wide now days tend to have the function of regulating the public,not corporations or criminal individuals with high connections.]

    It took no time at all for ASIC to settle in to the culture of the predecessor organisation, the NCSC.

    Its tea and biscuits with companies and whinging about ‘resource levels’ with the Senate Estimates Committees and anyone else who asked about non-investigations.

  40. Damn the iPad! That post comment button is just too easy to hit.

    Anyhoo …

    Newman wanted BOF to pull the attendance of a state government official at a meeting of the consultative committee for the Crookwell 3 windfarm. Newman and his wife run the Crookwell Land Guardians group and Newman regarded the official was too pro-wind. Shortly after the official was barred from attending, BOF introduced more Green tape to prevent Green development, which is ironic.

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