Seat of the week: Lilley

With the inner northern Brisbane neighbourhood of Stafford fresh in the mind after yesterday’s by-election, a visit to the federal electorate that covers its northern half and areas further to the east, held for Labor by Wayne Swan.

Wayne Swan’s electorate of Lilley covers bayside Brisbane north-east of the city centre, between the Brisbane and Pine rivers – an area accounting for industrial Eagle Farm in the south and residential Brighton in the north – together with suburbs nearer the city from McDowall, Stafford Heights and Everton Park east through Kedron, Chermside and Zillmere to Nundah, Nudgee and Taigum. The redistribution before the 2010 election had a substantial impact on the electorate, adding 26,000 in Chermside West and Stafford Heights at the northern end (from Petrie) and removing a similar number of voters in an area from Clayfield and Hendra south to Hamilton on the river (to Brisbane), although the margin was little affected.

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

Lilley was created in 1913, originally extending from its current base all the way north to Gympie. It did not become entirely urban until the enlargement of parliament in 1949, when Petrie was created to accommodate what were then Brisbane’s semi-rural outskirts. Labor won Lilley in 1943, 1946, 1961 and 1972 (by a margin of 35 votes on the latter occasion), but it was otherwise usually safe for the prevailing conservative forces of the day. A decisive shift came with the elections of 1980 and 1983, when Labor’s Elaine Darling won the seat and then consolidated her hold with respective swings of 5.2% and 8.4%. Wayne Swan succeeded Darling as Labor’s member in 1993, but was unseated together with all but two of his Queensland Labor colleagues at the 1996 election.

Swan returned to parliament at the following election in 1998, when he accounted for a 0.4% post-redistribution margin with a swing of 3.5%. He added further fat to his margin at the each of the next three elections, although his swing in 2007 was well below the statewide average (3.2% compared with 7.5%), consistent with a trend in inner urban seats across the country. The 2010 election delivered the LNP a swing of 4.8% that compared with a statewide result of 5.5%, bringing the seat well into the marginal zone at 3.2%. Labor’s dire polling throughout its second term in government, particularly in Queensland, led to grave fears about his capacity to retain the seat in 2013, but in the event Lilley provided the party with one of its pleasant election night surprises by swinging only 1.9%, enabling Swan to hang on with a margin of 1.3%.

Swan’s path to parliament began with a position as an adviser to Bill Hayden during his tenure as Opposition Leader and later to Hawke government ministers Mick Young and Kim Beazley, before he took on the position of Queensland party secretary in 1991. He was elevated to the shadow ministry after recovering his seat in 1998, taking on the family and community services portfolio, and remained close to his former boss Beazley. Mark Latham famously described Swan and his associates as “roosters” when Beazley conspired to recover the leadership in 2003, but nonetheless retained him in his existing position during his own tenure in the leadership. Swan was further promoted to Treasury after the 2004 election defeat, and retained it in government despite suggestions Rudd had promised the position to Lindsay Tanner in return for his support when he toppled Kim Beazley as leader in December 2006.

Although he went to high school with him in Nambour and shared a party background during the Wayne Goss years, a rivalry developed between Swan and Kevin Rudd with the former emerging as part of the AWU grouping of the Right and the latter forming part of the Right’s “old guard”. Swan was in the camp opposed Rudd at successive leadership challenges, including Rudd’s move against Beazley in December 2009, his toppling by Julia Gillard in June 2010, and the three leadership crises which transpired in 2012 and 2013. As Rudd marshalled forces for his first push in February 2012, Swan spoke of his “dysfunctional decision making and his deeply demeaning attitude towards other people including our caucus colleagues”. When Rudd finally succeeded in toppling Gillard in June 2013, Swan immediately resigned as deputy leader and Treasurer. Unlike many of his colleagues he resolved to continue his career in parliament, which he has continued to do in opposition on the back bench.

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.

629 comments on “Seat of the week: Lilley”

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  1. Jules

    Thank you for #509.

    I think that is a very realistic point of view and to the likes of me with not a very detailed knowledge of this history it was very informative.

    Rossmore #521 and #529

    I think Jules’ post went over your head. He was describing what “is”. He was not preferencing either side.

    You might think others have to chose between Russia and USA, but that is only your take on it.

    I noted your sad involvement with the MH17 that you described the other day. So clearly you have a unique point of view.

  2. When I say ludicrous, of course the PM should speak for the nation on this matter. But mentioning the poll in the editorial seems off. A serious matter, but why stick that horse race poll stuff in there at all? Kinda gives the editors thoughts processes away.


    “The repeal of the carbon tax has failed to boost the federal government’s fortunes, with the latest poll showing Labor’s lead firming and Prime Min­ister Tony Abbott with a trust and ­competence deficit rivalling that of Julia Gillard at her nadir.”

    “Despite the fulfilment of the gov­ernment’s biggest election promise, Labor leads the Coalition by 54 per cent to 46 per cent on a two-party-preferred basis. Since the last poll a month ago, Labor’s primary vote rose 3 percentage points to 40 per cent, the Coalition stayed steady at 39 per cent and the Greens were down 1 point to 12 per cent.”

    Heaps more in the AFR article.

  4. GhostWhoVotes ‏@GhostWhoVotes 30s

    #Nielsen Poll Primary Votes: L/NP 39 (0) ALP 40 (+3) GRN 12 (-1) PUP 5 (0) #auspol

  5. [ Australia takes the lead in the international response ]

    WTF?? Where do these idiot journos get this from?? Did some one @ Liberal HQ put them on a blue kool aid drip or something?? 🙁

  6. More AFR articles, but these are paywalled. The Treasurer section will be exclusive to the AFR, going by earlier polls. Check the hard copy in the morning.
    [Laura Tingle
    Poll reveals toll on Tony Abbott as voters cite weak leadership

    Statistics can sound much more polite than words; small comfort however for the Prime Minister because when you translate the latest Nielsen poll into words, it seems voters think him an untrustworthy, unimaginative, incompetent dunderhead.]
    [Hockey, Bowen tie in post-budget standings

    Joe Hockey’s standing has slumped in the wake of the federal budget, with the latest poll showing him level-pegging with Labor rival Chris Bowen as the nation’s preferred treasurer.]

  7. I’ll take 46 / 54 in the ALP’s favor. 🙂

    And one thing that is bubbling away behind the scenes and is almost background noise at the moment is just how much of their Budget isn’t getting through. I suspect that the media believes that PUP will eventually roll over for the Libs, and the Libs hope is that they will quietly be able to negotiate everything through during the break. Not really sure how that will work out for them as a lot of the stuff the Govt wants is fundamentally toxic.

  8. [ it seems voters think him an untrustworthy, unimaginative, incompetent dunderhead. ]

    I love Laura Tingle when she does quiet and incisive subtlety. 🙂

  9. “voters think him an untrustworthy, unimaginative, incompetent dunderhead. ”

    How could they possibly think this of the man who is bringing back Knights and Dames?

  10. I agree with Laura on Tony Abbott, he also seems that he cannot be a multi-tasker either, so he focuses on one thing at a time, boats, carbon, etc.

    GhostWhoVotes ‏@GhostWhoVotes 30s

    #Nielsen Poll Preferred Treasurer: Hockey 43 (-8) Bowen 42 (+8) #auspol

  11. [Stephen Murray ‏@smurray38
    AFR/ #Nielsen poll Preferred Treasurer: Hockey 43 (-8 on mid March poll) Bowen 42 (+8)
    12:28 AM – 21 Jul 2014]

    Stephen Murray ‏@smurray38
    AFR’s Phil Coorey: “political types on Sunday night, aware of the impending poll, (asked if) the tragedy had given the government a “lift”.
    12:30 AM – 21 Jul 2014]

  12. [However. Without descending too far into “goodies” and “baddies” it seems to me that Russia and Putin bear a great deal of responsibility (not total and not alone) for the fact there is a civil war in Ukraine at all.]



    You said you can’t know for sure.

    So effectively your feelpinions are telling you Putin is somehow responsible, and that’s good enough.

    Tell me, do you always follow Tony Abbott’s example so closely?

  13. @Leroy/621

    AFR’s Phil Coorey: “political types on Sunday night, aware of the impending poll, (asked if) the tragedy had given the government a “lift”.


    Should be treason against the country to use political in tragedy.

  14. Turns out voters do get it right – eventually:
    [it seems voters think him an untrustworthy, unimaginative, incompetent dunderhead.]

    😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆

  15. [618

    >it seems voters think him an untrustworthy, unimaginative, incompetent dunderhead.

    I love Laura Tingle when she does quiet and incisive subtlety. 🙂 ]

    I think Laura Tingle is getting fed up. 🙂


    lefty e

    >After his broken election commitments Abbott is seen as trustworthy by 35%, which is fewer than Julia Gillard’s 36% in April 2013 after she broke her carbon tax promise,…


    Read that and WEEP, LNP.]

    I am actually laughing hard as I read it.

    Not half as hard as Gillard must be. 😀

    [Make no mistake, the LNP does support welfare, but only if it goes to their wealthy campaign financiers and political contributors.

    Those who struggle to make ends meet will continue to be ignored and denigrated by our government.

    This is no longer the country of the “fair go” or the champion of the “Aussie battler”.

    Australia is now becoming the country of the oligarchs, the plutocrats and the crony capitalists. ]

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