Seat of the week: Wide Bay

Warren Truss’s seat of Wide Bay encompasses Noosa, Gympie and Maryborough, and has been in National/Country Party hands for most of an existence that dates back to federation.

Wide Bay has covered a variable area around Maryborough about 300 kilometres north of Brisbane since its creation at federation. Maryborough is currently at the northern end of an electorate that extends south along the coast to Noosa, which was gained at the redistribution before the 2007 election as its southern neighbour Fairfax was drawn southwards by population growth on the Sunshine Coast (which Wide Bay accommodated in its entirety for most of the period prior to 1949). The electorate also extends inland through Gympie to Murgon and Cherbourg.

Now a secure seat for the Liberal National Party, Wide Bay was one of 15 seats across the country won by Labor at the first election in 1901. Its member from then until 1915 was Andrew Fisher, who served three terms as prime minister and won the party’s first parliamentary majority at the election of 1910. Labor was narrowly defeated at a by-election held after Fisher retired due to ill health, and for the next 13 years the seat was held by Edward Corser, first as a Liberal and then in the Nationalist Party that succeeded it in 1917. The seat passed to the Country Party upon Corser’s death in 1928, when his son Bernard Corser was elected as the party’s candidate without opposition.

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.

Brendan Hansen’s election in 1961 gave Labor its first win in Wide Bay in nearly half a century, and he retained the seat until defeated amid a statewide swing against the Whitlam government in 1974. The seat has has since had two National/Country Party members, the present incumbent Warren Truss succeeding Clarrie Millar in 1990. The general trend over this time has been for increasing Nationals margins, with Truss retaining the seat by 8.5% amid Labor’s strong statewide result in 2007 and boosting his margin to 15.6% in 2010, before a narrowing to 13.2% at the 2013 election.

Warren Truss emerged through local Nationals ranks as a councillor for the Shire of Kingaroy from 1976 to 1990, before winning the party’s endorsement to succeed Joh Bjelke-Petersen as member for Barambah at the by-election which followed his retirement in 1988. However, Truss suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Trevor Perrett, a candidate of the eccentric Citizens Electoral Council who joined the Nationals a year later. He was amply compensated with endorsement for Wide Bay at the federal election two years later, and was elected without incident despite a 3.9% swing to Labor.

Truss served as a junior shadow minister in the consumer affairs portfolio after November 1994, but was cut from the front bench when the Nationals’ reduced share of seats within the Coalition reduced its share of the spoils of the 1996 election victory. His opportunity came in October the following year when the travel rorts affair garnered three ministerial scalps including Nationals MP John Sharp, resulting in Truss’s return to the consumer affairs portfolio together with customs. After the 1998 election he was reassigned to community services, and he then attained cabinet rank in July 1999 with his promotion to Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister. In July 2005 he secured his party’s deputy leadership and traded his portfolios for transport and regional services, and was again reassigned to trade in September 2006.

Truss was elevated to the leadership of the National Party when Mark Vaile resigned in the wake of the 2007 election defeat, although it has often been noted that his profile is a good deal lower than that of Barnaby Joyce, who moved from a Queensland Senate seat to the New South Wales lower house seat of New England at the 2013 election. As well as being Deputy Prime Minister, Truss has served as Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development since the election of the Abbott government.

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.

1,168 comments on “Seat of the week: Wide Bay”

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  1. Truss – A country hick for sure but also a measured and steady character.

    His ‘Pressers’ on MH-370 showed that he’d read his briefs and listened to oral briefings. No ‘winging it’, just a hand off to the RAAF people he had to hand at the pressers.

    His National Party competition, Barn-Yabbie, has a history of making nutty, populist statements.

    A real contrast to Tones as well.

    Truss just another politician who I wouldn’t agree with on some things but not a mad R-W’er.

  2. Good Morning

    Good News on PPL. A week leading up to the next round of polling that Abbott is going to be seen as weak.

    Not so good news in the Middle East Now its not the tunnels for the Israeli Government.

    Meanwhile Assange makes a contribution.

    @wikileaks: Wikileaks cable on #Israel’s “Dahiya Doctrine” – deliberate targeting of civilian areas with excessive force #Gaza

    @wikileaks: Israel told US embassy in Telaviv: policy is to keep #Gaza in brutal but silent economic strangulation:

  3. “@wikileaks: It is time to publish all the #Snowden documents on #Israel. Attempts to placate DC by witholding these documents are naive and immoral.”

  4. Morning all.

    For those interested, today is FKelly’s last Insiders gig as host.

    [ Insiders ABC @InsidersABC · Aug 1
    Join @frankellyabc for her final #insiders this Sun. She’ll talk to @Nick_Xenophon. @latingle @MikeSeccombe @farrm51 on the panel. #auspol.]

    But a late change will see Scott Morrison being interviewed, not SenX.

  5. CTar1

    Truss was a real turn up at those pressers. Performed waay better than the PM.

    Barn-yabby can also surprise. Although I’ve only seen him do it once. A couple of years back he did a long interview about the constitutional recognition of local government. It was a real shock to realise that fluent and articulate person I was listening to was Barnaby. I did not agree with his position but he argued his case very well. He was persuasive even

  6. lizzie:

    Agreed. But it goes against Morrison’s MO since becoming a minister to willingly front interviews about his portfolio, and the late change to the show would suggest this is a willing appearance by him.

  7. Coal seam gas companies buying Nationals support against farmers?

    [Donations to the National Party from coal seam gas companies have risen tenfold in four years, but the party is not required to disclose the majority of donations it receives from the gas industry under electoral funding laws.

    In the past two years, the Nationals accepted more than $25,000 from Santos, the company that wants to supply a quarter of NSW’s gas needs through CSG.

    Political funding figures released by the Australian Electoral Commission on Monday show the Nationals also got donations from Queensland-based Arrow Energy, Chevron and the industry’s peak body, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, totalling nearly $95,000.

    In the previous two years, the oil and gas industry had donated just $4950 in total.

    A review of AEC records reveals the majority of donations to the Nationals – including all money contributed by Santos – were not publicly disclosed by the party. Of the $43,500 donated by Chevron since 2011, just $16,500 was disclosed and that through the return of John McEwen House Pty Ltd, an associated fundraising vehicle for the National Party.]

    Read more:

  8. poroti – On some subjects he can occasionally mount an argument even when he’s wrong. But most of the time he’s out of his depth and goes hysterical.

    I did approve of his opposition to JWH on Student Unions. His point being that JWH just wanted to ‘wipe’ them because of the word ‘Union’.

    (p.s. F’ing cold here. At 6AM -5.9C)

  9. 24 Breakfast Presenters asking if dropping the PPL is Abbott’s ETS moment.

    Good to see the same critical of the government of the day approach coming out as we expect from our media.

    Being at the SMH seems to be doing Latika Bourke good too.

  10. The Daily ToiletPaper has produced some interesting figures on WA Liberals with their snouts in the trough, led by Rorter-in-Chief the soon to be ‘boned’ David Johnston.

    Appearing in a Murdoch organ, this could be the softening up for the inevitable ministerial reshuffle which Credlin will need to engineer to get som traction after a dismal year 1.

    [Despite claiming a “budget emergency’’ and introducing tough spending cuts in the May budget, senior ministers are still flying high on the taxpayer-funded 30-seat VIP trip to Parliament which jets to Perth entirely empty of passengers just to pick up MPs.

    Finance Minister Mathias Cormann
    Defence Minister David Johnston and his wife Toni Hodge
    Justice Minister Michael Keenan and his wife Georgina and their two children
    Former WA Treasurer turned federal MP Christian Porter and his wife Jennifer
    Don Randall and his wife Julie
    WA Liberal MP Dennis Jensen
    WA Liberal MP Rick Wilson

    November 10, 2013:
    Canberra-Perth: VIP 737 flys EMPTY across the Nullabor to pick up WA MPs for Parliament. Cost: $13,860 to fly empty.
    Perth-Canberra: In Perth, the plane picks up 21 lucky passengers including Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, Defence Minister David Johnston and his wife Toni Hodge, Justice Minister Michael Keenan, his wife and his two kids and WA MPs Don Randall and his wife Julie. Cost: $11,800.
    TOTAL COST: $25,740

    November 17, 2013:
    Canberra-Perth: The VIP 737 flys EMPTY across the Nullabor again to pick up WA MPs for Parliament. The ghost flight cost $13,530.
    Perth-Canberra: The flight then picks up 18 passengers including Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, Justice Minister Michael Keenan, Don Randall, Christian Porter and his wife Jennifer. The Liberal’s Melissa Price hops on too. Cost: $12,210
    TOTAL COST: $25,740

    December 1, 2013:
    Canberra-Perth VIP 737 flys EMPTY across the Nullabor again to pick up WA MPs at a cost of $15,510.
    Perth-Canberra: In Perth, it picks up 8 passengers including Defence Minister David Johnston, Justice Minister Michael Keenan and former WA Treasurer turned federal MP Christian Porter and his wife Jennifer. Cost: $11,880
    TOTAL COST: $27,390

    December 8, 2013:
    Canberra-Perth VIP 737 flys empty again. Cost: $16,830
    Perth-Canberra: In Perth, it picks up 16 passengers including five MPs and senators plus their relatives and staff. They include Defence Minister David Johnston, Denis Jensen, his wife and another relative plus rookie WA Liberal MP Rick Wilson. Cost: $10,560

    TOTAL COST: $27,390

    GRAND TOTAL: $106,260

    The “ghost flight’’ trips cost up to $16,000 just to fly to Perth without passengers. But wage cost for the RAAF crew are expected to increase the total cost of the flight even higher.

    On the return trip, MPs and their wives enjoy fine wine, craft beers, mint cocktails, gourmet hot meals, fruit skewers and heated hand towels on the flights. In some cases, MPs children were also flown to Canberra on the VIP flights.

    According to the Department of Defence, the total cost for the airborne taxi service from Perth for federal MPs has now reached six figures. The round trip to Canberra for parliamentary sitting on the VIP jet costs around $25,000 on average.

  11. CTar1

    First real frost for the year here. 7.55 am 0degC and the bird baths have frozen over. I’m not complaining – it will be sunny later and at least the wind and rain have stopped.

  12. I’ve never thought Truss is as dangerous as the rest on the front bench. He’s at his worst when he tries to be one of the gang, his rendition of “debt & deficit disaster” is flatter than most of his monotone showing IMO that he really doesn’t believe it.

  13. lizzie

    That or being on dead tree deadlines suits her better than the rushed ABC ones where her most useful contribution seemed to be as a kind of twitter stenographer.

  14. Does anyone have a list of major promises Abbott has broken please?

    No new taxes
    Budget under control

    All broken.

  15. Sachin

    I think Abbott would insist that his promises haven’t been broken, they’ve just been ‘deferred’. Let’s hope that with his grasshopper approach to policies, they will soon be forgotten.

  16. [21

    Has Abbott abandoned his PPL?]

    It would be one thing for his PPL to be defeated in the Senate by the combined votes of Labor, the Greens and PUP. Abbott could go on the warpath in this case. But if the opponents include his own backbench – as seemed inevitable – Abbott would only compound his losses by fighting for the PPL.

    As well, the budget position will also be improved if they let it lapse. This is one policy that everyone will be glad to forget about.

  17. [This is one policy that everyone will be glad to forget about.]

    It never made any sense other than as a sop to women in an attempt to win their vote. Which is all it ever was.

  18. [30

    This is one policy that everyone will be glad to forget about.

    It never made any sense other than as a sop to women in an attempt to win their vote. Which is all it ever was.]

    …well, women of a certain calibre, at least…

  19. Dawn Patrollers.
    BK sends his abject apologies for non-performance this morning . I must have crashed big time last night and I’ve just woken up.
    And I looked out of the window over frost las=den paddocks to notice that the ex-racehorse has knocked over and come through a temporary fence which I’ll have to fic quickly.
    Gotta go.
    Mea cupla. Mea maxima cupla!

  20. Just a thought. I wonder how many people have set about having a family thinking that Abbott’s PPL was bound to pass the new senate. Poor things, they’ll just have to do it the hard way.

  21. lizzie

    [Almost all the free relationship counselling vouchers under the Social Services Minister’s scheme to introduce more harmony in Australians’ love lives are still up for grabs]

    But I thought the Conservatives were against the ‘Nanny State’.

  22. CTar1

    If a ‘happy couple’ as depicted by the photo of Andrews and his wife are what we should all aim for, let’s show Nanny the door (sorry can’t remember which paper it appeared in).

  23. So abbott didn’t even have the balls to put his own pet project up.


    But he has broken so many promises this is another one.

    He nicely wedged himself on this.

  24. [Young Liberal political operatives have been keeping secret records of ostensibly casual conversations with party members at social functions and reporting back to senior political staff in a bid to snare factional recruits.

    E-mails obtained by The Sun-Herald reveal the operatives took notes over the past three years at events such as the annual Young Liberal ball which were used to identify “high potential” recruits for the party’s centre right faction and its political enemies.

    “Tonight is the most important night of year,” Young Liberal vice-president Tobias Lehmann wrote in an email to 20 factional operatives in March 2013, equal parts pep talk and spy manual, before a new members’ night.

    “Its critical to identify and start to factionalise them ASAP,” he wrote.]

    Read more:

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