Located in the Darling Downs region of Queensland, Groom is dominated by the city of Toowoomba about 100 kilometres west of Brisbane, which accounts for slightly less than 80% of its population. Toowoomba is near the electorate’s eastern boundary, from which it extends westwards to Jondaryan and Pittsworth and northwards to Goombungee, along with sparsely populared rural areas further afield. The electorate was created with the expansion of parliament in 1984 as the successor to Darling Downs, which had existed since federation. Neither Darling Downs nor Groom has ever been held by Labor.
|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.|
Darling Downs was held by the major conservative movement of the time from 1901 until 1936, when Arthur Fadden gained it for the Country Party at a by-election held after the death of United Australia Party member Sir Littleton Groom, who gives the modern electorate its name. When parliament expanded in 1949, Fadden moved to the new seat of McPherson, and an agreement between the coalition parties reserved Darling Downs for the Liberals. It was accordingly won with little difficulty by Liberal candidate Reginald Swartz, who retained it until his retirement in 1972. A three-cornered contest ensued at the 1972 election, in which Country Party candidate Tom McVeigh secured a comfortable victory after outpolling the Liberal candidate by 32.3% to 22.5%. McVeigh carried on as member for Groom after 1984 and retired in February 1988, leading to another three-cornered contest at the ensuing by-election. This time the seat fell to the Liberals, whose candidate Bill Taylor outpolled the Nationals candidate by 33.3% to 28.8%. With Taylor’s retirement in 1998 the seat was bequeathed to its current member, Ian Macfarlane, who polled 33.1% on debut against 18.0% for One Nation and 15.2% for the Nationals. The Nationals again fielded a candidate against Macfarlane in 2001, but gave him little trouble.
Recognisable for a distinctive voice resulting from damage sustained to his larynx following a cancer operation in 2004, Macfarlane served as a minister in the Howard government from January 2001, first in the junior portfolio of small business, then attaining cabinet rank as Industry, Tourism and Resources Minister after the October 2001 election. He attained further seniority in opposition, holding the trade portfolio under Brendan Nelson and energy and resources under Malcolm Turnbull. When Tony Abbott became leader in December 2009 he was moved to infrastructure to make way for Nick Minchin, but he recovered energy and resources when Minchin retired from the front-bench the following March. With the election of the Abbott government he was allocated to an expanded industry portfolio that incorporated responsibility for mining and science, the lack of a dedicated portfolio for the latter inspiring some controversy.