Seat of the week: Hinkler

Encompassing Bundaberg and Hervey Bay, Hinkler has been a hotly contested seat at various points in its three-decade history, but has been securely in conservative hands over the last two elections.

Hinkler covers a 90 kilometre stretch of the central Queensland coast, encompassing Bundaberg at the northern end and Hervey Bay in the south, and extends inland to include Childers. Hervey Bay in particular is noted as a retirement haven, causing the electorate to rank equal second for highest median age after Lyne on the northern coast of New South Wales. It also rates lowest in the country on median family income, reflecting its high proportion of pensioners. The seat has been in Nationals and more recently Liberal National Party hands since 1993, and is now held by Keith Pitt following the retirement of Paul Neville at the 2013 election.




Hinkler was created with the enlargement of parliament in 1984, prior to which Bundaberg had been in either Capricornia (from 1901 until 1913 and again from 1922 to 1949) or Wide Bay. Both seats frequently changed hands over the years, but the Nationals consolidated their hold on Wide Bay after gaining it from Labor in 1974. Hinkler was originally stronger for Labor by virtue of encompassing Gladstone, but the Nationals nonetheless scraped hope by 221 votes in 1984. Labor’s Brian Courtice then won the seat on his second attempt in 1987 and retained it in 1990, before going down to defeat at the hands of Paul Neville in 1993.

Neville went on to enjoy something of a charmed life over the next two decades, surviving by 510 votes in 1998 (when One Nation polled 19.3%, their preferences saving Neville from a substantial primary vote deficit against Labor) and 64 votes in 2001, and having his position considerably strengthened by redistributions in 2004 and 2007. The latter gave him a timely 6.5% boost by moving Gladstone to the new seat of Flynn and making up the loss by adding Hervey Bay, which had hitherto been in Wide Bay since federation. He may also have been saved from defeat in 2007 by the performance of Labor candidate Garry Parr, who made headlines when he told the parents of a soldier serving with British forces in Afghanistan they were “English warmongers”. Former Labor member Brian Courtice also emerged in Coalition advertising during the campaign, informing the nation that “Kevin Rudd couldn’t go three rounds with Winnie the Pooh, so there’s no way he can stand up to the union bosses”.

Neville enjoyed the full force of the statewide move against Labor at the 2010 election, his swing of 8.9% being the third biggest in the state. He retired in 2013 and bequeathed a secure margin to his successor Keith Pitt, who came from a cane farming background and had more recently been managing director of a workplace health and safety consultancy.

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.

3 comments on “Seat of the week: Hinkler”

  1. There seems to be no interest in Hinkler.

    A pity.

    Bert Hinkler was a pioneer aviator. My mother admired him.

    I once met Paul Neville’s son when he was working as a waiter, I think in Tasmania.

    I know little more about Hinkler, but do remember being annoyed when Brian Courtice ratted on Labor.

    I know little more about Hinkler

  2. A seat Labor can win, but the electoral Gods have to be lined up to do it. Labor got reasonably close in the Rudd Landslide in 2007, missing out by 1.7 in the vote. Also the big swings the Labor received in Bundaberg and Harvey Bay at the state election may make the LNP a little nervous about this seat. I would probably say on the current polling Labor may just miss out on this seat, but it’s definitely attainable along with Qld federal seats such as Wright, Dickson, and Dawson if the climate is right. But probably is not as easily attainable with QLD seats such Capricorna, Brisbane, and Bonner who will definitely swing back to Labor if Labor heads to victory. A seat Labor can win, but would take a Labor landslide to do it.

  3. I tend to agree with David, a Labor victory is unlikely but certainly possible. Bundy and Hervey Bay both swung fairly heavily to the ALP in the state election. Will be interesting to see if Keith Pitt can build up a personal vote like Neville did.

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