Seat of the week: Capricornia

Labor’s grip on the central Queensland seat of Capricornia has loosened on only three occasions in the past half-century – with the defeat of the Whitlam, Keating and Rudd governments.

The central Queensland electorate of Capricornia has existed since federation, with Rockhampton as a constant amid shifting boundaries over the years. Rockhampton currently sits at the electorate’s southern coastal end, from which it extends north to the southern outskirts of Mackay and west through farming and coal mining communities as far as Belyando 250 kilometres inland. Rockhampton has kept the seat strong for Labor for most of its history, but the party has suffered three defeats since 1961, coinciding with the defeats of the Whitlam, Keating and Rudd governments in 1975, 1996 and 2013. It is currently held for the Liberal National Party by Michelle Landry.




Following the defeat of 1996, Capricornia was recovered for Labor in 1998 by Kirsten Livermore with an 8.8% swing. Livermore’s margin blew out to 12.7% on the back of an 8.7% swing in 2007, but this was followed by an 0.7% reduction in the next redistribution and an 8.4% swing in Queensland’s anti-Labor backlash in 2010, paring the margin back to 3.7%. Livermore announced in December 2012 that she would not be seeking another term as she wished to spend more time with her family.

Labor’s preselection before the 2013 election was won by Peter Freeleagus, a Moranbah miner and former Belyando Shire mayor, ahead of Paul Hoolihan, who along with most of his Labor colleagues lost his seat of Keppel at the 2012 state election. Freeleagus was primarily backed by the Left faction CFMEU, but reportedly enjoyed further support from the AWU sub-faction of the Right, whereas Hoolihan was aligned with the rival “Old Guard” – the two sub-factions respectively being associated with bitter rivals Wayne Swan and Kevin Rudd.

Michelle Landry’s victory over Freeleagus was achieved by a margin of 0.8% on the back of a 4.5% swing, making Capricornia one of two Queensland seats lost to Labor at the election, together with the northern Brisbane seat of Petrie. Landry had previously been the owner of a Yeppoon book-keeping business and electorate officer to Flynn MP Ken O’Dowd, and had also contested the seat unsuccessfully in 2010. Her Labor opponent at the coming election will be Leisa Neaton, principal of Frenchville State School. Peter Freeleagus again sought preselection for the seat, but Neaton defeated him by 85 votes to 60 in a field that also included Rockhampton mayor Margaret Strelow, who recorded 41 votes.

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.

One comment on “Seat of the week: Capricornia”

  1. If Labor does not win this seat back then they won’t be winning the election. The swing is coming back to Labor federally in Queensland, on top that there was a lot anger in North Queensland with Campbell Newman at the last state election. So I would Labor would be favorites to win this seat back.

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