Seat of the week: Rankin

One of Labor’s few consistently reliable seats in Queensland was bequeathed by Craig Emerson to its present incumbent, Jim Chalmers, at the 2013 election.

The southern Brisbane seat of Rankin holds the distinction of being the only Queensland seat Labor has held without interruption since 1984, when it was created with the expansion of parliament from 125 seats to 148. There have only been three members throughout that time: David Beddall until 1998, Craig Emerson from then until 2013, and Jim Chalmers thereafter. The electorate initially extended far beyond the bounds of the metropolitan area to the south-west, encompassing Warwick and a stretch of the New South Wales border, but is now located wholly within Brisbane’s outer south, covering the northern part of Logan City from Woodridge and Kingston north to Priestdale and west to Hillcrest. The redistribution before the 2010 election drew it further into the metropolitan area, adding Algester, Calamvale and Drewvale north of the Logan-Brisbane municipal boundary. This territory accounts for much of Brisbane’s mortgage belt, and gives the seat with the equal lowest median age of any electorate in Australia. The Logan area is the source of Labor’s strength, but it is balanced by naturally marginal territory around Calamvale to the west and Springwood to the east.




Labor held Rankin by modest margins until its conservative rural areas were exchanged for low-income Brisbane suburbs in a sweeping redistribution which took effect at the 1996 election. Labor needed every bit of the resulting 9.8% boost to its margin to hold off the ensuing statewide backlash, which left Rankin and Brisbane as the only seats remaining in the Labor column. An unfavourable redistribution ahead of the 2004 election cut the margin by 5.3%, but it was followed by a 0.8% swing to Labor against the statewide trend, followed by an 8.8% swing when Queensland swept the Rudd government to power in 2007. Labor’s debacle in Queensland at the 2010 election sliced the margin from 11.7% to 5.4%, but there was only a 0.6% shift against Labor in 2013 despite the loss of Emerson’s personal vote.

Craig Emerson emerged through the Labor Forum/Australian Workers Union sub-faction of the Queensland Right, working over the years as an adviser to Hawke government ministers and then to Hawke himself, before taking on senior state public service positions in Queensland under the Goss government. He was elevated to cabinet after the 2010 election, serving in the trade and competitiveness portfolios and further gaining tertiary education, skills, science and research in March 2013, but withdrew from the ministry and announced his intention to quit politics when Kevin Rudd toppled Julia Gillard for the leadership in late June 2013.

In a rebuff to Kevin Rudd, the ensuing preselection for Rankin was won by Jim Chalmers, a former chief-of-staff to Wayne Swan, ahead of his favoured candidate Brett Raguse, who held Forde for Labor from 2007 to 2010. A ballot of local branch members reportedly produced a 74-74 tie, which rendered decisive a 36-14 majority for Chalmers among the electoral college of union delegates which determined 50% of the total result. The preselection caused a split between the two main Right unions, with the Australian Workers Union supporting Chalmers and the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association backing Raguse, and also within the Left, with the Electrical Trades Union backing Raguse but the rest supporting Chalmers. After his election he was immediately elevated to the role of Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and Investment.

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: Rankin”

  1. Jim Chalmers is a rising star in the Labor party. I really doubt the Liberals will try to have a go at Labor here, and are more likely going to try and defend the seats that they already hold in Queensland at the next election.

    Chalmers should improve on his margin, with a combination of Labor’s increasing vote in Queensland and the Sophomore Surge.

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