Seat of the week: Brisbane

It’s been a measure of Labor’s bad show in Queensland over the last two elections that it has been unable to hold on to the electorate encompassing the city centre of Brisbane and its surrounds. After surviving a preselection scare, LNP member Teresa Gambaro will now seek to make it three in a row.

The electorate of Brisbane has existed without interruption since federation, and presently covers the north shore of the Brisbane River from Milton through the central business district to Eagle Farm, extending northwards to Stafford at the western end and Hendra in the east. It was the most surprising of the Liberal National Party’s eight gains in Queensland at the 2010 election, as Labor had held the seat since 1931 outside of the interruption of 1975 to 1980, holding on even when the 1996 disaster reduced it to two seats in Queensland. Labor was hopeful of regaining the seat against the trend of the 2013 election, but in the event the LNP consolidated it with a further 3.2% swing.




Brisbane’s complexion was changed somewhat by redistributions in 2004 and 2010, the more recent of which cut the then Labor margin from 6.8% to 3.8% by adding 26,500 voters at the eastern end of the electorate, and removing territory out to Ferny Grove and Upper Kedron in the west and Stafford in the north. The newly acquired territory included Clayfield and its highly affluent surrounds, which contribute to the electorate’s current status as the highest-income seat in Queensland. This proved doubly damaging for Labor in 2010, as the swings around Clayfield were especially strong, in keeping with a national trend in which the air went out of the Howard-era “doctors’ wives” balloon. The effect was to counterbalance a relatively static result in the inner city, powering a decisive 5.7% swing to the LNP. The result was also notable for the 21.3% vote for the Greens (compared with a Labor primary vote of 30.4%), whose candidate was former Democrats Senator and party leader Andrew Bartlett.

The LNP victory facilitated a return to parliament for Teresa Gambaro, who had held the northern Brisbane seat of Petrie from 1996 until her defeat in 2007. Gambaro had a connection to the electorate in being part of a family famous in Brisbane for its seafood business, with a restaurant located at Petrie Terrace. She served as shadow parliamentary secretary for international development assistance and citizenship and settlement for a term after her return, having earlier held parliamentary secretary and assistant minister positions in the final term of the Howard government. In January 2012 she made headlines after calling for migrants to be given hygiene lessons, for which she subsequently apologised.

Gambaro was relegated to the back bench after the 2013 election victory, and later emerged as a critic of Tony Abbott’s policies and performance, particularly at the time of the Liberal leadership spill vote in February 2015. This contributed to the marshalling of forces against her for a preselection challenge by Trevor Evans, chief executive of the National Retailers Association, which reportedly stood a good chance of succeeding. However, Abbott himself intervened to persuade Evans to withdraw, and accept a position as Gambaro’s campaign manager. Labor’s preselected candidate is Pat O’Neill, a 34-year-old serving army major and veteran of two tours in Iraq, who if elected will become the first openly gay member of the House of Representatives. O’Neil won preselection ahead of Philip Anthony, a solicitor from Clayfield.

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.

2 comments on “Seat of the week: Brisbane”

  1. Firstly, the paragraph at the top of the post claims that the ALP`s poor electoral showing in the last two elections in Queensland has caused the ALP to hold the seat. I suggest fixing that and using said repair as an excuse to bump the post to the top of the main page to attract more comments.

    Secondly, if the Queensland Greens decide to use the Greens marginal seat campaigning model that has succeeded in all but one seat they have tried it in in the past two years, Brisbane would be the obvious target. It may become a Prahran style 3-way marginal.

  2. This is a must win seat for Labor if they want government, I get the feeling Greens preferences will be critical to the outcome

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