Welcome to episode 13 of Seat du jour, an opportunity for you to read about and (hopefully) discuss the individual contests that will determine the May 18 election. So far the series has taken us to Herbert, Banks, Corangamite, Chisholm, Reid, Bass, Pearce, Lindsay, Gilmore, Dickson and La Trobe. Today’s episode takes us to the northern Brisbane seat of Petrie, one of Queensland’s bumper crop of finely balanced seats. The Poll Bludger election guide entry for the seat can be found here.
Petrie covers a narrow strip of Brisbane’s northern coastal suburbs from Carseldine north to Burpengary, accounting for three distinct areas: in the centre, the Redcliffe Peninsula; further north along the coast, Deception Bay and the developing suburb of North Lakes; and, on the southern side of the Pine River which separates the Moreton Bay local government area from Brisbane, the suburbs of Bracken Ridge, Fitzgibbon and Carseldine.
The electorate has changed hands along with government in 1996, 2007 and 2013, but its status as a highly marginal seats is recently acquired. The Liberals held it for all but one term from its creation in 1949 through to 1983, the exception being with the Menzies government’s near defeat in 1961. Labor gained the seat with the election of the Hawke government in 1983, lost it again in 1984, then recovered it in 1987, after which it was held for Labor for three terms by Gary Johns, who would later associate himself with conservative causes as a senior fellow of the Institute of Public Affairs and columnist for The Australian. Johns was unseated along with all but two of his Queensland Labor colleagues in 1996, in his case by a swing of 9.8%.
Petrie was held for the Liberals through the Howard years by Teresa Gambaro, who returned to parliament after her defeat in 2007 as the member for Brisbane from 2010 to 2016. Her Labor successor, Yvette D’Ath, did well to retain the seat in 2010 against a swing of 1.7%, well below the statewide result of 5.6%, but her remaining margin was insufficient to save her from a further 3.0% swing in 2013. D’Ath too would later make a political comeback, becoming the state member for Redcliffe at a by-election in February 2014, and serving as Attorney-General in the Palaszczuk government since its election in 2015.
The Liberal National Party member since 2013 has been Luke Howarth, a former managing director of Sandgate Pest Control. Accounts of the September 2015 leadership ballot in which Malcolm Turnbull deposed Tony Abbott listed his loyalties as uncertain, but he became an agitator for Peter Dutton to depose Turnbull after the party’s poor result in the July 2018 by-election for Longman, which neighbours Petrie to the north. Labor’s candidate is Corinne Mulholland, an executive officer at Moreton Bay Regional Council and former staffer to Brisbane MP Arch Bevis.
No published seat polling has emerged in the campaign from Petrie specifically, but reports of Labor optimism at the start of the campaign gave way to talk of a close race by the end. In today’s Sunday Mail, Matthew Killoran reported that Labor strategists believed there was “a fine line between Labor winning one seat in Queensland or five”, having Petrie in mind as one of those that could go either way.