Welcome to episode 15 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 Boothby, Petrie, Hasluck, Herbert, Banks, Corangamite, Chisholm, Reid, Bass, Pearce, Lindsay, Gilmore, Dickson and La Trobe.
Today is the turn of Forde on the southern fringe of Brisbane, for which the Poll Bludger election guide entry can be found here. Forde has been held for the Liberal National Party by Bert van Manen since 2010, having been one of seven Queensland seats that were gained by Labor in 2007, then lost by them in 2010 amid the statewide backlash that followed the demise of Kevin Rudd. The seat then developed into one of the most high-profile contests of the 2013 election, when Labor recruited former Premier Peter Beattie as its candidate. However, Beattie could do little to buck the overall electoral trend, and van Manen was able to increase his margin by 2.8%. Van Manen needed every bit of this extra buffer at the 2016 election, when a 3.8% swing to Labor reduced the margin to 1.0%.
Forde was created in name with the enlargement of parliament in 1984, but it was originally located further north in territory now accommodated by Oxley and Moreton. It has since undergone two transformations: in 1996, when it extended through Beaudesert and Boonah to the New South Wales border, maintaining only a toehold on metropolitan Brisbane around Loganholme, and in 2010, when the rural territory was lost to the new seat of Wright. It now encompasses Logan City suburbs around Loganlea, together with Gold Coast territory along the Pacific Motorway from Ormeau south to Upper Coomera. The electorate is dominated by young families, with a corresponding paucity of residents aged over 50.
David Watson won Forde for the Liberals on its inauguration in 1984, but was unable to repeat the feat in 1987, and later pursued a career in state politics. Mary Crawford held Forde for Labor from 1987 until 1996, when she was poleaxed by an unfavourable redistribution and the party’s refusal to grant her the safer seat of Rankin, in an indirect consequence of the party’s determination to accommodate Kevin Rudd in Griffith. Kay Elson gained the seat for the Liberals in 1996 with a 9.6% swing, and retained comfortable margins through to her retirement in 2007. Brett Raguse then gained the seat for Labor with a 14.4% swing, the largest of the 2007 election, but survived only a single term before van Manen claimed it with a 5.0% swing in 2010.
The LNP member, Bert van Manen, is a former financial planner who ran as a Family First candidate for Rankin in 2007. His conservative credentials notwithstanding, van Manen reportedly backed Malcolm Turnbull in his September 2015 leadership challenge, but joined most of his Queensland colleagues in the Peter Dutton camp in August 2018. He survived negative publicity in 2012 over the collapse of a firm in which he had been director and half-owner, but has not won promotion in his time in parliament, apart from gaining the goverment whip position after the 2016 election. Labor’s candidate for the second successive election is Des Hardman, a radiographer at Logan Hospital. Hardman was also initially preselected to run in 2013, but was obliged to make way when the plot to run Peter Beattie was hatched early in the election campaign.
No seat polling has emerged from Forde during the campaign, but indications that have emerged through media reportage have consistently suggested that Labor is confident and the LNP pessimistic. Two weeks into the campaign, in an account of a potential path to victory being plotted by the Liberals, the Financial Review reported Forde was one of four seats the party was conceding, which needed to be redressed with gains elsewhere. The Australian earlier reported that Labor was encouraged by its polling in the seat. Dennis Atkins of the Courier-Mail’s assessment of the situation yesterday was that the LNP had “never been in the hunt” during the campaign, and that van Manen “looks like he will finish up as an MP after nine years”.