The Poll Bludger’s popular Call of the Board series, in which results for each individual electorate at the May 18 federal election are being broken down region by region, underwent a bit of a hiatus over the past month or so after a laptop theft deprived me of my collection of geospatial files. However, it now returns in fine style by reviewing the business end of the state which, once again, proved to be the crucible of the entire election. Earlier instalments covered Sydney, here and here; regional New South Wales; Melbourne; and regional Victoria.
First up, the colour-coded maps below show the pattern of the two-party swing by allocating to each polling booth a geographic catchment area through a method that was described here (click for enlarged images). The first focuses on metropolitan Brisbane, while the second zooms out to further include the seats of the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. As was the case in Sydney and Melbourne, these maps show a clear pattern in which Labor had its best results (in swing terms) in wealthy inner urban areas (for which I will henceforth use the shorthand of the “inner urban effect”, occasionally contrasted with an “outer urban effect” that went the other way). However, they are also bluer overall, reflecting Labor’s generally poor show across Queensland (albeit not as poor in the south-east as in central Queensland).
The seat-by-seat analysis is guided by comparison of the actual results with those estimated by two alternative metrics, which are laid out in the table below (using the two-party measure for Labor). The first of these, which I employ here for the first time, is a two-party estimate based on Senate rather than House of Representatives results. This is achieved using party vote totals for the Senate and allocating Greens, One Nation and “others” preferences using the flows recorded for the House. These results are of particular value in identifying the extent to which results reflected the popularity or otherwise of the sitting member.
The other metric consists of estimates derived from a linear regression model, in which relationships were measured between booths results and a range of demographic and geographic variables. This allows for observation of the extent to which results differed from what might have been expected of a given electorate based on its demography. Such a model was previously employed in the previous Call of the Board posts for Sydney and Melbourne. However, it may be less robust on this occasion as its estimates consistently landed on the high side for Labor. I have dealt with this by applying an across-the-board adjustment to bring the overall average in line with the actual results. Results for the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast seats are not shown, owing to the difficulty involved in classifying them as metropolitan or regional (and I have found the model to be of limited value in regional electorates). The coefficients underlying the model can be viewed here.
And now to review each seat in turn:
Blair (Labor 1.2%; 6.9% swing to LNP): Shayne Neumann has held Blair since taking it from the Liberals in 2007, on the back of a favourable redistribution and Labor’s Kevin Rudd-inspired sweep across Queensland. His margins had hitherto been remarkably stable by Queensland standards, but this time he suffered a 9.8% drop in the primary vote (partly due to a more crowded field than last time), and his two-party margin compares with a previous low point of 4.2% in 2010. Nonetheless, the metrics suggest he did well to hang on: he outperformed the Senate measure, and the demographic measure was Labor’s weakest out of the six Queensland seats it actually won (largely a function of the electorate’s lack of ethnic diversity).
Bonner (LNP 7.4%; 4.0% swing to LNP): Bonner was a notionally Labor seat when it was created in 2004, and it says a lot about recent political history that they have only won it since at the high water mark of 2007. Ross Vasta has held it for the LNP for all but the one term from 2007 to 2010, and his new margin of 7.4% is easily the biggest he has yet enjoyed, the previous peak being 3.7% in 2013. Labor generally did better in swing terms around Mount Gravatt in the south-west of the electorate, for no reason immediately obvious reason.
Bowman (LNP 10.2%; 3.2% swing to LNP): Andrew Laming has held Bowman for the Liberals/LNP since it was reshaped with the creation of its northern neighbour Bonner in 2004, his closest scrape being a 64-vote winning margin with the Kevin Rudd aberration in 2007. This time he picked up a fairly typical swing of 3.2%, boosting his margin to 10.2%, a shade below his career best of 10.4% in 2013.
Brisbane (LNP 4.9%; 1.1% swing to Labor): Brisbane has been held for the Liberal National Party since a redistribution added the affluent Clayfield area in the electorate’s east in 2010, making it the only seat bearing the name of a state capital to be held by the Coalition since Adelaide went to Labor in 2004. The city end participated in the national trend to Labor in inner urban areas, but swings the other way around Clayfield and Alderley in the north-west reduced the swing to 1.1%. Trevor Evans, who has held the seat since 2016, outperformed both the Senate vote and the demographic model, his liberalism perhaps being a good fit for the electorate. Andrew Bartlett added 2.9% to the Greens primary vote in recording 22.4%, which would have been the party’s best ever result in a federal seat in Queensland had it not been surpassed in Griffith. This compared with Labor’s 24.5%, with Labor leading by 25.4% to 23.7% at the second last preference count.
Dickson (LNP 4.6%; 3.0% swing to LNP): The shared dream of Labor and GetUp! of unseating Peter Dutton hit the wall of two broader trends to the Coalition, in outer urban areas generally and Queensland specifically. However, as the map shows, there was a pronounced distinction between the affluent hills areas in the electorate’s south, which swung to Labor, and the working class suburbia of Kallangur, which went strongly the other way. Dutton’s result was well in line with the Senate vote, but actually slightly below par compared with the demographic model. It may be thought significant that One Nation struggled for air in competition with Dutton, scoring a modest 5.2%.
Fadden (LNP 14.2%; 2.9% swing to LNP): The three electorates of the Gold Coast all recorded below-average swings to the LNP, and were as always comfortably retained by the party in each case. Fadden accordingly remains secure for Stuart Robert, who had held it since 2007.
Fairfax (LNP 13.4%; 2.6% swing to LNP): The northern Sunshine Coast seat of Fairfax will forever wear the ignominy of having sent Clive Palmer to parliament in 2013, but Ted O’Brien recovered the seat for the Liberal National Party when Palmer bowed out of politics all-too-temporarily in 2016, and was uneventfully re-elected this time.
Fisher (LNP 12.7%; 3.6% swing to LNP): Second term LNP member Andrew Wallace did not enjoy a noticeable sophomore surge in his Sunshine Coast seat, picking up a slightly below par swing. All told though, this was an unexceptional result.
Forde (LNP 8.6%; 8.0% swing to LNP): This seat on Brisbane’s southern fringe maintained its recent habit of disappointing Labor, comfortably returning Bert van Manen, who gained it with the 2010 backlash after one term of Labor control. Reflecting the outer urban effect, van Manen gained the biggest swing to the LNP in south-east Queensland, and was able to achieve an improvement on the primary vote despite the entry of One Nation, who polled 11.8%. His 8.6% margin easily surpasses his previous career best of 4.4% in 2013, when his opponent was Peter Beattie.
Griffith (Labor 2.9%; 1.4% swing to Labor): It’s been touch and go for Labor’s Terri Butler since she succeeded Kevin Rudd at a by-election in 2014, but this time she was a beneficiary of the inner urban effect, which helped her eke out a 1.4% swing against the statewide trend. Of particular note was a surge in support for the Greens, who were up by 6.7% to 23.7%, their strongest result ever in a Queensland federal seat. Butler’s 31.0% primary vote was well below the LNP’s 41.0%, but Greens preferences were more than sufficient to make up the difference.
Lilley (Labor 0.6%; 5.0% swing to LNP): One of the worst aspects of Labor’s thoroughly grim election night was newcomer Anika Wells’ struggle to retain Lilley upon the retirement of Wayne Swan, who himself experienced a career interruption in the seat when it was lost in the landslide of 1996. However, the metrics suggest the 5.0% swing was fuelled by the loss of Swan’s personal vote, showing barely any difference between the actual result and the Senate and demographic measures. The Labor primary vote plunged 8.1%, partly reflecting the entry of One Nation, who scored 5.3%.
Longman (LNP GAIN 3.3%; 4.1% swing to LNP): One of the two seats gained by the LNP from Labor in Queensland, together with the Townsville-based seat of Herbert (which will be covered in the next episode), Longman can be viewed two ways: in comparison with the 2016 election or the July 2018 by-election, which more than anything served as the catalyst for Malcolm Turnbull’s demise. On the former count, the 4.1% swing was broadly in line with the statewide trend, and comfortably sufficed to account for the 0.8% margin Susan Lamb was able to eke out when she unseated Wyatt Roy in 2016. On the latter, the result amounted to a reversal of 7.7% in two-party terms, with victorious LNP candidate Terry Young doing 9.0% better on the primary vote than defeated by-election candidate Trevor Ruthenberg, recording 38.6%. One Nation scored 13.2%, which compared with 9.4% in 2016 and 15.9% at the by-election. Lamb actually outperformed the Senate and especially the demographic metric, suggesting a sophomore surge may have been buried within the broader outer urban effect. Despite the electorate’s demographic divide between working class Caboolture and retiree Bribie Island, the swing was consistent throughout the electorate.
McPherson (LNP 12.2%; 0.6% swing to LNP): As noted above in relation to Fadden, the results from the three Gold Coast seats did not provide good copy. McPherson produced a negligible swing in favour of LNP incumbent Karen Andrews, with both major parties slightly down on the primary vote, mostly due to the entry of One Nation with 5.9%.
Moncrieff (LNP 15.4%; 0.8% swing to LNP): The third of the Gold Coast seats was vacated with the retirement of Steve Ciobo, but the result was little different from neighbouring McPherson. On the right, a fall in the LNP primary vote roughly matched the 6.4% accounted for by the entry of One Nation; on the left, Animal Justice’s 3.9% roughly matched the drop in the Labor vote, while the Greens held steady. The collective stasis between left and right was reflected in the minor two-party swing.
Moreton (Labor 1.9%; 2.1% swing to LNP): This seat is something of an anomaly for Queensland in that it was held by the Liberals throughout the Howard years, but has since remained with Labor. This partly reflects a 1.3% shift in the redistribution before the 2007 election, at which it was gained for Labor by the current member, Graham Perrett. The swing on this occasion was slightly at the low end of the Queensland scale, thanks to the inner urban effect at the electorate’s northern end. Relatedly, it was a particularly good result for the Greens, whose primary vote improved from 12.7% to 16.8%.
Oxley (Labor 6.4%; 2.6% swing to LNP): Only Pauline Hanson’s historic win in 1996 has prevented this seat from sharing with Rankin the distinction of being the only Queensland seat to stay with Labor through recent history. Second term member Milton Dick was not seriously endangered on this occasion, his two-party margin being clipped only slightly amid modest shifts on the primary vote as compared with the 2016 result.
Petrie (LNP 8.4%; 6.8% swing to LNP): This seat maintained a bellwether record going back to 1987 by giving Labor one of its most dispiriting results of the election, which no doubt left LNP member Luke Howarth feeling vindicated in his agitation for a leadership change after the party’s poor by-election result in neighbouring Longman. Howarth strongly outperformed both the Senate and especially the demographic metrics, after also recording a favourable swing against the trend in 2016. He also managed a 3.4% improvement on the primary vote, despite facing new competition from One Nation, who polled 7.5% – exactly equal to the primary vote swing against Labor.
Rankin (Labor 6.4%; 4.9% swing to LNP): Rankin retained its status as Labor’s safest seat in Queensland, but only just: the margin was 6.44% at the second decimal place, compared with 6.39% in Oxley. Jim Chalmers copped a 7.9% hit on the primary vote in the face of new competition from One Nation (8.6%) and the United Australia Party (3.7%), while both the LNP and the Greens were up by a little under 3%. Nonetheless, Chalmers strongly outperformed both the Senate and demographic metrics. That the latter scarcely recognises Rankin as a Labor seat reflects the electorate’s large Chinese population, which associated negatively with Labor support in metropolitan areas.
Ryan (LNP 6.0%; 3.0% swing to Labor): LNP newcomer Julian Simmonds was in no way threatened, but he suffered the biggest of the three swings against his party in Queensland, all of which were recorded in inner Brisbane. As well as the inner urban effect, this no doubt reflects ill-feeling arising from his preselection coup against Jane Prentice. It is tempting to imagine what might have happened if Prentice sought to press the issue by running as an independent.
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