A deep dive into the darkest corner of Labor’s federal election failure.
Welcome to the latest instalment of Call of the Board, which probes into every seat result from the May federal election region by region. Earlier instalments covered Sydney, here and here; regional New South Wales; Melbourne; regional Victoria and south-east Queensland. Today we look at the electorates of Queensland outside of Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.
The posts dealing with the big cities have featured colour-coded seat maps and the results of a model estimating how the results would have looked if determined by demographic factors alone. Unfortunately, colour-coding doesn’t get you very far when zooming out to vast and unevenly populated regional terrain, and the model hasn’t proved to be much use in producing plausible results for regional seats, in which elusive factors of local political culture appear to loom large. However, I can at least offer for purposes of comparison Labor two-party estimates derived from the Senate results, potentially offering a pointer to how much candidate factors affected the lower house results.
Seat by seat alphabetically:
Capricornia (LNP 12.4%; 11.7% swing to LNP): Labor held this Rockhampton region seat for all but one term from 1977 to 2013, but history may record that it has now reached a tipping point akin to those that have excluded the party from former regional strongholds including Kennedy (Labor-held for all but two terms from federation to 1966, but only once thereafter), Grey in South Australia (Labor-held for all but one term from 1943 to 1993, but never again since) and Kalgoorlie in Western Australia (Labor-held for all but three terms from 1922 until Graeme Campbell quit the party in 1995, and now divided between the safely conservative seats of O’Connor and Durack). The 11.7% swing to Michelle Landry, who has held the seat since 2013, was the biggest in the country, shading the 11.2% swing to the beloved George Christensen in Dawson. Landry’s primary vote was actually little changed, reflecting the entry of One Nation, who accounted for most of Labor’s 14.3% collapse. The rest came from a halving of the Katter’s Australian Party vote from 7.1% to 3.7% and the absence of Family First.
Dawson (LNP 14.6%; 11.2% swing to LNP): Dawson behaved almost identically in swing terms to its southern neighbour, Capricornia, as voters showed themselves to be a great deal more concerned about Adani and its symbolism than George Christensen’s enthusiasm for life in the Philippines. As in Capricornia, the LNP primary vote was little changed from 2016, but the arrival of One Nation soaked up 13.1% which neatly matched Labor’s 12.5% decline. Katter’s Australian Party held up better here than in Capricornia, their 6.3% being only slightly down on 2016.
Flynn (LNP 8.7%; 7.6% swing to LNP): Labor narrowly won this Gladstone-based seat on its creation at their 2007 high-water mark and sliced the margin back to 1.0% in 2016, but hopes of going one better this time fell foul of the party’s region-wide disaster. The swing in this case was fairly typical of those suffered by Labor outside the immediate range of proposed Adani mine, though in this case One Nation were not a new feature, their 19.6% being slightly higher than their 2016 result. The seat was a bit unusual in that Labor’s score on the two-party Senate estimate was 2.8% stronger than their House result.
Groom (LNP 20.5%; 5.2% swing to LNP): The 5.2% swing to John McVeigh was a bit below the regional Queensland par, despite him being a sophomore of sorts – although he may have arrived in 2016 with a ready-made personal vote due to his background as a state member. Nonetheless, it was sufficient to catapult the seat from fifteenth to second on the national ranking of seats by Coalition-versus-Labor margin, reflecting the narrowing of margins in many blue-ribbon city seats. The 2016 result was remarkable in that Family First polled 10.0% in the absence of right-wing minor party competition – this time the newly arrived One Nation polled 13.1% in their absence. The LNP primary vote was little changed and Labor was down 3.5%, the rest of the swing bespeaking a more right-wing minor party preference pool.
Herbert (LNP GAIN 8.4%; 8.4% swing to LNP): Labor’s most marginal seat pre-election, following Labor member Cathy O’Toole’s 37 vote win in 2016, the Townsville seat of Herbert was one of five seats across the country and two in Queensland that were gained by the Coalition (balanced to an extent by Labor’s gains in Gilmore and, with help from redistribution, Corangamite and Dunkley). While the swing was lower than in the Adani epicentre electorates of Dawson and Capricornia immediately to the south, it was sufficient to produce the most decisive result the seat has seen since 1954. O’Toole’s primary vote was down 5.0% to 25.5%, while LNP victor Phillip Thompson added 1.6% to the party’s 2016 result to score 37.1%. High-profile Palmer candidate Greg Dowling did relatively well in polling 5.7%, and One Nation were down from 13.5% to 11.1%.
Hinkler (LNP 14.5%; 6.1% swing to LNP): Keith Pitt, who has held this Bundaberg-based seat since 2013, picked up a swing well in line with the regional Queensland norm. He was up 2.2% on the primary vote, while Labor was down 3.8%; One Nation fell from 19.2% to 14.8%, mostly due to an expansion in the field from seven candidates to ten, including three independents, none of whom did particularly well individually.
Kennedy (KAP 13.3% versus LNP; 2.3% swing to KAP): Bob Katter had a near death experience at the 2013 election, at which time he was presumably tarred with the minority government brush despite being the only cross-bencher who backed the Coalition after the inconclusive 2010 result. However, he’s roared back to dominance since, picking up successive two-party swings of 8.9% and 2.3%, and primary vote swings of 10.5% and 2.6%. On the latter count at least, he’s been assisted by the fact that One Nation have declined to challenge him. In Coalition-versus-Labor terms, the seat participated in the regional Queensland trend in swinging 7.8% against Labor.
Leichhardt (LNP 4.2%; 0.2% swing to LNP): The negligible swing in favour of LNP veteran Warren Entsch was an exception to the regional Queensland rule, and was generally attributed to the centrality of tourism to the economy of Cairns, giving the region a very different outlook on issues like Adani. The result was generally status quo in all respects, but the seat had the distinction of being one of only three in the state where the Labor primary vote very slightly increased, along with Ryan and Fairfax. With Entsch’s primary vote down slightly, the two-party swing, such as it was, came down to an improved flow of preferences.
Maranoa (LNP 22.5% versus One Nation; 6.6% swing to LNP): For the second election in a row, Maranoa emerged with the distinction of being the only seat in the country where One Nation made the final preference count. One Nation and Labor were down on the primary vote by 3.2% and 2.7% respectively; at the last preference exclusion, One Nation led Labor 21.3% to 19.0%, compared with 23.6% to 22.9% in 2016. The other story here was the strong sophomore showing for David Littleproud, who was up 6.8% on the primary vote and by similar amounts on two-party preferred against both One Nation and Labor. The 25.4% margin versus Labor is now by some distance the biggest in the country, compared with the electorate’s ninth ranking on this score in 2016. Equally impressive for Littleproud is the distinction between his 25.4% margin and the 20.4% recorded by the two-party Senate measure.
Wide Bay (LNP 13.1%; 5.0% swing to LNP): Llew O’Brien may also have enjoyed a sophomore effect after succeeding Warren Truss in 2016, as his primary vote was up 3.2% while One Nation fell from 15.6% to 10.8%. However, the Labor primary vote held up unusually well, and the two-party swing was at the lower end of the regional Queensland scale.
Wright (LNP 14.6%; 5.0% swing to LNP): So far as the major parties were concerned, the result here was typical of regional Queensland, with LNP member Scott Buchholz up 3.1% on the primary vote and Labor down 4.0%. Independent Innes Larkin, who appears to have made his name locally campaigning against coal seam gas, scored a respectable 5.3%, which presumably helps explains the drop in the One Nation vote from 21.8% to 14.0%.