The Currumbin by-election arises from the resignation of Jann Stuckey in late January due to a battle with depression, trumping her announcement last July that she would bow out at the election. Stuckey has held the seat for the Liberal National Party since 2004, serving as Tourism and Small Business Minister through the period of the Newman government from 2012 to 2015, and remaining on the front bench until Tim Nicholls replaced Lawrence Springborg as leader in May 2016.
Stuckey developed increasingly strained relations with her party in the lead-up to her retirement announcement, when she complained that political life had exposed her to “bullying, personal attacks and insults”. Party leader Deb Frecklington insisted this was directed at Labor, which Stuckey endorsed to the extent of telling Seven News she had been “humiliated” by recent government attacks on her in parliament. However, she also became estranged from her own party after she and two colleagues voted in favour of a bill to remove abortion from the criminal code. While this was ostensibly a conscience vote, the three MPs faced threats to their preselection, including from the party's then state president, Gary Spence.
Stuckey was further angered when the party's candidate vetting committee knocked back the nomination of her favoured successorin Currumbin, Chris Crawford. When Laura Gerber was preselected by the state executive shortly after her retirement announced, Stuckey complained that local party members had been denied a vote, reflecting a determination for the seat to be contested by “a skirt”.
Currumbin covers the southernmost extent of coastal Queensland, encompassing a short strip of suburbia from Currumbin south through Tugun and Biliga to Coolangatta, and extending inland through Elanora and Currumbin Waters to lightly populated Currumbin Valley and Tallebudgera Valley. The area's most significant demographic distinction in recent times has been rapid income growth, placing it second behind neighbouring Burleigh for strongest growth the 2011 and 2016 censuses.
The Gold Coast was dominated by Joh Bjelke-Petersen's Nationals when the Currumbin electorate was created in 1986, but that ended amid the fallout from the Fitzgerald inquiry in 1989, when Trevor Coomber won the seat for the Liberals. Coomber abandoned the seat for a quixotic tilt at Nationals-held Surfers Paradise at the 1992 election, and Currumbin was won for Labor by Merri Rose.
Currumbin was Labor's strongest on the Gold Coast for some time thereafter, but it drifted from the party's orbit even before the Liberal National Party secured a lock on the region from 2012. Jann Stuckey gained the seat for the Liberals in 2004 after Rose suffered a string of ministerial controversies, later to be sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment in 2007 for attempting to blackmail Peter Beattie into giving her a public service position.
The new LNP candidate is Laura Gerber, principal legal officer at the Office of the Health Ombudsman and a former federal prosecutor. Gerber's preselection roused controversy as she was chosen as candidate by the party's state executive without reference to local branches, and had only joined the party in December. It emerged after her preselection that she had a star turn on the television program Australia's Worst Driver in 2003, when she was 19, having been nominated by her mother after what she now calls “a few minor prangs and a minor accident involving other vehicles”.
Labor's candidate is Kaylee Campradt, a part-time campaign officer for the Queensland Council of Unions who was preselected to run at the state election last October.