Such has been the scale of Queensland’s population explosion in recent years that the state’s share of House of Representatives seats is set to increase for the second election in a row. That means Queensland MPs are once again experiencing the excitement of a redistribution, a process which reached a milestone with yesterday’s release of the Australian Electoral Commission’s preliminary boundaries. Should the proposal proceed without substantial revision there will be a new electorate called Wright (named in honour of poet Judith Wright on the recommendation of the Greens), a peculiar looking beast extending from Winton deep in central Queensland all the way eastwards to Gladstone on the coast. However, the AEC report points out that the redrawn electorate of Hinkler could just as easily be said to be the “new” electorate, as Wright will contain fractionally more voters from the old Hinkler than the new. It was determined that the interior electorate should get the new name on the sensible basis that the name of Hinkler is “intrinsically linked to the City of Bundaberg”, which remains part of Hinkler.
For reasons the Poll Bludger can’t understand, the Nationals don’t sound happy. Maranoa MP Bruce Scott told the ABC the Wright proposal was “crazy”, raising commendable objections about roads and communications, communities of interest and local government linkages. He also said he hadn’t “looked at the political impact”; normally such a claim would have me in hysterics, but I really do think he may be telling the truth. Nationals state director Brad Henderson calls Wright “a classic Nats versus Labor seat” due to Labor’s strength in Gladstone and hinterland mining towns, but it looks very much like a Nationals seat to me. By my count, Labor scored only 51.8 per cent on two-party preferred from the 11,606 votes in Gladstone in 2004, and it seems clear the remaining 76,000 would tip the scales in the Nationals’ favour (UPDATE: See below). Furthermore, the removal of Gladstone has weakened Labor’s position in Hinkler, which Paul Neville held for the Nationals by 4.8 per cent in 2004. Hinkler will be compensated for the loss of Gladstone with Hervey Bay and its surrounds, which split 60-40 in the Coalition’s favour. The resulting electorate is smaller, more coastal and at greater threat from the Liberals in the long term, but that shouldn’t become an issue until Neville retires.
Elsewhere, no seat has moved from one party’s column to the other, although there are as always a number that have been made more or less interesting. By far the biggest loser from the redistribution is Liberal member for Blair Cameron Thompson, whose win upon the seat’s creation in 1998 put an end to Pauline Hanson’s parliamentary career. Blair is in an interesting position, having originally covered the conservative hinterland of safe Labor Ipswich. Unfortunately for Thompson, the last two redistributions have drawn the seat into Ipswich itself, from which it will now absorb more than 20,000 new voters. The corresponding loss of territory comes in the Kingaroy-Nanango area â€“ Joh country â€“ which split 67-33 in Thompson’s favour in 2004. By my rough reckoning, that could cut his margin from 11.2 per cent to as little as 4 per cent (UPDATE: See below).
The electorates on the Sunshine Coast have been substantially shuffled around, but the only one of interest to non-psephologists (UPDATE: See below) is Mal Brough’s dicey seat of Longman, where the Liberal margin inflated from 2.5 per cent to 7.7 per cent at the 2004 election. Longman has been sucked into Brisbane’s orbit with the loss of its territory in the Glasshouse Mountains and to the west of Caboolture, which it has traded in for the outer Brisbane centre of Kallangur and its surrounds. This area produced more modest Liberal majorities of around 4 per cent, so their addition should add slightly to Brough’s discomfort. The better part of this area from Brough’s perspective, around North Lakes, comes at the expense of party colleague Teresa Gambaro in suburban Petrie to the south. The 11,500 voters Gambaro is losing here split about 59-41 in the Liberals’ favour in 2004, compared with an overall margin that was up from 3.5 per cent to 7.9 per cent. Petrie was over quota going into the redistribution and will only be compensated for its loss with a few thousand voters in the neighbouring Labor-held seats of Lilley and Brisbane, which will have a small but potentially significant drain on her margin.
The Liberals’ other three naturally marginal seats in Brisbane, Bonner (0.5 per cent), Moreton (4.2 per cent) and Dickson (7.8 per cent), are a mixed bag. Bonner will be wholly unchanged, while Dickson will be made safe by the addition of the safely conservative Shire of Esk, a development which has made the seat largely rural. However, it has not been a good redistribution for Gary Hardgrave in Moreton, who is set to trade more than 12,000 voters in one of his best areas, Algester in the south-west, for 4000 voters in inner-city Annerley to the north and 5000 around Karawatha to the south-east. Given that the respective two-party Liberal vote in the three areas in 2004 was about 57 per cent, 38 per cent and 47 per cent, my rough estimate is that his margin will be cut to 2.5 per cent.
In terms of the Labor-versus-Coalition contest the only electorate of interest in the remainder of Queensland is the Townsville-based seat of Herbert, held for the Liberals by Peter Lindsay on a margin of 6.2 per cent (up from 1.5 per cent in 2001). The electorate has undergone small changes with the addition of just under 3000 voters in Thuringowa and the loss of about 5500 in Townsville, which I do not believe are likely to affect the margin much. Labor’s only seat outside of the Brisbane area, Capricornia, has undergone significant changes, providing Wright with 17,000 of its voters and gaining 14,000 new voters just outside of Mackay. These changes are a mixed bag and are unlikely to account for Labor’s 5.1 per cent margin, in a seat where Rockhampton remains the decisive factor.
UPDATE (25/6/06): I may have spoken too soon when I said the Sunshine Coast boundary changes were unlikely to matter: according to the ABC, Fairfax MP Alex Somlyay is suggesting the Liberals mightÂ run a candidate against senior Nationals MP Warren Truss inÂ Wide Bay now that it’s moving into Noosa. Also, earlier generalisations about likely margins can now be clarified.Â Sacha in comments, who has done the numbers properly, says the new Liberal margin in Blair is 6.4 per cent. I have now crunched the numbers in the booths that will make up the new electorate of Wright and concluded that the Nationals margin from 2004 would have been 5.2 per cent, which compares with a statewide result of 7.1 per cent. Labor could therefore be expected to win the seat if the statewide result was 50-50, although as this graph at Mumble makes clear, that doesn’t happen very often. Other thingsÂ being equal, there would have been 15 wins for the Coalition since 1949, six for Labor and two cliffhangers. I hope you enjoy the following figures, because they did not come easily. Bear in mind that this does not include pre-polls, postals and the like (not that this should make too much difference), and no doubt contains a few errors.
|Â||LNP #||LNP %||ALP #||ALP %|
UPDATE (26/6/06): Turns out I’m not totally stupid after all. According to Mark Vaile, "early indications suggested (Wright) would, based on the last election, deliver a Nationals candidate about 55 per cent of the two-party preferred vote, compared to 45 per cent for a Labor candidate".