Margin: Labor 3.7%
Location: Central Coastal, Queensland
Outgoing member: Kirsten Livermore (Labor)
In a nutshell: Only with the landslide defeats of the Whitlam and Keating governments has Labor’s grip on Capricornia been loosened in its modern history. The return of Kevin Rudd may have saved the day this time around, although Labor goes into the election burdened by the retirement of a long-serving sitting member.
The candidates (ballot paper order)
DEREK JAMES ISON
The central Queensland electorate of Capricornia has existed since federation, with Rockhampton as a constant amid shifting boundaries over the years. Rockhampton currently sits at the electorate’s southern coastal end, from which it extends north to the southern outskirts of Mackay and west through farming and coal mining communities as far as Belyando 250 kilometres inland. Rockhampton has kept the seat strong for Labor for most of its history, the party’s only defeats after 1961 coming with the demise of the Whitlam and Keating governments in 1975 and 1996 (the margin on the former occasion being 136 votes).
The proverbial baseball bat having been wielded in 1996, Capricornia was recovered for Labor in 1998 by Kirsten Livermore, a member of the “soft Left” tendency associated with Martin and Laurie Ferguson. Livermore picked up an 8.8% swing on her debut and retained the seat with reasonably comfortable margins thereafter, until an 8.7% swing in 2007 made it seemingly very safe. Then came a 0.7% redistribution adjustment followed by an 8.4% swing amid the Queensland backlash of 2010, which reined the margin back to 3.7%. Livermore announced in December 2012 that she would not be seeking another term as she wished to spend more time with her family.
The preselection to choose Livermore’s successor was held in February and won by Peter Freeleagus, a Moranbah miner, former Belyando Shire mayor and current Isaac Regional councillor. His win came despite the local party ballot being won 65-37 by Paul Hoolihan, who along with most of his Labor colleagues lost his seat of Keppel at the 2012 state election. However, Hoolihan was overwhelmed by a 41-9 win for Freeleagus in the 50% component of the vote determined by the state party’s electoral college, which consists mostly of union delegates. Michael McKenna of The Australian reported that Freeleagus was backed by the Left faction CFMEU, but also harnessed support from the AWU Right at the behest of Wayne Swan. The implication appeared to be that this was a counter to Kevin Rudd, whose “Old Guard” Right faction included Hoolihan. The deal was also said to require that the Left back the AWU Right over Old Guard candidates in future state preselections. For his part, Freeleagus said he had never even met Wayne Swan.
The Liberal National Party has again endorsed its candidate from 2010, Michelle Landry, who owns a small book-keeping business in Yeppoon. Landry won preselection ahead of real estate agent Alan Cornick and anti-council amalgamation campaigner Paul Lancaster.
Capricornia is one of six Queensland seats where Katter’s Australian Party is directing preferences to Labor, as part of a preference deal that sees the KAP get the second preference on Labor’s Queensland Senate ticket.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.