Margin: Labor 5.8%
Location: Western Brisbane, Queensland
In a nutshell: Despite unfavourable redistributions and the statewide swing of 2010, Bill Hayden’s old seat has returned to safe Labor form since the famous interruption of Pauline Hanson from 1996 to 1998.
The candidates (ballot paper order)
RICKY YUE MUN TANG
Still famous 15 years later as the former electorate of Pauline Hanson, the modern seat of Oxley was created around the satellite city of Ipswich west of Brisbane in 1949 (a seat bearing the name having earlier existed in southern Brisbane, before being renamed Griffith in 1934). Redistributions in 2004, 2007 and 2010 sent the electorate’s remaining share of Ipswich to Blair, pushing Oxley towards Brisbane with the addition of Middle Park and Jindalee in the north and Algester to the east. The changes before the 2010 election garnished the margin from 14.1% to 11.3%, and the punishing statewide swing against Labor that followed pared it back to 5.6%.
For the first decade of its existence, Oxley was was held for the Liberals on fairly comfortable margins by Donald Cameron, who served as Health Minister in the Menzies government. However, a 9.4% swing in 1961 portended a long-term shift to Labor, delivering the seat to future party leader Bill Hayden. Hayden did extraordinarily well to lift his margin to 19.1% by 1969, but Queensland’s reaction against the Whitlam government was strong enough to cut it back to 3.8% in 1975. By the time Hayden resigned to become Governor-General in 1988, the seat was safe enough for Labor that Les Scott was able to survive a sharp swing at the resulting by-election with a 4.0% margin.
After retaining a margin of 12.6% at the 1993 election, few suspected that Scott would be in serious danger despite the hostile environment faced by Labor going into the 1996 election. However, trouble came in the form of Liberal candidate Pauline Hanson, whose campaign remarks about Aboriginal welfare saw her disendorsed by a party sensitive about its leader’s complicated history on racial issues. The voters by contrast rewarded her with an astonishing 48.6% of the primary vote, resulting in a 4.7% win after preferences. Unfortunately for Hanson, Oxley was substantially redrawn with the 1998 redistribution, losing its rural areas beyond Ipswich to newly created Blair along with parts of Ipswich itself, while absorbing the very safe Labor urban area of Inala. Rightly or wrongly, Hanson decided the new seat offered her the better prospects, and Bernie Ripoll had no trouble regaining Oxley for Labor at the 1998 election.
A member of the Australian Workers Union/Labor Forum faction, Ripoll served as a parliamentary secretary in opposition after the 2004 election, but was passed over when Labor came to office in 2007. This was rectified when he was named parliamentary secretary to the Treasurer after Kevin Rudd’s first unsuccessful leadership bid in March 2012, from which he shifted to the small business portfolio a year later. Ripoll was public in his support for Julia Gillard through each of Kevin Rudd’s bids to resume the leadership. His Liberal National Party opponent for the coming election is Andrew Nyugen, a 28-year-old policy adviser to Brisbane lord mayor Graham Quirk, who is not to be confused with the identically named Liberal candidate for the Sydney seat of Fowler.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.