Margin: Liberal National 9.0%
Region: Bundaberg, Queensland
In a nutshell: Labor made over the line in Hinkler amid strong performances in 1987 and 1990, but has been unable to repeat the feat since.
Candidates in ballot paper order
ROBERT OWEN WINDRED
Hinkler covers a 90 kilometre stretch of the central Queensland coast, encompassing Hervey Bay in the south and Bundaberg in the north, and extends inland to include Childers. A reasonably safe seat for the conservatives in recent times, it has been held by Nationals members since 1993. The electorate has the country’s equal second highest median age, Hervey Bay in particular being noted as a retirement haven. The large number of pensioners also contributes to its distinction in recording the nation’s lowest median family income.
Hinkler was created with the enlargement of parliament in 1984, prior to which Bundaberg had been in either Capricornia (from 1901 until 1913 and again from 1922 to 1949) or Wide Bay. Both seats frequently changed hands over the years, but the Nationals consolidated their hold on Wide Bay after gaining it from Labor in 1974. Hinkler was originally stronger for Labor by virtue of encompassing Gladstone, but the Nationals nonetheless scraped hope by 221 votes in 1984. Labor’s Brian Courtice then won the seat on his second attempt in 1987 and retained it in 1990, before going down to defeat at the hands of Paul Neville in 1993. Courtice would later emerge in Coalition advertising at the 2007 election, telling voters that “Kevin Rudd couldn’t go three rounds with Winnie the Pooh, so there’s no way he can stand up to the union bosses”.
Paul Neville went on to enjoy something of a charmed life over the next two decades, having his position considerably strengthened by redistributions in 2004 and 2007, and retaining the seat by margins of 510 votes in 1998 and 64 votes in 2001 (One Nation having polled 19.3% on the former occasion). The 2007 redistribution moved Gladstone to the new seat of Flynn and made up for the loss with the gain of Hervey Bay, which had hitherto been in Wide Bay since federation. This gave him a timely 6.5% boost ahead of Kevin Rudd’s sweep through Queensland, and he was able to survive the 2007 election with a margin of 1.7%. He may also have been helped by Labor candidate Garry Parr, who made headlines when he told the parents of a soldier serving with British forces in Afghanistan they were “English warmongers”.
Neville enjoyed the full force of the statewide move against Labor at the 2010 election, his swing of 8.9% being the third biggest in the state. He retired in 2013 and bequeathed a secure margin to his successor Keith Pitt, a former electrical engineer, cane farmer and managing director of a workplace health and safety consultancy. Pitt won promotion to parliamentary secretary status as Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister in February 2016.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.