Queensland election 2015


Margin: Liberal National 8.9%
Region: Regional City
Federal: Leichhardt

Candidates in ballot paper order



Palmer United Party

Labor (bottom)



Liberal National (top)




Electorate boundary outline courtesy of
Ben Raue of The Tally Room.

Among the 44 seats gained in the Liberal National Party’s unprecedented landslide of 2012 was Cairns, which had last been won by a conservative candidate in 1902. The electorate contains slightly over half the population of the city that bears its name, with the outer and northern suburbs respectively covered by Barron River and Mulgrave. Labor and the Greens’ strongest areas tend to be nearer the city, with the Earlwood and Mooroobool area in the south-west tending more conservative.

Labor’s hold on Cairns from 1904 to 2012 was interrupted on only two occasions: when John Mann quit the party in 1907 and held the seat independently until 1912, and when Lou Barnes held the seat as an “Independent Labor” member from 1942 to 1947. However, Labor’s position weakened over time as sugar, mining and railways made way for what Antony Green describes as “tourism and service industries for the rich retirees from down south”. Desley Boyle was nonetheless able to retain the seat on the high tide of the Beattie and early Bligh years, having survived the challenge of One Nation on her debut in 1998 by a margin of 2.3%. After her well-timed retirement at the 2012 election, Labor may have betrayed a lack of confidence in endorsing 25-year-old Kirsten Lesina, notwithstanding her four years of experience on Cairns Regional Council. The margin was duly wiped out at the election by a 13.0% swing, roughly in line with the statewide trend.

The seat has since been held for the LNP by Gavin King, who had previously been editor-at-large of the Cairns Post, and won immediate promotion to the outer ministry as Assistant Tourism Minister. This was despite a controversy he weathered during the campaign over contentious statements from his newspaper column, one stating that the federal government’s baby bonus was a “dodgy moneymaking scam anywhere poor people with high libidos reside”, another arguing that women raped while under the influence of alcohol were partly to blame for their misfortune. Critics of King’s preselection included Joel Harrop, a former LNP state secretary and candidate for Cairns at the 2009 election, who resigned from the party in protest.

King had in fact been the second candidate the LNP preselected for the 2012 election, the first being Paul Freebody, a property developer and former Cairns councillor. Freebody came unstuck with the emergence of an email sent to numerous recipients which described Julia Gillard and Bob Brown as “the most evil people we have ever had in power in our country”, and appeared to wish death upon the former. Freebody’s preselection had raised the ire of Warren Entsch, LNP member for the corresponding federal seat of Leichhardt, who said in a leaked email he would “not encourage any member of the FNQ business community to donate to the Cairns campaign while he is the candidate”.

Labor’s new candidate for the seat is Rob Pyne, a Cairns Regional councillor who has been a quadriplegic since a diving accident in 1991 at the age of 23. Pyne won preselection ahead of Michael Healy, director of Tourism Tropical North Queensland.

cuIn the second week of the campaign, a Galaxy automated phone poll of 610 respondents in the electorate had Labor with a two-party lead of 53-47, from primary votes of 40% for the LNP, 44% for Labor, 8% for the Greens and 5% for Palmer United. Rather less illuminating was a poll the following week from Newspoll which targeted Cairns and two other seats with margins in the 6%-9% range, namely Ipswich West and Keppel. The collective two-party swing recorded to Labor was 13.4%, but the overall sample for the poll was a modest 600. In the second week of the campaign, The Australian reported that internal polling from both sides had the six LNP-held seats in northernmost Queensland “well within the ALP’s grasp”, with Cairns being a stronger prospect than neighbouring Barron River. A Galaxy poll of Barron River conducted simultaneously with the Cairns poll had it at 50-50.

Corrections, complaints and feedback to William Bowe at pollbludger-at-bigpond-dot-com. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.

Back to Crikey’s Queensland election guide

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