Margin: Liberal National 19.1%
Region: Gold Coast
Candidates in ballot paper order
2012 ELECTION RESULTS
Electorate boundary outline courtesy of
Ben Raue of The Tally Room.
The Gold Coast electorate of Gaven has loomed large in the turmoil that has surrounded the Newman government in its first term, being the electorate of Liberal National Party defector Alex Douglas. Douglas will attempt to retain his seat at the election as an independent, having quit firstly the Liberal National Party in November 2012, then the Palmer United Party after serving as its parliamentary leader from June 2013 to August 2014.
Gaven covers two distinct areas inland of the Gold Coast coastal strip Gaven itself in the north, and Nerang and Carrara to the south along with the undeveloped Coomera Valley region further inland. It was created in 2001 with a notional Liberal/National margin of 7.0%, enough to lure the Nationals member for neighbouring Albert, Bill Baumann, to try his hand at the new seat. However, the margin proved woefully inadequate in the face of the tidal wave that struck the conservatives on the Gold Coast, which in Gaven’s case delivered the seat to Labor’s Robert Poole with a 14.6% swing and a winning margin of 7.6%.
Poole was comfortably re-elected in 2004, but the amount of time he was spending with his wife and children in Thailand soon emerged as a source of embarrassment for the government. When Beattie demanded his return in February 2006, he instead chose to resign. Alex Douglas won the seat for the Nationals at the ensuing by-election with a swing of 8.4%, the party having won the exclusive right to contest the seat under the terms of the coalition agreement reached the previous year. However, Douglas’s triumph proved short-lived when the seat returned to Labor at the general election of September 2006.
Labor’s candidate at both the by-election and the general election was Phil Gray, a former president of the Queensland Public Sector Union. Gray emerged as a liability for the government after he threatened two women who had mildly criticised him with legal action one an invalid pensioner recovering from a stroke, the other a constituent who appeared to do nothing more than tell a public meeting she wouldn’t vote for him. The swing against Gray at the 2009 election was surprisingly mild swing under the circumstances, but nonetheless sufficient to return Alex Douglas to parliament on a margin of 0.7%. Douglas margin was then boosted by 18.4% in the LNP tidal wave on the Gold Coast in 2012.
Alex Douglas was well known locally prior to his parliamentary career as a general practitioner, and also on account of his wife, Gold Coast councillor Susie Douglas. The first sign of his looming breach with the LNP came in early November 2012, when he described the government’s plan to build a cruise ship terminal on the Broadwater Spit as risky and stupid. Later in the month, a rearrangement of his parliamentary committee responsibilities removed him as chair of the parliamentary ethics committee, which at the time was conducting a politically sensitive investigation into Department of Transport and Main Roads director-general Michael Caltabiano. When Douglas disputed a claim in parliament by Campbell Newman that he had been agreeable to the change, the new committee chair position he had been assigned to the previous day was stripped from him, prompting his resignation from the party.
When Clive Palmer formed the United Australia Party in June 2013, soon to be renamed the Palmer United Party, Douglas together with a fellow LNP dissident, Yeerongpilly MP Carl Judge, instantly delivered it two seats by signing on with the party, with Douglas taking on the role of leader. However, he fell out with Palmer the following year, complaining of being locked out of its preselection process, and quit the party in August. Palmer retorted that Douglas had been attempting to effect the merger of Palmer United with Katter’s Australian Party, noting that Bob Katter was Douglas’s uncle.
Douglas’s LNP opponent at the coming election will be Sid Cramp, an officer at the Queensland Ambulance Service’s Southport communications centre. Labor’s candidate is Michael Riordan, a high school English teacher and the son of Whitlam government minister Joe Riordan. He ran unsuccessful in Gaven at the last election, and in Currumbin in 2006 and 2009.
Corrections, complaints and feedback to William Bowe at pollbludger-at-bigpond-dot-com. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.