The view from FNQ

From today’s Crikey:

One thing I found when I was covering the state election last year for Crikey was that it was hard to sit in Brisbane and get a good read on what was going on in North Queensland. Queensland is Australia’s most decentralised state in population terms, and unsurprisingly, local and regional factors feature strongly outside the capital (and even in Brisbane, we’re seeing distinctly different patterns emerging on the suburban edges to the southwest and north respectively).

That was very evident in the state election – from a distance, you might think that the Sunshine and Gold Coasts were superficially similar in terms of the sorts of demographics and issues, but Labor held its own on the Gold Coast while the Sunshine Coast was the state party’s only real disaster area. The Nats made ground in some regions, but went backwards in the Lockyer Valley and around and in Toowoomba. And in far north Queensland, Labor got some excellent swings in its favour – up to 8 or 9% in some seats.

So it would be quite wrong to read off polls taken in Brisbane and assume any sort of uniform swing.

Fortunately, my QUT colleague, Jason Wilson of youdecide2007 fame, hails from the deep north (where they look on us Brisbanites as Mexicans…) and has written a very comprehensive analytical piece for the ABC.

Wilson writes:

There’s no dislodging Bob Katter from Kennedy, and De-Anne Kelly probably doesn’t need any help in Dawson, but the other two tropical Queensland seats are illuminating because they are among the most sensitive barometers of the recent electoral fortunes of the major parties.

And he correctly picks the fact that Labor are ahead in both the Townsville seat of Herbert and the Cairns regional seat of Leichardt.

But he might be wrong about Dawson. Kevin Rudd paid the locals up there a call yesterday. On one hand, he may be messing with Howard’s mind again, but on the other, Labor has never entirely written off its chances in Dawson in good years.

As William Bowe observes at The Poll Bludger, the Mackay based seat was won by Labor in a 1967 by-election, which was seen at the time as a very good omen for Gough Whitlam. While it’s been the Nats’ bailiwick since 1975, its margin of 10.2% is in the sort of range Labor are going hunting in this year.

The Nats retained Dawson by only 181 votes in 1990.

Incumbent De-Anne Kelly used to be closely identified with the Bob Katter/Barnaby Joyce style of Nat, and in some ways adopted the NCC influenced almost DLP style of politics they’ve made their own. But like many other regional Queensland and New South Wales seats, it’s a low income area with lots of casual employees, and WorkChoices has the potential to do the conservatives real damage.

Dawson could be well worth while keeping an eye out for on Saturday week.

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Posted in federal election '07
5 comments on “The view from FNQ
  1. wpd says:

    “De-Anne Kelly probably doesn’t need any help in Dawson”

    Probably correct. And the latest revelations re Pork will only serve to remind voters what Kelly did for them last time.

    From memory it was $3.3 million.

  2. Stephen Hill says:

    Why aren’t Labor running harder on the Auditor-General’s report, surely they can visit one of the snake-oil sites and show exactly where Howard has been shovelling money for the last six years.

  3. Sacha says:

    Mark, speaking of Lockyer, I looked at the state election booth figures in the seat of that name, and it looked as if Labor got a strong vote in the area south of Ipswich and maybe Logan (if Lockyet goes that far), and a somewhat stronger vote around Laidley, while the Nats were as strong as ever around Gatton. I’m pretty sure that Labor didn’t do that well in the Lockyer Valley, although probably better than usual.

    It did better in Hinchinbrook.

    Something tells me that Dawson included mining areas a million (40) years ago. I think you’re right about IR being a potentially big issue in Dawson, as it will be for many voters in regional Qld cities.

  4. Sacha says:

    Sorry, that was a bit garbled. I meant to say that Labor did well in Lockyer in the areas sth of Brisbane/Ipswich, and it did better than previously around Laidley.

  5. Graham Bell says:

    Mark:
    Ray Braithwaite used to hold Dawson for the Nationals. What he lacked in celebrity glamour he more than made up for in hard work in committees, in the chamber of the House, in the party room and, what was more important, out around his huge electorate. He was so well respected as a decent parliamentarian – in marked contrast to so many politicians – that Labor couldn’t lay a glove on him even with excellent ALP candidates and party workers.

    De-anne Kelly is a very different member to Ray Braithwaite but she won respect because she stood up to Howard’s attack-puppies in the Nationals.

    She used to have a reasonable chance of being re-elected however, now, in addition to being hindered by the counter-productive and unjust “Work Choices” shemozzle, she also has to cope with anger in rural areas over F.T.A [“F**k-The-Australians” which is sometimes called Free Trade Agreement]; neither of which are her own fault.

    Hope she has updated her CV so she can apply for a new job..

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