Seat of the week: Griffith (plus ReachTEL polling)
Brisbane’s inner south again finds itself represented by a Prime Minister after another absorbing week in federal politics.
First the ReachTEL polling. Yesterday morning the Seven Network brought us a big sample automated phone poll of 3018 respondents which broadly corroborated the Morgan SMS poll in returning the Coalition lead to margin-of-error territory. The poll had Labor at 38.3% on the primary vote, the Coalition on 45.1% and the Greens on 8.7%, panning out to 52-48 in favour of the Coalition after preferences. Now Fairfax brings electorate-level ReachTEL polls of Maribyrnong (located in western Melbourne and held by Bill Shorten), Chisholm (eastern Melbourne, Anna Burke), Blaxland (western Sydney, Jason Clare) and McMahon (western Sydney, Chris Bowen), which have Labor’s two-party vote at 58.6%, 55.2% and 58.9% for the first three, with McMahon annoyingly not provided but Labor evidently in front. Earlier ReachTEL polling showed Labor losing all bar Maribyrnong. Now on to a Seat of the Week I’ve been holding back for a special occasion …
Kevin Rudd’s electorate of Griffith covers inner city Brisbane immediately south of the Brisbane River, from South Brisbane east to Bulimba and Queensport, south to Annerley and south-west to Carina Heights. The seat was called Oxley until 1934, the name later being revived for an unrelated new Ipswich-based seat in 1949. Highly marginal historically, Griffith changed hands between Liberal and Labor in 1949, 1954, 1958, 1961, 1966, 1977, 1996 and 1998. Don Cameron won the seat for the Liberals at the 1966 landslide and then had his position strengthened by redistribution, enabling to hold on to the seat through the Whitlam years. A redistribution at the 1977 election moved the seat heavily in Labor’s favour, resulting in Cameron switching to the new Gold Coast seat of Fadden and Griffith being won for Labor by Ben Humphreys.
When Humphreys retired at the 1996 election the Labor preselection was won by Kevin Rudd, the former diplomat who wielded great influence as chief-of-staff to Wayne Goss during his tenure as Queensland Premier from 1989 to 1996. In doing so he established a factional association with the locally dominant AWU sub-faction of the Right, which secured his preselection despite grumblings that the state branch was failing to meet affirmative action standards. However, the statewide rout that Labor suffered at the 1996 election saw Rudd fall it his first electoral hurdle, with Graeme McDougall gaining Griffith for the Liberals off a 6.2% swing. Rudd returned for a second attempt amid the far more favourable circumstances of 1998, picking up a 3.9% swing to unseat McDougall by a margin of 2.4%.
Rudd established a formidable electoral record in Griffith, picking up a 3.3% and 2.4% swings against the trend of the 2001 and 2004 elections. The electorate was substantially reshaped by redistribution at the 2004 election, absorbing inner city areas at East Brisbane, South Brisbane and Dutton Park while its eastern parts were hived off to the new seat of Bonner. In what may have been an early portent of Rudd’s electoral impact, the booths which were transferred out of the electorate contributed to a surprise defeat for Labor in Bonner by swinging heavily to the Liberals in his absence. As his party’s candidate for the prime ministership in 2007 Rudd enjoyed a further 3.8% swing in 2007, and as its recently spurned ex-leader in 2010 he suffered what by Queensland standards was a relatively mild swing of 3.9%.
The Liberal National Party candidate for the coming election is Bill Glasson, former president of the Australian Medical Association. Glasson’s father, Bill Glasson Sr, was a state National Party MP and minister in the Bjelke-Petersen, Cooper and Ahern governments.