Elected in 2010 at the age of 20, Wyatt Roy looked to be cruising to an easy second term as member for his seat on Brisbane's northern fringe. Now post-Ruddstoration opinion polling suggests he has a real fight on his hands.
Longman is centred on Caboolture and Burpengary in Brisbane’s outer north, from which it extends eastwards to Bribie Island and the mainland coast immediately opposite and westwards to the semi-rural townships of Woodford and D’Aguilar. The seat was created at the 1996 election from territory that had mostly been in Fisher, which thereafter assumed a more coastal orientation along the southern half of the Sunshine Coast. Caboolture and Bribie Island have been the constants of the electorate amid frequently changing boundaries, which have variously appended the electorate’s core either with outer northern Brisbane suburbs or semi-rural hinterland. The former was most evident when the boundaries encompassed the coastal suburb of Deception Bay at the time of the 2007 election, which was the only occasion thus far when the seat has been won by Labor. This area was transferred to Petrie in the redistribution before the 2010 election, with Longman regaining the Woodford and D’Aguilar area it had temporarily lost to Fisher.
Longman had a notional Liberal margin of 1.6% on its creation at the 1996 election, to which the party’s candidate Mal Brough added a further 10.0% in the context of a disastrous result for Labor throughout Queensland. Brough was nonetheless lucky to survive the 1998 election after a 1.6% redistribution shift and a 9.1% swing back to Labor left him with only 0.5% to spare. After picking up successive swings of 1.8% in 2001 and 5.2% in 2004, Brough’s margin was pegged back by redistribution to 6.6% going into the 2007 election. By this time Brough had emerged as a senior figure in the Howard government, serving progressively as Employment Services Minister from 2001 to 2004, Assistant Treasurer and Revenue Minister from 2004 to 2006, and Families and Community Services and Indigenous Affairs from 2006 until the Howard government’s defeat a year later. His profile was considerably raised by the latter role, in which he oversaw the government’s sweeping intervention into Northern Territory indigenous communities.
Longman gave Labor one of its most rewarding victories of the 2007 election when Brough was dumped by a 10.3% swing, which was notably more concentrated in low-income Caboolture than the more affluent Bribie Island. Labor’s winning candidate was Jon Sullivan, who had served the area in state parliament from 1989 as member for Glass House and Caboolture, before losing the latter seat to One Nation in 1998. The exchange of urban for semi-rural territory at the 2010 election reduced the Labor margin from 3.6% to 1.9%, though even the pre-redistribution margin would have been insufficient against the 3.8% swing Sullivan suffered amid an election result which cost Labor seven of its 15 Queensland seats. His cause was not aided by a late campaign gaffe committed during a public forum broadcast on ABC Radio, in which he drew jeers from the audience after responding critically to a question posed by the father of a disabled child.
The LNP’s victory was especially noteworthy in returning a candidate who at 20 years of age was the youngest person ever elected to an Australian parliament. Wyatt Roy had won preselection at a local party ballot the previous March, at which time the seat was not considered one the party had much cause to be optimistic about. A University of Queensland student, electorate officer to state Glass House MP Andrew Powell and president of the Sunshine Coast Young Liberal National Party, Roy reportedly impressed party members with his pitch at the preselection meeting, and performed well in subsequent media appearances. His win in the ballot ahead of former Caboolture councillor Peter Flannery and local businessman Steve Attrill was confirmed by the party’s state council, despite criticism from Mal Brough who queried how such a candidate would connect with the the electorate’s large component of veterans and seniors.
Labor’s candidate for the coming election is Michael Caisley, an organiser with the Left faction United Voice union (formerly the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union). Meanwhile, Mal Brough will be seeking to return to politics as LNP candidate for the electorate’s northern neighbour, Fisher.
William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, is one of the most heavily trafficked forums for online discussion of Australian politics, and joined the Crikey stable in 2008.