Two seats held in the last parliament by independents: one certain to remain so, the other certain not to.
Another two electorates for which I have just added meat to the bones in the Poll Bludger election guide:
Kennedy (Independent 18.3% versus Liberal National)
Bob Katter’s seat of Kennedy covers 568,993 square kilometres of northern Queensland, accounting for over 30% of the state’s surface area. It covers two disconnected coastal areas, one being a 250 kilometre stretch of the east coast from the southern suburbs of Cairns through Innisfail to Toomulla 35 kilometres north Townsville, the other being the thinly populated Gulf of Carpentaria coast from the Northern Territory border to the southern part of Cape York Peninsula. The remainder encompasses rural and outback territory including Mount Isa and most of the Northern Territory border.
Kennedy was one of 16 seats out of 75 which were won by Labor at the first federal election in 1901, and it remained with the party until Nationalist candidate Grosvenor Francis was elected unopposed after sitting member Charles McDonald died during the 1925 election campaign (prompting the change to the Electoral Act which provides for the poll in the affected electorate to be cancelled and held at a later time, which most recently had effect in Newcastle at the 1998 election). Francis retained the seat at the 1928 election, but it returned to Labor when Jim Scullin’s government came to power in 1929. The next change came in 1966 when the national anti-Labor swing combined with the loss of retiring veteran William Riordan’s personal vote delivered a narrow victory to the Country Party candidate, Bob Katter Sr.
While the 1969 redistribution strengthened the Country Party by adding Charters Towers and removing Bowen, it was Katter’s personal popularity that saw the Country Party margin increase at each of the next five elections. The 1984 redistribution was less kind to Katter, pushing the seat into the southern reaches of Cape York Peninsula and returning it to the marginal zone. It returned to Labor for one term when Katter retired in 1990, the winning member being Rob Hulls, later to return to politics in Victoria as a senior figure in the Bracks-Brumby government.
Kennedy returned to the National Party and Katter family fold with Hulls’s defeat in 1993 at the hands of Bob Katter Jr, who had represented the local area in state parliament since 1974. Katter cemented his position with a double-digit swing in 1996, and his primary vote increased further after he parted company with the Nationals ahead of the 2001 election. He has comfortably topped the poll at each election since, although he faded from 47.1% to 39.5% before rebounding to 46.7% in 2010. The 2010 election result left him as one of three rural independents holding the balance of power in a hung parliament, and he played a rather more adroit game than his colleagues in unenthusiastically declaring his hand for the Coalition after the determination of the other two to back Labor had rendered it a moot point.
Katter will be opposed at the coming election by Liberal National Party candidate Noeline Ikin, the former chief executive of the Northern Gulf Resource Management Group, and Labor’s Andrew Turnour, a project engineer. Labor’s initial pick, Ken Robertson, was disendorsed early in the campaign after being deemed to have gone overboard in accusing Tony Abbott of being a racist who wanted a return to the White Australian Policy. Preference counts conducted for informational purposes showed the Nationals would have defeated Labor with a 7.5% in 2007 and 11.9% in 2010.
Lyne (Independent 12.7% versus Nationals)
To be vacated at the election by its locally contentious independent member Rob Oakeshott, the electorate of Lyne covers a stretch of the New South Wales between 300 and 400 kilometres north of Sydney, the major population centre being Port Macquarie (home to 33% of the population, and a mainstay of the electorate outside of 1977 to 1984 when it was in Cowper) and Taree (14%). Smaller centres include Old Bar, Lake Cathie and Harrington on the coast, and Wauchope and Wingham further inland. The seat was created with the expansion of parliament in 1949 and held without interruption by the National/Country Party until Oakeshott’s election, although it nearly fell to the Liberals when Bruce Cowan retired in 1993. It was held subsequently by Mark Vaile, who rose to cabinet in 1997 and the Nationals leadership and deputy prime ministership in July 2005.
Vaile quit politics nine months after the defeat of the Howard government, initiating the September 2008 by-election at which Rob Oakeshott was elected. Oakeshott had been the state member for Port Macquarie since his election as Nationals candidate at a November 1996 by-election. He went on to quit the party in March 2002, complaining of local branches being controlled by property developers and questioning its relevance in an electorate transformed by tourism and demographic change. He would later say he had also been offended by a racist remark made about his wife, who is of Aboriginal and South Sea Islander descent, at a party function. Oakeshott was re-elected resoundingly at the 2003 and 2007 state elections, and few doubted Lyne was his for the taking when Vaile resigned. This he duly achieved with 63.8% of the primary vote to 22.9% for his Nationals opponent, which became 73.9% after preferences. With a Labor candidate in the field at the 2010 election his primary vote fell to 47.2%, winning by a two-candidate preferred margin of 12.7%.
Oakeshott’s decision to support a Labor minority government was not favourably received in his electorate, a Newspoll survey conducted a year later finding only 26% of respondents intending to vote for him against 47.1% for whoever the Nationals candidate turned out to be. That has turned out to be David Gillespie, a local gastroenterologist who was best man at Tony Abbott’s wedding, and who also ran in 2010. There were reports that national rugby league player Matt Adamson had been sounded out to run as a Liberal candidate, but the Nationals have been given a clear run in the seat under the terms of the state Coalition agreement. Gillespie’s run got even clearer on the morning of June 26, hours before Julia Gillard was dumped as prime minister, when both Oakeshott and New England independent Tony Windsor announced they would bow out at the election. Labor’s candidate is Peter Alley, an IT consultant who is studying law at Southern Cross University.