The subject of a better-late-than-never Seat of the Week is the wealthiest electorate in Brisbane, which has reverted solidly to conservative type since a fleeting moment of glory for Labor in 2001.
|Teal and red numbers respectively indicate booths with two-party majorities for the LNP and Labor. Click for larger image. Map boundaries courtesy of Ben Raue at The Tally Room.|
The western Brisbane seat of Ryan is dominated geographically by the Taylor Range to the city’s north-west, but nearly all of its voters are drawn from the suburban plains to the east and south. The suburbs of Ferny Grove and Enoggera at the northern end are Labor-leaning, but in the south are wealthier Indooroopilly and Kenmore on the northern shore of the Brisbane River, with conservative-leaning The Gap and Bardon lying in between. The seat was created with the expansion of parliament in 1949, from territory which had been passed around over time between Lilley, Brisbane and Moreton. It has covered much the same area since, although between 1998 and 2010 the northern end was exchanged for Middle Park and Jindalee south of the river.
Ryan has been won easily won by the Liberals, and more lately the Liberal National Party, at every general election since its creation. Prior to 2001 it had had only two members, firstly Nigel Drury until 1975, and then Howard government Defence Minister John Moore. Then came the only interruption to the seat’s history of conservative dominance after Moore quit parliament when he lost his portfolio in a reshuffle. At a troubled time for the Howard government, the ensuing by-election in February 2001 was won by Labor with a 9.8% swing, giving them what proved an ill-founded confidence boost concerning their prospects at the election due later in the year. Labor member Leonie Short went on to defeat the following November at the hands of Liberals candidate Michael Johnson, a 34-year-old Hong Kong-born and Cambridge-educated barrister of part Chinese extraction. Johnson won a local preselection plebiscite amid loud complaints of branch stacking, and after a defeated candidate’s successful Supreme Court action against a move by the state executive to install its own candidate.
The statewide swing to Labor in 2007 cut the margin from 10.4% to 3.8%, from which it was further reduced to 1.1% by the redistribution that took effect at the 2010 election. Meanwhile opposition to Johnson was mounting within his own party, with reports emerging of an internal investigation into his expenditure records and fundraising activities. In May 2010 he was expelled from the party for attempting to broker an export deal between the Queensland Coal Corporation and a Chinese conglomerate during parliamentary sittings and with the use of his parliamentary email address. A preselection was then won comfortably by Jane Prentice, who served the Indooroopilly-based ward of Walter Taylor on Brisbane City Council. Johnson ran as an independent in 2010 but secured only 8.5% of the vote, with Prentice securing the seat for the LNP with a 6.0% swing. She picked up a further 1.4% swing in 2013, boosting her margin to 8.5%.