Margin: Liberal National 2.4%
Location: Northern Coastal, Queensland
In a nutshell: Labor secured a rare win Dawson on the back of a huge swing in 2007, but it is back in Coalition hands after joining Labor’s extensive Queensland casualty list in 2010.
The candidates (ballot paper order)
IAN MAURICE FERGUSON
Extending along the central Queensland coast from Mackay northwards through the Whitsunday Islands, Bowen and Ayr to southern Townsville, Dawson has had a wild ride after the past two elections, firstly falling to Labor with an epic swing of 13.2% in 2007 before returning to the conservative fold in 2010. The swing on the latter occasion was 5.0%, approximately in line with the statewide result, which rose to double figures in the Whitsunday region booths around Airlie Beach and Proserpine. The seat was created with the expansion of parliament in 1949, and has consistently been centred on the sugar capital of Mackay. While Mackay has consistently been an area of strength for Labor, the surrounding rural territory has tended to keep the seat in the conservative fold. The only Labor member prior to 2007 was Whitlam government minister Rex Patterson, who won the seat at a by-election in February 1967 and kept a tenuous hold until his defeat in 1975.
The Nationals retained the seat throughout the Hawke-Keating years, despite close calls in 1983 (1.2%) and 1990 (0.1%, or 181 votes). De-Anne Kelly succeeded Ray Braithwaite as the party’s member in 1996, become the first woman ever to represent the party in the House of Representatives. The swing that unseated Kelly in 2007 was one of three double-digit swings to Labor in Queensland at that election, and the only one to strike a sitting member. Labor’s unxpected victor was James Bidgood, a former Mackay councillor noted for linking the global financial crisis to biblical prophecy. Bidgood bowed out after a single term citing health problems, and was succeeded as Labor’s candidate by Whitsunday mayor Mike Brunker. Brunker however proved unable to hold back a statewide tide at the 2010 election which almost entirely undid the party’s gains of 2007.
Dawson has since been held by George Christensen, a former Mackay councillor and local newspaper publisher who sits in parliament with the Nationals. Christensen suffered an embarrassment during the 2010 campaign with the emergence of newsletters he had written as a university student containing what Tony Abbott conceded were “colourful” views on Jews, gays and women. He has more recently been noted for his hostility to Islamic radicalism, having been the only federal MP to attend rallies held in Australia by controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders. His Labor opponent for the coming election is Bronwyn Taha, a former Proserpine restaurant owner and electorate officer to state Whitsunday MP Jan Jarratt.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.