Margin: Liberal National 2.2%
Location: Townsville, Queensland
In a nutshell: The Townsville seat of Herbert has been in Coalition hands since the election of the Howard government, although Labor came within a handful of votes of snatching it in 1998 and 2007.
The candidates (ballot paper order)
MARTIN DAVID BREWSTER
The Townsville-based electorate of Herbert has been in conservative hands without interruption since 1996, although it has been highly marginal throughout that time. The seat has existed since federation, at which time it extended north to Cairns and south to Mackay. More recently it has covered central Townsville and a shifting aggregation of surrounding territory, the pre-2010 election redistribution having transferred the southern suburbs of Annandale and Wulguru to Dawson and added Deeragun and its northern coastal surrounds from Kennedy. The strongest booths for Labor are generally in the town centre and its surrounds, while those in the outer suburbs tend to be more volatile as well as more conservative, having moved strongly with the statewide tides toward Labor in 2007 and against it in 2004 and 2010. Lavarack Barracks makes the electorate highly sensitive to defence issues, with the sector accounting for about one in eight jobs in the electorate. Presumably as a consequence, the electorate is unusually youthful, the median age of 32 being four years lower than for any other seat in regional Queensland.
Herbert was a working class and Labor seat for much of its history, being in Labor hands until the 1960s and turning in a 34.2% vote for Communist Party candidate Frederick Paterson in 1943 (Paterson went on to win the state seat of Bowen the following year, the only such success for a Communist candidate in Australian history). A watershed moment came with the victory of Liberal candidate Robert Bonnett in the 1966 landslide, which was followed by further Liberal swings against the trend of the 1969 and 1972 elections. The seat came back on Labor’s radar after the 1980 election, when their candidate Ted Lindsay succeeded in reducing the Liberal margin to below 1%. Lindsay went one better when he ran again in 1983, gaining the seat with a 3.7% swing and retaining it throughout the Hawke-Keating years. Together with most of his Queensland Labor colleagues he was unseated at the 1996 election, when unrelated Liberal candidate Peter Lindsay won off a 9.0% swing. Ted Lindsay came within 160 votes of pulling off a comeback in 1998, before Peter Lindsay consolidated with swings of 1.5% in 2001 and 4.7% in 2004. He survived another close shave by 343 votes in 2007, a swing to Labor of 5.9% being slightly below a statewide 7.5% which cost the Coalition eight seats.
Lindsay bowed out at the 2010 election and was succeeded as candidate for the Liberal National Party by Ewen Jones, an auctioneer for local real estate agency Ferry Property. Jones’s Labor opponent was Tony Mooney, who served for nearly two decades as mayor of Townsville and earned a footnote in Australian political history when his failure to win the 1996 Mundingburra by-election for Labor led to the downfall of the Goss government. Perhaps reflecting the loss of Lindsay’s personal vote, Jones picked up what by Queensland standards was a modest swing of 2.2%, which was nonetheless enough to secure his hold on a seat which the redistribution had made, by the narrowest of margins, notionally Labor. Jones’s Labor opponent this time is Cathy O’Toole, a former chief executive of a disability employment service and member of the Left faction.
Herbert is one of six Queensland seats where Katter’s Australian Party is directing preferences to Labor, as part of a preference deal that sees the KAP get the second preference on Labor’s Queensland Senate ticket.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.