The failure of current Liberal frontbencher Peter Dutton to win Liberal National Party (LNP) pre-selection for the seat of McPherson has reportedly led to calls from Malcolm Turnbull for the party in Queensland to do “whatever it takes” or “everything it can” to ensure Mr Dutton is not lost to federal parliament.
Queensland has caused grief for the ‘Coalition’ parties at national level before, and I suspect Malcolm Turnbull should be careful trying to publicly tell the Queensland party what to do, especially when in this state it is now a nominally National Party dominated hybrid.
I have to admit, I can’t really see what it is that had led so many of Mr Dutton’s colleagues and journalists from federal Parliament to describe him as someone of such talent and promise. However, I accept his party colleagues in the federal parliament have a far better opportunity to see all of Mr Dutton’s qualities than I do, so I will take them at their word.
But taking the personalities out of it, the main message I get from the whole episode is how pessimistic the Liberals and Nationals (and the Liberal Nationals) must be about their chances at the next election.
It is true that Mr Dutton’s former seat of Dickson has nominally become a Labor seat under the new draft boundaries released by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) in their latest redistribution in Queensland. However, given Mr Dutton only had a margin of 0.1% in his favour to start with, and it has only shifted to a nominally Labor margin of 1.3%, it was hardly a total upheaval for him.
And whilst the AEC usually only makes minimal changes between their draft boundaries and the final version when they do redistributions, it seems excessively defeatist for an incumbent to bail out before things are even finalised, given the overall shift is only 1.4%. Incumbency is clearly worth something, and whilst Mr Dutton lost almost all of his margin at 2007 poll, it seems defeatist to assume he’s likely to go backwards again.
The now Labor held seat of Longman, which adjoins Dickson, has had the Labor margin cut from 3.6% to 1.3% which is the same as the new Dickson margin. Whilst Longman has a Labor incumbent, large chunks of the redistributed seat will be new to the electorate and the incumbent would not have had much time to work them. Longman was previously held by Mal Brough, someone who was also labelled by many in the media and his party as a rising star but had the biggest swing against a sitting Liberal MP in the entire country last election. Whilst this might suggest Longman isn’t fertile ground, one could also say that it’s swung about as far as it’s likely to go, especially as the outer urban areas such as those covered by Longman (and much of Dickson it has to be said) are the sort of demographic who are the most likely to be pissed off by what the Bligh Labor government has been doing at state level in recent months.
In any case, while I can understand why Peter Dutton would have wanted to run for the now vacant seat McPherson (with a nominal margin on the new draft boundaries of around 8.6% for the LNP), the newly created seat of Wright, which adjoins McPherson, has a nominal margin to the LNP of 3.8% which surely isn’t too bad for a rising star like Mr Dutton in a seat with no incumbent.
Not only does Peter Dutton apparently feel his incumbency will not be enough to make up a 1.3% margin, it seems he wasn’t even comfortable with going for a new seat at a 3.8% margin to the Liberals. If I was Malcolm Turnbull, I’d be feeling slightly insulted by that. There hardly seems much point in a party talking about the need for renewal and having high quality candidates who can offer things in the future if they’re just going to stick them in seats the party will always win anyway.
- Graham Young, a former party Vice President and Campaign Director for the Liberals in Qld, gives his assessment on Ambit Gambit.