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Federal Election 2016

Aug 3, 2014

Seat of the week: Wide Bay

Warren Truss's seat of Wide Bay encompasses Noosa, Gympie and Maryborough, and has been in National/Country Party hands for most of an existence that dates back to federation.

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Wide Bay has covered a variable area around Maryborough about 300 kilometres north of Brisbane since its creation at federation. Maryborough is currently at the northern end of an electorate that extends south along the coast to Noosa, which was gained at the redistribution before the 2007 election as its southern neighbour Fairfax was drawn southwards by population growth on the Sunshine Coast (which Wide Bay accommodated in its entirety for most of the period prior to 1949). The electorate also extends inland through Gympie to Murgon and Cherbourg.

Now a secure seat for the Liberal National Party, Wide Bay was one of 15 seats across the country won by Labor at the first election in 1901. Its member from then until 1915 was Andrew Fisher, who served three terms as prime minister and won the party’s first parliamentary majority at the election of 1910. Labor was narrowly defeated at a by-election held after Fisher retired due to ill health, and for the next 13 years the seat was held by Edward Corser, first as a Liberal and then in the Nationalist Party that succeeded it in 1917. The seat passed to the Country Party upon Corser’s death in 1928, when his son Bernard Corser was elected as the party’s candidate without opposition.

Teal and red numbers respectively indicate size of two-party majorities for the LNP and Labor. Click for larger image. Map boundaries courtesy of Ben Raue at The Tally Room.

Brendan Hansen’s election in 1961 gave Labor its first win in Wide Bay in nearly half a century, and he retained the seat until defeated amid a statewide swing against the Whitlam government in 1974. The seat has has since had two National/Country Party members, the present incumbent Warren Truss succeeding Clarrie Millar in 1990. The general trend over this time has been for increasing Nationals margins, with Truss retaining the seat by 8.5% amid Labor’s strong statewide result in 2007 and boosting his margin to 15.6% in 2010, before a narrowing to 13.2% at the 2013 election.

Warren Truss emerged through local Nationals ranks as a councillor for the Shire of Kingaroy from 1976 to 1990, before winning the party’s endorsement to succeed Joh Bjelke-Petersen as member for Barambah at the by-election which followed his retirement in 1988. However, Truss suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Trevor Perrett, a candidate of the eccentric Citizens Electoral Council who joined the Nationals a year later. He was amply compensated with endorsement for Wide Bay at the federal election two years later, and was elected without incident despite a 3.9% swing to Labor.

Truss served as a junior shadow minister in the consumer affairs portfolio after November 1994, but was cut from the front bench when the Nationals’ reduced share of seats within the Coalition reduced its share of the spoils of the 1996 election victory. His opportunity came in October the following year when the travel rorts affair garnered three ministerial scalps including Nationals MP John Sharp, resulting in Truss’s return to the consumer affairs portfolio together with customs. After the 1998 election he was reassigned to community services, and he then attained cabinet rank in July 1999 with his promotion to Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister. In July 2005 he secured his party’s deputy leadership and traded his portfolios for transport and regional services, and was again reassigned to trade in September 2006.

Truss was elevated to the leadership of the National Party when Mark Vaile resigned in the wake of the 2007 election defeat, although it has often been noted that his profile is a good deal lower than that of Barnaby Joyce, who moved from a Queensland Senate seat to the New South Wales lower house seat of New England at the 2013 election. As well as being Deputy Prime Minister, Truss has served as Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development since the election of the Abbott government.

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