Margin: Labor 5.4%
Location: Southern Brisbane, Queensland
Outgoing member: Craig Emerson (Labor)
In a nutshell: Craig Emerson is one of a number of Julia Gillard loyalists heading for the parliamentary exit after the restoration of Kevin Rudd, which may ironically have saved Labor’s bacon in his southern Brisbane seat.
The candidates (ballot paper order)
WILLIAM TRACY ROGAN
The southern Brisbane seat of Rankin has been held by Labor without interruption since 1984, when it was created upon the expansion of parliament from 125 seats to 148, and is the only Queensland seat of which that can be said. There have only been two members throughout that time: David Beddall until 1998 and Craig Emerson thereafter, with a third name seat to join the honour roll as Emerson retires at the coming election. The electorate initially extended far beyond the bounds of the metropolitan area to the south-west, encompassing Warwick and a stretch of the New South Wales border, but is now located wholly within Brisbane’s outer south, covering the northern part of Logan City from Woodridge and Kingston north to Priestdale and west to Hillcrest. The redistribution before the 2010 election drew it further into the metropolitan area, adding Algester, Calamvale and Drewvale north of the Logan-Brisbane municipal boundary. This territory accounts for much of Brisbane’s mortgage belt, and gives the seat with the equal lowest median age of any electorate in Australia. The Logan area is the source of Labor’s strength, but it is balanced by naturally marginal territory around Calamvale to the west and Springwood to the east.
Labor held Rankin by modest margins until its conservative rural areas were exchanged for low-income Brisbane suburbs in a sweeping redistribution which took effect at the 1996 election. Labor needed every bit of the resulting 9.8% boost to survive the ensuing statewide backlash against Labor, which left Rankin and Brisbane as the only Queensland seats in the Labor column. An unfavourable redistribution ahead of the 2004 election cut the margin by 5.3%, but it was followed by a 0.8% swing to Labor against the statewide trend followed by an 8.8% swing when Queensland swept the Rudd government to power in 2007. The backlash at the 2010 election drove a swing to the Liberal National Party of 6.3%, which cut the Labor margin to 5.4%.
Craig Emerson emerged through the Labor Forum/Australian Workers Union sub-faction of the Queensland Right, working over the years as an adviser to Hawke government ministers and then to Hawke himself, before taking on senior state public service positions in Queensland under the Goss government. He served as Shadow Workplace Relations Minister in the term leading up to the 2004 election, but was then contentiously dropped after losing the support of his faction, a legacy of his defiance of powerbroker Bill Ludwig in supporting Mark Latham’s successful leadership bid in December 2003. Emerson’s career returned to the ascendant after Labor came to office in 2007, putting him firstly in the junior ministry and then in cabinet after the 2010 election. On the morning of the June 2010 leadership change he announced he would support Kevin Rudd if it came to a vote, but he took a very different approach during Rudd’s leadership challenges in the government’s second term. When Rudd finally succeeded in toppling Julia Gillard in late June, Emerson withdrew from the ministry and announced he would not seek another term.
In a rebuff to Kevin Rudd, the preselection to replace Emerson was won by Jim Chalmers, former chief-of-staff to Wayne Swan, ahead of his favoured candidate Brett Raguse, who held Forde for Labor from 2007 to 2010. A ballot of local branch members reportedly produced a 74-74 tie, which rendered decisive a 36-14 majority for Chalmers among the electoral college of union delegates which determined 50% of the final result. The preselection caused a split between the two main right unions, the Australian Workers Union having supported Chalmers and the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association backing Raguse, and also within the Left, with the Electrical Trades Union backing Raguse but the rest supporting Chalmers.
A Liberal National Party preselection in July 2012 attracted six candidates and was won by David Lin, a 39-year-old Taiwanese-born solicitor who founded the Sushi Station restaurant chain at the age of 22.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.