The Poll Bludger
Margin: Liberal National 4.3%
Region: Inner Brisbane, Queensland
Outgoing member: Teresa Gambaro (Liberal National)
In a nutshell: Labor suffered a grievous blow when it lost the seat of Brisbane amid the statewide backlash of 2010, and failed to realise its high hopes of recovering it in 2013.
Candidates in ballot paper order
A measure of Labor’s low ebb in Queensland over the past two elections has been its failure to carry the seat of Brisbane, which had hitherto been held by the party for all but a few terms since before the Second World War. Existing in name since federation, the electorate presently covers the north shore of the Brisbane River from Milton through the central business district to Eagle Farm, and extends northwards to Stafford at the western end and Hendra in the east. The seat was the most surprising of the Liberal National Party’s eight gains in Queensland at the 2010 election, as Labor had retained it even amid the statewide debacle of 1996, and going back to 1931 had only previously lost it in 1975 and 1977. The LNP’s member of the last two terms, Teresa Gambaro, is bowing out at the coming election.
Brisbane’s complexion was changed somewhat by redistributions in 2004 and 2010, the more recent of which cut Labor’s margin from 6.8% to 3.8% by adding affluent Clayfield and its surrounds, contributing to the seat’s status as the highest-income seat in Queensland. The Clayfield area swung particularly forcefully at the 2010 election, part of a national trend in which the air went out of the “doctors’ wives” backlash the Liberals suffered in the later Howard years. The overall swing of 5.7% produced a winning margin of 1.1% for the LNP, to which a further 3.2% was added in 2013. Former Australian Democrats Senator and party leader Andrew Bartlett ran as the Greens candidate in 2010 and polled 21.3%, compared with 30.4% for Labor, but the party’s vote fell to 14.3% in his absence in 2013.
The LNP win in 2010 facilitated a return to parliament for Teresa Gambaro, who had held the northern Brisbane seat of Petrie for the Liberals from 1996 until her defeat in 2007, and had a presence in the electorate through her family’s prosperous seafood business and restaurant at Petrie Terrace. After serving as a shadow parliamentary secretary through a term in opposition, Gambaro was relegated to the back bench after the 2013 election victory, and would emerge as one of the most vocal critics of Tony Abbott’s policies and performance at the time of the first leadership spill motion in February 2015. This contributed to forces being marshalled against her in support of a leadership challenge from Trevor Evans, chief executive of the National Retailers Association. The challenge reportedly stood a good chance of succeeding, until Abbott himself intervened to persuade Evans to withdraw and accept a position as Gambaro’s campaign manager.
Having fought to hold her ground, Gambaro surprised all comers in mid-March when she announced she would not be contesting the election as she wished to spend more time with her family. Trevor Evans was unopposed in the ensuing presleection process after former state Brisbane Central MP Rob Cavallucci weighed up the numbers and decided not to proceed, and former Premier Campbell Newman dispensed with a brief flurry of speculation that he might be interested. Labor resolved its preselection process last June in favour of Pat O’Neill, a 34-year-old serving army major and veteran of two tours in Iraq, who if elected will become the first openly gay member of the House of Representatives. O’Neil won preselection ahead of Philip Anthony, a solicitor from Clayfield.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.