The Poll Bludger
Margin: Liberal National 0.8%
Region: Central Coastal, Queensland
In a nutshell: Labor only loses the Rockhampton-based seat of Capricornia at particularly bad elections, 2013 being a case in point.
Candidates in ballot paper order
The central Queensland electorate of Capricornia was one of only two seats in the state gained by the Coalition amid the national landslide of 2013, reflecting the extent of its sweep in Queensland in 2010 and the relative popularity of Kevin Rudd in his home state. The electorate has existed since federation, with Rockhampton serving as an anchor amid shifting boundaries over the years. Rockhampton currently sits at the electorate’s southern coastal end, from which it extends north to the southern outskirts of Mackay and west through farming and coal mining communities as far as Belyando 250 kilometres inland. There is little to distinguish Capricornia demographically from its electorally more conservative neighbours, Dawson in the north and Flynn in the south, except that Capricornia has the largest mining workforce.
Labor’s strength in Rockhampton has kept the seat in the party fold for most of its history, but three defeats have been suffered since 1961, coinciding with the defeats of the Whitlam, Keating and Rudd governments in 1975, 1996 and 2013. Kirsten Livermore recovered the seat for Labor in 1998 after the statewide rout of 1996, scoring an 8.8% swing against one-term Nationals member Paul Marek. Livermore’s margin sat at around 6% through the Howard years before blowing out by 8.7% in 2007, but it was pared back to 3.7% after a 0.7% redistribution adjustment and an 8.4% swing amid the Queensland backlash of 2010.
With Livermore’s retirement in 2013, the seat developed into a contest between Labor’s Peter Freeleagus, a Moranbah miner and former Belyando Shire mayor, and Liberal National Party candidate Michelle Landry, electorate officer to Flynn MP Ken O’Dowd and owner of a Yeppoon book-keeping business, who had also run in 2010. Landry ultimately made it home by a margin of 1305 votes (0.8%), following a swing of 4.4% to add to her 8.4% from 2013. She has since maintained a high profile in the local media, but was chiefly noted further abroad for conceding the government looked “a little bit wishy-washy” as its poll ratings continued to deteriorate in April.
Labor’s new candidate for the seat is Leisa Neaton, principal of Frenchville State School. Peter Freeleagus again sought preselection, but Neaton defeated him by 85 votes to 60 in a field that also included Rockhampton mayor Margaret Strelow, who recorded 41 votes.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.