The Poll Bludger
Margin: Liberal National 6.5%
Region: Central Coastal, Queensland
In a nutshell: A particularly strong showing across Queensland got Labor over the line in Flynn when it was created in 2007, but it moved forcefully to the conservative column in 2010.
Candidates in ballot paper order
NATHAN JOEL DAVID FLETCHER
JORDAN RYAN PUKU
Centred around Gladstone in central Queensland, Flynn is one of four seats created to accommodate the state’s population explosion since 1998. It was won by Labor on its creation at the 2007 election as part of the party’s statewide breakthrough under Kevin Rudd, but then fell to the Liberal National Party along with six other Queensland seats in 2010, and swung further away in 2013. Together with Capricornia, Kennedy and Dawson, it is one of four electorates in Queensland distinguished by a large mining workforce, and recorded an unusually high median income for a regional seat at the 2011 census, which was conducted at the height of the mining boom.
Gladstone itself is an area of strength for Labor, but the remainder of Flynn consists of largely conservative rural territory encompassing Capricornia Highway towns out to Emerald in the west, and the Burnett Highway through Monto to Gayndah in the south. Prior to the creation of Flynn, Gladstone helped keep Capricornia in Labor hands for all but one term after 1961, and then contributed to Labor’s competitiveness in the new seat of Hinkler after 1984. Hinkler was held by Labor from 1987 to 1993 and by the Nationals on narrow margins until 2007, when the transfer of Gladstone to Flynn helped boost by 3.5%.
Flynn had a notional Nationals margin of 7.9% going into the 2007 election, at which it loomed as a key seat due to accurate expectations of a dramatic swing in Queensland. Labor’s candidate was Chris Trevor, a solicitor and former Gladstone councillor who came close to unseating independent Gladstone MP Liz Cunningham at the state election the previous year. The swing to Trevor proved to be fractionally above what was required, and he made it over the line at the final count by a margin of 253 votes. Trevor performed particularly well in the immediate vicinity of Gladstone, winning a swathe of booths that were lost in 2004 on double-digit swings.
Trevor publicly contemplated quitting politics in June 2010 after the dumping of Kevin Rudd, who had smoothed his path to preselection three years earlier, but did not follow through on the threat. His position in Flynn had been firmed up by 2.1% in a redistribution, in which the seat exchanged Nationals-voting territory in the interior for the Mount Morgan area south of Rockhampton. However, this provied insufficient in the face of a swing that was roughly in line with the state average at 5.8%, and was particularly forceful in the area newly added by the redistribution.
The seat has since been held for the Liberal National Party by the Nationals-aligned Ken O’Dowd, former owner of Busteed Building Supplies in Gladstone, who strengthened his hold in 2013 with a further swing of 3.0%. O’Dowd’s Labor opponent at the coming election will be Zac Beers, a 25-year-old Gladstone-based organiser for the Right-aligned Australian Workers Union.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.