The Poll Bludger
Margin: Liberal National 6.9%
Region: Outer Northern Brisbane, Queensland
In a nutshell: Wyatt Roy became the federal parliament’s youngest ever member when he picked up Longman amid Labor’s Queensland rout in 2013, and was handsomely re-elected three years later.
Longman was among the nine seats gained by Labor in Queensland as part of the 2007 election victory, and the seven that were lost in the near-defeat of 2010. It has been held for the Liberal National Party since the latter election by Wyatt Roy, who in winning election at the age of 20 became the youngest person ever elected to an Australian parliament. The electorate is centred on Caboolture and Burpengary in Brisbane’s outer north, from which it extends eastwards to Bribie Island and the mainland coast immediately opposite and westwards to the semi-rural townships of Woodford and D’Aguilar. It was created at the 1996 election from territory that had mostly been in Fisher, which thereafter assumed a more coastal orientation along the southern half of the Sunshine Coast. Caboolture and Bribie Island have been constants of the electorate amid frequently changing boundaries, which have variously appended the electorate’s core either with outer northern Brisbane suburbs or semi-rural hinterland. The former was most prevalent when the boundaries encompassed the coastal suburb of Deception Bay at the time of the 2007 election, the only occasion thus far when the seat has been won by Labor. This area was transferred to Petrie in the redistribution before the 2010 election, with Longman regaining the Woodford and D’Aguilar area it had temporarily lost to Fisher.
Longman had a notional Liberal margin of 1.6% on its creation at the 1996 election, to which the party’s candidate, Mal Brough, added a further 10.0% in the context of a disastrous result for Labor throughout Queensland. Brough was nonetheless lucky to survive the 1998 election after a 1.6% redistribution shift and a 9.1% swing back to Labor left him with only 0.5% to spare. After picking up successive swings of 1.8% in 2001 and 5.2% in 2004, Brough’s margin was pegged back by redistribution to 6.6% going into the 2007 election. By this time Brough had emerged as a senior figure in the Howard government, serving progressively as Employment Services Minister from 2001 to 2004, Assistant Treasurer and Revenue Minister from 2004 to 2006, and Families and Community Services and Indigenous Affairs from 2006 until the Howard government’s defeat a year later. His profile was considerably raised by the latter role, in which he oversaw the government’s sweeping intervention into Northern Territory indigenous communities.
Longman gave Labor one of its most rewarding victories of the 2007 election when Brough was dumped by a 10.3% swing, which was notably more concentrated in low-income Caboolture than the more affluent Bribie Island. Labor’s candidate was Jon Sullivan, who had served the area in state parliament from 1989 as member for Glass House and Caboolture, before losing the latter seat to One Nation in 1998. The exchange of urban for semi-rural territory at the 2010 election reduced the Labor margin from 3.6% to 1.9%, though even the pre-redistribution margin would have been insufficient against the 3.8% swing Sullivan suffered amid an election result which cost Labor seven of its 15 Queensland seats. His cause was not aided by a late campaign gaffe during a public forum broadcast on ABC Radio, in which he drew jeers from the audience after responding critically to a question posed by the father of a disabled child. Roy went on to bolster his margin with a substantial swing of 5.0% in 2013.
Despite his tender years, LNP candidate Wyatt Roy had won preselection at a local party ballot the previous March, at which time the seat was not considered one the party had much cause to be optimistic about. A University of Queensland student and electorate officer to state Glass House MP Andrew Powell, Roy reportedly impressed party members with his pitch at the preselection meeting, and performed well in subsequent media appearances. His win in the ballot ahead of former Caboolture councillor Peter Flannery and local businessman Steve Attrill was confirmed by the party’s state council, despite criticism from Mal Brough, who queried how such a candidate would connect with the the electorate’s “large component of veterans and seniors”. Together with most of his Queensland colleagues, Roy supported Malcolm Turnbull during the September 2015 leadership challenge, and subsequently achieved parliamentary secretary status with a promotion to Assistant Minister for Innovation. He has since been ensnared in the controversy surrounding Mal Brough’s efforts to bring down Peter Slipper, after Slipper’s then staffer, James Ashby, claimed in November that Roy had advised him to make a copy of Slipper’s diary.
Labor’s candidate is Susan Lamb, an official with the Left-aligned United Voice union, which also provided the party’s candidate for the seat in 2013, Michael Caisley.
Three weeks into the campaign, a ReachTEL poll for the Seven Network had the result at 50-50, suggesting a hefty swing of 7%. Forced preference primary vote results were 42.5% for Roy, 35.9% for Labor candidate Susan Lamb, 7.4% for the Greens and 3.7% for the Nick Xenophon Team. Roy recorded personal ratings of 36.2% favourable, 27.9% neutral and 28.1% unfavourable. The poll was conducted on June 2 from a sample of 836.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.