The Poll Bludger
Margin: Labor 3.8%
Region: Western Brisbane, Queensland
Outgoing member: Bernie Ripoll (Labor)
In a nutshell: Labor up-and-comer Milton Dick stands to succeed retiring member Bernie Ripoll in a seat that has long been safe for Labor, outside of the memorable interruption of Pauline Hanson from 1996 to 1998.
Candidates in ballot paper order
Still remembered two decades on as the electorate of Pauline Hanson, the modern seat of Oxley was created around the satellite city of Ipswich west of Brisbane in 1949, in territory previously accommodated by Moreton (a seat of the same name had covered southern Brisbane until 1934, when it was renamed Griffith). It covers two distinctive areas of electoral territory with a northern end consisting of Mount Ommaney and suburbs on the southern bank of the Brisbane River, which are wealthy and strongly conservative, and strongholds for Labor around Goodna and Inala further south, the latter being the hub of Brisbane’s Vietnamese community.
Oxley was held for the first 12 years of its existence by Menzies government Health Minister Donald Cameron, but his defeat in 1961 on a 9.4% swing portended a long-term shift to Labor. It was held henceforth by future party leader Bill Hayden, who did extraordinarily well to lift his margin to 19.1% by 1969, and he was the only Labor MP left standing in Queensland after the debacle of 1975, when he held on by a margin of 3.8%. By the time Hayden resigned to become Governor-General in 1988, the seat was safe enough that Les Scott was able to retain on a 4.0% margin at the ensuing by-election, in the face of a swing of 11.8%.
Scott retained the seat by an 12.6% margin at the 1993 election, and few expected he would face serious trouble in 1996, no matter how hostile the environment facing Labor in Queensland. Yet trouble did arrive in the shape of Liberal candidate Pauline Hanson, whose campaign remarks about Aboriginal welfare resulted in her disendorsement by a party sensitive about its leader’s complicated history on racial issues. The voters saw things differently, rewarding her with 48.6% of the primary vote and a 4.7% winning margin after preferences.
Unfortunately for Hanson, Oxley was substantially redrawn with the 1998 redistribution, losing its rural areas beyond Ipswich to newly created Blair along with parts of Ipswich itself, while absorbing the very safe Labor urban area of Inala. Rightly or wrongly, Hanson decided the new seat offered her the better prospects, and Bernie Ripoll had no trouble regaining Oxley for Labor at the 1998 election. Ripoll thereafter retained Oxley on comfortable margins as the 2004, 2007 and 2010 redistributions progressively shifted the electorate’s remaining share of Ipswich to Blair, pushing Oxley towards Brisbane with the addition of Middle Park and Jindalee in the north and Algester to the east.
Ripoll announced in April 2015 that he would not contest the election, following reports he stood to lose preselection in any case to Milton Dick, who shares his alignment with the Australian Workers Union/Labor Forum faction. Dick is presently the opposition leader on Brisbane City Council, having represented Richlands ward since 2008, and was Labor’s state secretary from 2004 to 2008. He is the brother of Cameron Dick, the Health Minister in the Palaszczuk government.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.