The Poll Bludger
Margin: Labor 4.8%
Region: Southern Brisbane, Queensland
In a nutshell: One of Labor’s few consistently reliable seats in Queensland was bequeathed by Craig Emerson to its present incumbent, Jim Chalmers, at the 2013 election.
Candidates in ballot paper order
JEFFREY DALE HODGES
The southern Brisbane electorate of Rankin holds the distinction of being the only Queensland seat Labor has held without interruption since 1984, when it was created with the expansion of parliament from 125 seats to 148. The seat’s three members have been David Beddall to 1998, Craig Emerson from then until 2013, and Jim Chalmers thereafter. Rankin initially extended far beyond the bounds of the metropolitan area to the south-west, through Warwick to the New South Wales border, but now encompasses two areas of outer Brisbane separated by the Gateway Motorway: the Calamvale area in the north, on the edge of the City of Brisbane, and suburbs from Regents Park east to Springwood in the north, which form the northern part of the City of Logan. The Logan area is the source of Labor’s strength, but it is balanced by naturally marginal territory around Calamvale to the west and Springwood to the east. A preponderance of young families gives Rankin the second youngest median age out of the 150 electorates, and it ranks thirtieth for percentage of mortgaged properties.
Labor held Rankin by modest margins until its transformation in the 1996 redistribution, in which its conservative rural areas were exchanged for low-income Brisbane suburbs. Every bit of the resulting 9.8% boost to Labor’s margin was needed to hold off the ensuing Queensland backlash against the Keating government, which left only Rankin and Brisbane standing. A less favourable redistribution ahead of the 2004 election cut the margin by 5.3%, but this was followed by a 0.8% swing to Labor against the statewide trend, and then by an 8.8% swing when Kevin Rudd swept to power in 2007. Labor’s debacle in Queensland at the 2010 election sliced the margin from 11.7% to 5.4%, but there was only a 0.6% shift against Labor in 2013, despite the loss of Emerson’s personal vote.
Craig Emerson emerged through the Labor Forum/Australian Workers Union sub-faction of the Queensland Right, and served in cabinet from the 2010 election until Kevin Rudd deposed Julia Gillard in June 2013, at which point he resigned from the ministry and announced he would not seek re-election. In a rebuff to Rudd, the ensuing preselection for Rankin was won by Jim Chalmers, a former chief-of-staff to Wayne Swan, ahead of his favoured candidate Brett Raguse, who held Forde for Labor from 2007 to 2010. A ballot of local branch members reportedly produced a 74-74 tie, which rendered decisive a 36-14 majority for Chalmers among the electoral college of union delegates that determined 50% of the total result. The preselection produced splits both in the Right, with the Australian Workers Union supporting Chalmers and the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association backing Raguse, and also in the Left, with the Electrical Trades Union backing Raguse but the rest supporting Chalmers. Chalmers was immediately elevated after his election to Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and Investment.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.