The Poll Bludger
Margin: Liberal National 8.5%
Region: Western Brisbane, New South Wales
In a nutshell: The affluent Brisbane seat of Ryan reverted solidly to conservative type after a fleeting moment of glory for Labor in 2001.
Candidates in ballot paper order
JOHN LAWRENCE QUINN
The western Brisbane seat of Ryan has been held for the Liberals and the Liberal National Party at all times since its creation in 1949, outside of an interruption from February 2001 to November 2001 following a defeat for the Howard government at a by-election. The electorate is dominated geographically by the Taylor Range to the city’s north-west, but nearly all of its voters are drawn from the suburban plains to the east and south. Ferny Grove and Enoggera at the northern end are Labor-leaning, but to the south lie wealthier Indooroopilly and Kenmore on the northern shore of the Brisbane River, with conservative-leaning The Gap and Bardon in between. The seat has covered much the same area throughout its existence, although it extended south of the river to Middle Park and Jindalee from 1998 to 2010.
Ryan had two long-serving members prior to 2001: Nigel Drury from 1949 to 1975, and Howard government Defence Minister John Moore thereafter. Moore quit parliament after losing his seat in a reshuffle, subjecting to the Howard government to an inauspiciously timed by-election that delivered a decisive 9.8% swing to Labor, deceptively boosting the party’s confidence about its prospects for the election due later in the year. Labor member Leonie Short went on to defeat the following November at the hands of Liberals candidate Michael Johnson, a 34-year-old Hong Kong-born and Cambridge-educated barrister of part Chinese extraction. Johnson won a local preselection plebiscite amid loud complaints of branch stacking.
The statewide swing to Labor in 2007 cut the margin from 10.4% to 3.8%, from which it was further reduced to 1.1% by the redistribution that took effect at the 2010 election. Meanwhile, opposition to Johnson was mounting within his own party, with reports emerging of an internal investigation into his expenditure records and fundraising activities. In May 2010 he was expelled from the party for attempting to broker an export deal between the Queensland Coal Corporation and a Chinese conglomerate during parliamentary sittings, and with the use of his parliamentary email address. A preselection was then won comfortably by Jane Prentice, who served the Indooroopilly-based ward of Walter Taylor on Brisbane City Council. Johnson ran as an independent in 2010 but secured only 8.5%, Prentice securing the seat for the LNP with a 6.0% swing against Labor. She picked up a further 1.4% swing in 2013, boosting her margin to 8.5%.
Prentice contributed to leadership tensions as the party’s state election night disaster unfolded in January 2015, providing an equivocal response when asked if it would lead to a challenge to Tony Abbott’s leadership. She was duly listed among Malcolm Turnbull’s supporters when he successfully challenged for the leadership the following September. Prentice won promotion to parliamentary secretary status in February, as Assistant Minister for Disability Services.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.