Margin: Liberal National 12.5% versus KAP
Region: Northern Coast
Outgoing member: Rosemary Menkens (Liberal National)
Candidates in ballot paper order
2012 ELECTION RESULTS
Electorate boundary outline courtesy of
Ben Raue of The Tally Room.
Burdekin covers rural areas and small towns immediately south of Townsville, and will be vacated at the coming election by the retirement of Rosemary Menkens, who has held the seat first for the Nationals and then for the Liberal National Party since 2004. Its current boundaries extend from the outskirts of Townsville south along the coast to Ayr and Bowen, and through sparsely populated territory about 150 kilometres inland.
The electorate was created in 1950 and has been held more often than not by the National/Country Party, although the party surrendered the field to a conservative independent in the first 19 years of its existence. The next interruption came with the 1998 and 2001 elections, when it was respectively won by One Nation and Labor. The One Nation insurgency helpfully coincided with the retirement of Mark Stoneman, who had held the seat for the Nationals since 1983. The victorious One Nation candidate was Jeff Knuth, whose brother Shane Knuth has held the seats of Charters Towers and Dalrymple since 2004, first as a National and lately with Katter’s Australian Party. Knuth emerged with his nose in front in 1998 amid a three-way split on the primary vote, with the preferences of the third-placed Nationals leaving him 9.4% ahead of Labor at the final count.
Knuth was among six members to break away from One Nation as it descended into crisis in February 1999, and by the time of the 2001 election was a member of its short-lived breakaway the City-Country Alliance. With the non-Labor vote in Burdekin splitting roughly equally between Knuth and the candidates of One Nation and the Nationals, Labor’s Steve Rodgers was able to secure an unprecedented victory in 2001 with a margin of 5.1%. However, the 2004 election marked something of a return to business as usual, despite Knuth’s attempt to recover the seat as an independent. The non-Labor vote largely consolidated behind the Nationals, who were up 12.7% on the primary vote, driving a decisive 9.5% swing to their candidate Rosemary Menkens, despite the fact that the Labor primary vote was also up slightly.
Rosemary Menkens was a former high school and TAFE teacher who went on to hold front-bench positions intermittently while in opposition, but served only as senior government whip after the 2012 election victory. She has had a delicate hold on the seat for most of her parliamentary career, the modest winning margin from 2004 being pared back a further 2.0% at the 2006 election, when Steve Rodgers sought to recover his old seat for Labor. Then came a redistribution that added the Labor-voting area around Bowen to the electorate, turning a 2.4% Nationals margin into a notional Labor one of 0.9%. However, Menkens was able to retain the seat with a favourable swing of 4.0%, and the Labor threat was definitively shut down in 2012, when they finished third behind Katter’s Australian Party.
Menkens’ successor as LNP candidate is Dale Last, regional manager of an employment services agency and a Townsville councillor from 2008 until 2012, when he made an unsuccessful run for the mayoralty. Last prevailed in a local preselection vote ahead of Roger Piva, a cane farmer and grazier.
There is talk that Dale Last is under strong pressure here from independent candidate BJ Davison, a former police officer and owner of an equipment hire business. The LNP has been sufficiently concerned about the threat to have run advertising spruiking Last on local television.
Corrections, complaints and feedback to William Bowe at pollbludger-at-bigpond-dot-com. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.