I’m writing from a motel in Dalby, in the heart of the Western Downs and the state seat of Condamine.
Ranging from the northern outskirts of Toowoomba to Dalby in the north and south to Pittsworth and Clifton, Condamine is the sort of seat where there is actually a booth that does not poll a single Labor vote.
Sitting member Ray Hopper holds the seat with a two party preferred margin of 20.5%, making it the fourth safest LNP seat in Queensland.
Hopper’s primary vote of 47.7% in 2009 is somewhat misleading, as former Nationals member for the abolished seat of Cunningham contested the election as an Independent, winning 25.4% of the vote.
Incumbent Hopper piled up 61.6% of the two party preferred vote.
So it’s the country that sent National Party Ministers to George Street under Joh Bjelke-Petersen, the bedrock of Country Party hegemony.
Writing in Crikey on 10 January, I observed of the LNP’s seemingly unstoppable race to victory that:
…if the LNP needs to win in South East Queensland, it also needs to hold its base. Here, the twin factors of rural discontent (often expressed through the coal seam gas issue) and Bob Katter should worry it.
If the brushfire that ignites the LNP’s right flank can be lit anywhere, the tinder should be in Condamine.
Coal Seam Gas, and its impact not just on farmers but on broader communities on the Western Downs, might just be the match to light that fire.
We saw farmers, 80 year old women, Alan Jones, Bob Katter and Queensland Greens folk outside the New Hope coalmining gate singing Woodie Guthrie’s “This Land is Our Land”.
The question facing the electors of Condamine is actually twofold: a question of land rights, land ownership and whether this territory really is very safe Liberal National Party land.
The answer to that second question may ripple through George Street, far away in Brisbane, on March 24.
Over the next little while, I’ll be analysing the possibilities, reporting on the locals’ views, and discussing polling of Condamine and other electorates exclusively obtained by Crikey to see what the answer may be.
Dr Mark Bahnisch