The Queensland seats to watch as the results come in
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After six weeks of official campaigning, and three years of tumultuous political debate in Canberra, Australia will finally deliver its verdict this weekend.
And millions of Australians will be glued to their television sets and laptops as the counting starts and the future direction of the nation becomes clearer.
While Queensland might not be as vital to the outcome as it has been, there is still plenty of intrigue in the Sunshine State.
Here’s a list of seats to keep an eye on as the numbers start coming in on Saturday night. They are not necessarily seats likely to change hands, but the voting patterns in each one could well be consequential.
- Incumbent: Shayne Neumann (Labor).
- Margin: 1.21 per cent.
- Why to watch: If there is a disconnect between urban and rural Queensland, this is where it will be felt and that could be bad news for Labor.
Of all Labor-held seats in Queensland, Blair is the LNP’s lowest-hanging fruit.
(Lilley is more marginal, but Labor’s Anika Wells has performed well enough, and the LNP campaign bad enough, to ensure her survival.)
A diverse electorate that stretches from Ipswich, out to the Lockyer Valley and north to the Somerset, Blair takes in Labor, LNP and One Nation heartlands.
Labor is confident of increasing its margin, but if there’s a repeat of 2019 and Labor plays badly in regional Queensland, Blair is where it would be felt the hardest.
- Incumbent: vacant, following the retirement of Andrew Laming (LNP).
- Margin: 10.24 per cent.
- Why to watch: The retirement of a controversial incumbent could have unpredictable implications.
Nobody at Labor HQ holds too much hope of claiming Bowman, so the party hasn’t thrown significant resources to the Brisbane bayside seat.
But HQ has been quite impressed with candidate Donisha Duff’s local campaign, off the smell of an oily rag, so there will be more than a few party heavyweights closely watching results on Saturday night.
Adding to the intrigue is the retirement of controversial LNP incumbent Andrew Laming. There is a school of thought that incumbency is worth several percentage points, but given Laming’s adventures of late, a change of candidate might not be the worst thing for the LNP.
Henry Pike hasn’t come without baggage, however, and his campaign hasn’t been all smooth sailing.
Given all those factors, Bowman could be worth a look as the numbers come in.
- Incumbent: Trevor Evans (LNP).
- Margin: 4.92 per cent.
- Why to watch: Labor thinks this is its best chance to pick up a seat, but those hopes could easily be derailed by the Greens.
Before Christmas, barely anybody in Labor circles thought they were a chance against Trevor Evans, whose inner-city sensibilities were considered a buffer against dissatisfaction with the Coalition’s more conservative wing.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s sinking personal standing has changed all that, and now it’s considered the seat most likely to fall.
Labor’s Madonna Jarrett will be in a two-way battle for second with the Greens’ Stephen Bates, who has run an impressive ground campaign.
Whoever wins that battle will benefit from the other’s preference flow. Either way, that could spell bad news for Evans.
Brisbane is likely to have a red or green hue come Sunday.
- Incumbent: Peter Dutton (LNP).
- Margin: 4.64 per cent.
- Why to watch: The LNP will be desperate to hold this seat, as Peter Dutton will be one of the few serious leadership contenders if the Coalition finds itself on the opposition benches.
Unless the baseball bats are out for the Morrison government, Dickson should remain in LNP hands.
That’s not to say Labor’s out of contention — in Ali France, it has a compelling and capable local candidate — but knocking off a sitting Defence Minister is no easy feat.
What makes Dickson so important is what it will mean for the future of the Coalition.
If opinion polls are to be believed (and, after 2019, many would view them with a silo of salt), the Coalition is heading to the opposition benches.
With Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in a fight to hold Kooyong, Dutton will be front and centre of any Liberal leadership conversations.
The result in Dickson could prove pivotal to the Coalition’s next parliamentary term.
- Incumbent: vacant, following the retirement of Ken O’Dowd (LNP).
- Margin: 8.66 per cent.
- Why to watch: Labor insiders think Flynn could well be their surprise win of the night.
This is coal country. It is also a mix of Labor and LNP heartlands.
The LNP’s 8.66 per cent margin is significant, but incumbent Ken O’Dowd is retiring and Labor has recruited a high-profile candidate in Gladstone mayor Matt Burnett.
One senior Queensland Labor figure has described the seat at their “roughie”, an indication that while not bullish about its chances, Burnett’s campaign is certainly primed to shake things up.
If Labor does not pick this seat up, it’s a pretty safe bet the margin will be greatly reduced.
- Incumbent: Terri Butler (Labor).
- Margin: 2.86 per cent.
- Why to watch: A spirited Greens campaign could well result in Labor’s only loss in Queensland.
Former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s old seat has been in Labor hands for nearly 24 years. But while the inner-south-east Brisbane seat has always been marginal, until now Labor’s biggest concern has been the LNP.
Not any more. Now, their enemy is the Greens.
The electorate overlaps a Greens state seat and a Greens council ward, giving the party an impressive local ground game.
Rising Labor star Terri Butler, considered by some to be a potential future party leader, was 7 percentage points ahead of Greens challenger Max Chandler-Mather at the 2019 poll. In 2016, she was 16 percentage points clear of the Greens.
A similar improvement this time around will see Chandler-Mather, who is running again this year, join Greens leader Adam Bandt on the crossbench in coming weeks.
Butler would be a huge loss for Labor, and Griffith a monumental gain for the Greens. Labor HQ will be nervously watching this one.
- Incumbent: Garth Hamilton (LNP).
- Margin: 20.48 per cent (17.19 per cent following 2020 byelection).
- Why to watch: An insurgent Indi-style “voice of” campaign has made the super-safe LNP seat competitive for the first time in a generation.
- Incumbent: Keith Pitt (LNP).
- Margin: 14.5 per cent.
- Why to watch: It will be interesting to see how much impact popular Bundaberg mayor Jack Dempsey, a former LNP minister in the Queensland state parliament, has in this race.
Like Groom, this LNP-held seat is notable for its high-profile independent campaign.
Jack Dempsey, who served as police minister in Campbell Newman’s short-lived Queensland LNP government, quit the party in 2016 and is running against Resources Minister Keith Pitt.
Dempsey was elected mayor of Bundaberg with 71 per cent of the primary vote and Pitt’s clearly nervous about the challenge, preferencing Labor above his erstwhile LNP colleague on his how-to-vote cards.
- Incumbent: Warren Entsch (LNP).
- Margin: 4.17 per cent.
- Why to watch: One word — tourism. And with that industry so dependent on the region’s natural beauty (Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree etc), climate change is a big concern.
If it was not for Warren Entsch’s personal vote in Australia’s northernmost electorate, Labor would be a shoo-in to claim the Cape York seat.
The tropical far-north is a very different electoral beast to the rest of regional Queensland.
The tourism industry, which drives much of Leichhardt’s economy, depends on the region’s natural wonders, so a keen interest in environmentalism and climate change is a hip-pocket consideration.
The importance of international tourism, also, cannot be overstated. And which market is most important to the industry? China.
The Morrison government’s antipathy towards China, as justified as it may be, may not play as well in Cairns as it does elsewhere.
- Incumbent: Terry Young (LNP).
- Margin: 3.28 per cent.
- Why to watch: On paper, it’s the LNP’s most vulnerable seat in Queensland.
As the Morrison government’s most marginal Queensland seat, Longman is considered one of Labor’s best chances in the state.
Indeed, the party has been expending a lot of energy into the seat, held by first-term LNP MP Terry Young.
Labor candidate Rebecca Fanning has spruiked her involvement, as a health policy adviser, in the Palaszczuk government’s COVID-19 response as a major selling point.
North of Brisbane, Longman is both geographically and demographically diverse, which makes it one of the nation’s most volatile electorates.
It has changed hands in four of the past five general elections and, along with Brisbane, Ryan, Flynn and Leichhardt, Longman is on Labor’s list of target seats.
- Incumbent: Julian Simmonds (LNP).
- Margin: 6.03 per cent.
- Why to watch: Increasing concern about climate and various social issues could spell danger in what has traditionally been a blue-ribbon LNP seat.
There is no “teal” independence movement in Queensland, but if there was, Ryan would be the state’s ground zero.
Well-educated, largely socially progressive, Ryan in Brisbane’s inner-west has many demographic similarities to electorates such as Wentworth, Warringah, Kooyong and Goldstein. Unlike them, however, there’s no teal in this race.
There’s a school of thought that those votes could instead park with the Greens and, with the party having a state MP within its boundaries, that’s not such a foreign prospect for Ryan.
Like many three-cornered contests, it could come down to who comes second between Labor’s Peter Cossar and the Greens’ Elizabeth Watson-Brown before preferences are distributed.
If Simmonds can maintain close to his 48.61 per cent primary vote from 2019, that will be moot. However, even the most optimistic Liberal Nationals are expecting a swing, so it’s just a matter of how big that swing will be.
It’s no surprise Anthony Albanese campaigned there with Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Thursday, just two days out from the finishing line.
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