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Sniffing the wind: Tropical seats offer a whiff of victory or the stench of defeat

Campaign Diary

Annastacia Palaszczuk and Deb Frecklington are deep in change-of-government territory today, both bumping elbows in the northern cities of Townsville and Cairns.

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Townsville, where the Premier is spending her day, has the seat of Thuringowa in its environs while Cairns, which is hosting the LNP leader, is a ballot box throw away from Barron River.

Thuringowa and Barron River are classic “change of government” seats, having fallen for incumbent governments when power shifts.

Barron River, sitting to the west of Cairns, tells the story of modern Queensland politics. After a couple of years in Labor’s hands following its inception, it went to the old Country Party in the 1974 landslide and stayed there until Wayne Goss came to power in 1989.

Since ’89, the seat has stayed with the government which means it’s been in Labor’s column except when Rob Borbidge won in 1995 and after the Campbell Newman 2012 wipeout.

Since 2015 Labor’s Craig Crawford has held the seat on what’s now a margin of 1.7 per cent.

Thuringowa has flipped into and out of Labor’s hands since 1989 apart from two terms when it was held by One Nation in 1998 and the LNP in 2012. Currently, Labor’s Aaron Harper has a margin of just over 4 per cent.

These seats will be fascinating contests. Barron River is not only the easier get for the LNP, the political climate around Cairns is said to be very anti-Labor because of the impact on the local economy from the COVID-recession and hard international border closures.

While Townsville also presents problems for Labor because of unrest about crime rates, the local economy has held up in the face of the recession and might not drive antipathy similar to that seen further north.

One big unknown is going to be what is happening in the wake of a collapse of One Nation’s support. According to published polls, Pauline Hanson’s party has suffered badly, with the bulk of its support shifting to the LNP – perhaps this might make the diminished One Nation vote more pro-Labor in any residual preference allocation.

Another intriguing aspect to an always moving contest.

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