Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten
Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten

Where the Federal Election will be fought and won

QUEENSLANDERS have made a name for themselves nationally as some of Australia's most unpredictable voters in recent years.

With polls neck and neck, there are 10 of Queensland's 30 federal seats that could potentially be up for grabs - including the state's most marginal seats of Capricornia in central Queensland and outer Brisbane's Petrie.

Those two seats, both Coalition-held on less than 1%, are the most likely to change "if the swing is on", but Griffith University's Policy Innovation Hub director Professor Anne Tiernan believes there are at least eight other "seats to watch" in the state.

Among them are the Mackay-centred Dawson, held by conservative Nationals MP George Christensen, the southern Sunshine Coast seat of Longman held by Turnbull-ally Wyatt Roy and outer Brisbane's Dickson, held by oft-controversial Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.

Capricornia, Oxley, Blair and Flynn could all be decided by a two party preferred swing during this Federal Election.
Capricornia, Oxley, Blair and Flynn could all be decided by a two party preferred swing during this Federal Election.


"The thing that's difficult to follow in Queensland at the moment is the volatility," Prof Tiernan said.

"Voters backed the Newman government in droves, then threw them out in another landslide, but then in the recent council elections, they've largely favoured the LNP - it's going to be hard to predict exactly what will happen.

"What Labor did in the state election that worked for them was a really grassroots, door-to-door campaign (against the Newman government).

"If there are credible candidates with strong local connections in these electorates, then they could change hands - but unless there is a compelling case (for change) Queensland voters usually stick with what they know."

Just as a swing is never uniform, the issues that will dominate voters' minds in the polling booth will be as diverse as the people filling out the ballot papers.

In seats like Dawson and Capricornia, Prof Tiernan said disaster funding and the economic transition away from mining - including jobs and property prices - were likely to be key drivers should any swing eventuate.




She said while Capricornia MP Michelle Landry had made few waves at the national level, those such as Mr Christensen and Mr Dutton were facing constituents less conservative then the politicians themselves, as well as campaigns against them from groups such as GetUp.

Prof Tiernan said former Prime Minister Tony Abbott's recent visit to Mr Christensen's seat illustrated the local MP's "defiant and provocative" brand, but it was "hard to tell" whether enough of his constituents supported his views to keep the seat safe.

She said the debate over $1.2 billion the Federal Government had withheld from the state for disaster funding - fuelled by politicians including Ms Landry - also was likely to be a key issue the state Labor government would seek to capitalise on in its budget.

Prof Tiernan also said despite Mr Roy's apparently safe margin, his absence from a recent town hall debate and lingering questions over his possible role in the political demise of Peter Slipper could dog his hopes of increasing his margin.

While disaster recovery and mitigation and infrastructure funding would be two "sleeper" issues in Queensland, she said public hospitals and schools also were touchstone issues for many voters.




"If Labor's going to do well in Queensland, they need to pick up at least six or seven seats, but at the moment I don't think they believe there will be a huge swing to them in the seats that count," she said.

Prof Tiernan said the state's central and northern electorates would play a "decisive role" in the election, with expectations Labor's historically low vote in 2013 in seats like Dawson could be subject to a "correction".


Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the Sunshine Coast show
Malcolm Turnbull visited both Fairfax and Longman on the weekend. Here he buys wife Lucy a hat at the Sunshine Coast Show. Lachlan Thompson


"It's not impossible given the kinds of swings we've in Queensland in the past three years, that some of the more safe seats could face an upset," she said.

"But if the (incumbents) appeal to fear, then in those economically uncertain areas, they may favour the sitting MPs. One thing Labor has in its favour is that there's no 'candidate buffer' for some of these seats like Dickson."

Prof Tiernan said both major parties were keeping their powder dry ahead of what would be likely an all-out advertising assault on voters in the final two weeks of the campaign.