At the 2010 federal election, the Queensland division of Bowman was retained by Andrew Laming MP for the Liberal National Party with a whopping swing of 10.4 per cent, making a notionally safe Liberal seat out of a highly marginal one.
Many in the electorate remember the 2007 election, when Laming took the seat by a mere 64 votes, a percentage which made Bowman, for a time, the most marginal division in the nation.
Such memories may have contributed to the early fielding of 2013 candidates – former ALP State Member Darryl Briskey, Penny Allman-Payne for The Greens, 21st Century Australia Party’s Fernando Alba, and Palmer United Party’s (PUP) John Wayne.
I am a newcomer to this region, in fact I am what’s known as a ‘cockroach’, having scuttled across the border to live at the geographical heart of Bowman, the beautiful Coochiemudlo Island.
In 2011 I volunteered on a campaign for an independent candidate in the NSW seat of Blue Mountains. The experience led me to believe that the only way to vote is to get out and meet the candidates who stake their futures, and ours, on the ticket.
So I interviewed the Bowman candidates and will share their answers. First, a little about this region.
An outer metropolitan Brisbane community situated on south Moreton Bay, Bowman occupies what is more commonly known as the Redlands.
With its semi-rural cluster of mainland urban towns, including Cleveland and Capalaba, and an archipelago sitting just off the seaboard, the sheltered waters of the bay are a lesser-known portion of Queensland’s subtropical coast.
Every July on Coochiemudlo Island there’s a reenactment (pictured) of the first European arrival in the Redlands for Matthew Flinders Day.
It’s a heartfelt, community-spirited event which gets the locals out in force, and attracts a smattering of tourism to the island. In the lead-up I read how mainland parking, tides, and access impact on participation in island events such as this.
This led me to ask PUP candidate John Wayne whether there is much of a divide between land and sea in Bowman?
This former Gold Coast Councillor is a corporate communication consultant who’s been a working rock oyster grower on North Stradbroke Island since 2007.
Living a third of every year on ‘Straddie’, John (pictured) has an acute understanding of island life.
“When you want to go over there and work the oysters, in the week that suits and with the tides and moon that suits, and then it’s howling a gale, you just get destroyed going across the bay,” he says.
“If we had infrastructure that went, say, across from Rocky Point to the bottom of Russell Island, that’s going to open up Russell, and then there’s a nice connection to North Straddie,” John explains. “Now if the sand mines continue with their operation on North Straddie, there’s good reasons for them to be looking at investing in infrastructure, to go in with the Government and the island population to deliver connection”.
“A lot of the regular chatter in the community is from new people moving to the islands. They’ve heard the promise of bridges, now they want to see the promise fulfilled because property values go up. The old-timers on the island often say, ‘We like the exclusivity, we don’t have the crime and the drive-through population’.
“I think really the fact is that the bay is just ripe for the picking, for development and an extension of tourism investment in the area. I think the whole region needs a master plan, similar to the 2020 Harbour Vision, which the Gold Coast did with the former State government.”
When John got the call from the PUP, he was faced with a dilemma.
“Estuary health, river health, and marine health have always been at the top of my priorities. The first thing I said was, ‘I think I might be a little bit too green for Clive (Clive Palmer, businessman and founder of PUP), isn’t he in the mining industry, and isn’t that going to be a conflict?’
“But if he wants to surround himself with different people, I get the opportunity to go in there and voice my environmental concerns at a level which I wasn’t able to do before.”
So how does John envisage he will connect with the voters of Bowman?
“We’ve got such a good split in the demographic between working families, a strong retiree population as well, a really strong Liberal-Labor feeling pulling in two directions. You can almost cut it into suburbs.
“I’m not really going out into areas and looking at how they voted last time, because at the moment the feedback I’m getting is that people are saying, ‘We’ve finally got a choice, we’ve got an opportunity to send a signal to the government and the opposition to say we don’t like what’s been happening for the last two decades, good to hear you’re running, where’s your signs?’
“Well, they’re coming, you can put one on your front fence if you like.
“The party has a critical path, working backwards, from election day, but we don’t know when that is. The executive is saying, ‘Don’t go yet’, but when you’re an independent thinker and you’ve done a certain amount of marketing and advertising, you know you want to book ads and get out there.”
Revealing that there have been ‘soft discussions’ on preferences, John adds, “As soon as I can get Clive into the area, we can open it up”.
“I haven’t been approached by any of the other candidates to discuss preferences. Hopefully they won’t take me too seriously right now and we can just get on with our campaigning and meeting people, because it starts to get messy.
“It is more than likely it will be an across-the-board preferences deal, not a seat-by-seat arrangement.
“Finding Federal issues in this area is a little bit tougher,” John adds. “There is some potential for a second rail coming into Cleveland. Most ideas need State support, and Palmer United Party will be running for State in every seat, so this isn’t a ‘one hit wonder’ thing. Clive’s pretty determined. This is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Next up: Briskey’s back! Former ALP State Member Darryl Briskey takes democracy on the road.