Possums Pollytics

Politics, elections and piffle plinking

Hasta la vista, McPherson.

Posted by Possum Comitatus on August 30, 2007

Well maybe not, but it’s going to be a lot, lot closer than most people realise.

We are talking of course, about the most South Eastern seat in Qld, based around the area of the southern Gold Coast. For you Mexicans reading this that rarely get above the Rio Tweed, let me introduce to you McPherson:


This map is proudly brought to you by the AEC via Parliament House.

For more info, Adam Carrs exceptional site has the rundown on it HERE plus many other glorious tidings to boot.


McPherson is currently held by Margaret May and is firmly embedded in the Liberal Party safe ‘list’, being held by a margin of 13.9%.

But not all is as it seems with this seat. The demographics are changing rapidly, and so with it the politics.

First, an overview of the demographics where we’ll compare the 2001 census results with the 2006 variety. This can only come about at the moment due to the great work of George “Meganomics” Megalogenis (voted Journo most likely to become a Greek porn star) over at The Oz who collated the 2006 census data for us to use. George, you’re a champ.

The Median income of McPherson in 2001 was $786 pw (the 122nd highest) whereas now its $864 pw (the 74th highest).Quite a move up the old income ranking.

Obviously something has changed for that to occur – and that change is families with rugrats (or having aspirations of rugruts) that buy houses.

In 2001 Couples with dependent children made up 32.9% of the electorate (132nd highest) but now make up 41.6% of the electorate (118th highest).

The proportion of the electorate paying off their home in 2001 was 22.1% (105th highest), now its 31.1% (80th highest).

So far, that’s all good and well. It tells us that the demographics have changed a fair bit since 2001 with a lot more families or ‘families to be’ moving into the seat and buying houses. As they came in, they pushed the median income up along with the proportion of the electorate paying off their home.

But what makes this seat particularly interesting is the composition of that group of blow-ins.

The current median household income for those families in McPherson that are paying off a home is $1495pw ( 86th highest) while the median home loan repayment is $1500 per month (44th highest).

That makes the Mortgage Burden (calculated as the median home loan repayment divided by the median household income of those families with a mortgage) a whopping 23.2%.

That gives McPherson the 11th highest mortgage burden in the country. Of the ten seats with a higher mortgage burden than McPherson, 8 of them are held by the ALP on margins of greater than 6%, one of them held by the ALP with a margin greater than 3% and only Greenway at number 9 is held by the Coalition.

So what makes McPherson so special that despite its mortgage burden, it’s so naturally inclined to be Liberal?

Well its not – and the population of McPherson is becoming more Labor oriented as time progresses.

If we look at the State electorates that make up McPherson – Burleigh, Currumbin, Mudgeeraba and Robina we find that the ALP at the State level hold two of those seats with the Libs holding the other two. But what’s important here is how the vote in those state seats has changed and continues to change with the demographic movement.

In the 2006 election, the Beattie government had a swing against it while the Liberals had a 1.6% swing to them. Yet in these four seats, the ALP vote increased in all of them.


Comparing the ALP TPP vote from the 2004 State election to the 2006 State election:

Burleigh went 55% to 58.3%

Currumbin went from 46.8% to 47.8%

Mudgeeraba went from 51.85% to 52.9%

Robina went from 41.2% to 47.5%

All seats swung to the ALP despite the overall state swing against the ALP.

I whacked the numbers from the State seat booths into the McPherson booths, and if the population of McPherson voted federally in the same way as they vote at the state level – the result would be somewhere between 52-48 for either party.(I say either party as there was a little bit of booth mismatch creating uncertainty and I made the assumption that the pre-poll and postal votes would flow to the Coalition 2.5 points higher than the broader electorate… which seems to fit the pattern of this type of seat elsewhere in Qld).

So far from McPherson being demographically Liberal – it’s arguably more demographically Labor than Liberal. Far from the denizens of McPherson being rusted on Coalition supporters, they are far more non-aligned than the 13.9% margin suggests, with the voters of McPherson having elected ALP representatives at the state level and with increasing amounts of them voting for Labor at the state level. That suggests to me that McPherson has become swinging voter central, with an increasing level of Labor base support.

What is also interesting is the numbers of people that are moving into the electorate. If we go over here and check out the enrolment stats for McPherson we find that:


In October 2004 enrolment was 83,820

In June 2006 enrolment was 83,022

In January 2007 enrolment was 87,205

In July 2007 enrolment was 90,415

By the election this year, that will likely have increased by another 3 thousand people to be an electorate 11% larger in enrolled voters than it was at the last federal election, with nearly all of that population growth being new urban development.

And we know where they’re moving too and why they’re moving in such large numbers– anyone that drives through the electorate cannot but miss the vast new tracts of suburban Lego Land opening up. To give an idea, I’ve pulled some shots out of Google Earth of McPherson. I’ve pencilled in the electoral boundaries with a blue line (just click the thumbnails to blow them up).

McPherson North


McPherson Central


McPherson South


This seat is simply not as safe as it looks. Last election, the increased population in the new urban developments would have been, in demographic terms, prime target number one for the Coalitions interest rate campaign strategy. New home buyers moving into this area before the last election and swinging against the ALP at a level higher than their normal inclination would have hidden the actual demographic shifts and the subsequent political shifts that McPherson has been undergoing.

Qld swung as a state by 2.2% towards the Coalition at the 2004 Election, yet McPherson only swung 1.4%. Even the interest rate campaign aimed at mortgaged up new home buyers that are rapidly filling McPherson couldn’t prevent the seat from swinging less than the state average.

But not this time.

When you combine this with the growing number of lowish income, young service workers populating the seat via the rented townhouse developments, and which service the booming retail and tourism industries of the Gold Coast (read Workchoices) – this seat faces a perfect storm.

The politics of interest rates, Workchoices, and the nexus between those two issues, “interest payments to disposable income” and reduced discretionary spending budgets that flow from it (remember its discretionary spending budgets which fund lifestyle and self-perceived standards of living, not disposable income) will unleash the changing demographics of McPherson on the Coalition vote.

This seat will swing, and it will swing big simply because it will be catching up with its own demographic dynamics.



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33 Responses to “Hasta la vista, McPherson.”

  1. BigBob said


    This would be one of those “surprise” seats that happens during a big swing.

    Nice analysis.

  2. fred said

    So it is legitimate to look at how people vote in state elections and extropolate to make predictions for federal elections?
    I was told otherwise.
    Anyway I did it for a particular federal seat, looked at the booths common to state electorates and that federal seat and found a near 10% swing to the ALP from federal ’04 to state ’06.
    A 10% pro ALP ‘swing’, if that’s what it is, well before Rudd appeared on the scene.
    Suggests something or nothing?
    Now I’ll go and check out the swings from the last 2 state elections for that federal seat.
    I suspect it will be around 10%.

  3. barney said

    amazing detail.

    Re Fred’s comment. Possum wasn’t extrapolating voting intention. The state figures reflect and amplify the demographic change that has occurred/is occurring. It is that demographic change which is being extrapolated and that is the basis for the prediction.

  4. Possum Comitatus said

    To add to what barney said, people that vote one way in State elections wont necessarily vote the same way at Federal elections, but it tells us that they aren’t rusted on party members, but swing voters.

  5. fred said


  6. Speaking of Google Earth, does this link for everybody else? It’s my attempt to get the QLD Electorate boundaries into Google Earth format:


  7. Possum Comitatus said

    Great work!

    That is a really handy piece of kit.

  8. If you’re looking for a surprise seat to watch in Queensland, this is definitely it. The fact that the Labor party is running a serious campaign is significant in itself.

  9. Cool. Now try NT while you’re at it:


  10. bungs said

    Down and out
    link not wortking for me.

    great work. fantastic detail and background. Are you working on other seats or have plans for them?

  11. Possum Comitatus said

    Bungs – I might do some more if something about them catches my eye.But if I do, it will probably be the seats that are below the radar.Looking into places where no one else is really looking adds a certain excitement to it, because you just don’t know what you’ll find 😉

    I am going to have a squiz at Fairfax though – there’s something peculiar about the way the data vs political expectations sits there.If anything interesting comes out of it, I’ll be sure to let you know.

  12. canberra boy said

    bungs – the download didn’t work for me either, initially. Then I tried it with Google Earth already running on the computer, and bingo! Great work, Down and Out!!

  13. andrew said

    Possum, McPherson has pulled in from $12 to $8, at portlandbet, while this post has been up.

  14. Jim said

    Interesting indeed. If we’re looking at McPherson then what about Dickson at the other end of the Great South East (Queensland). Smaller swing needed, poor beggar sitting Liberal member, great ALP candidate working hard with good team. Makes one wonder if some of the marginal seats expected to change hold out and some below the radar seats like McPherson and Dickson change hands. How many more seats around the nation fall into this “demographic”?

  15. There’s a broader pattern here is Qld moving back towards Labor (ending the realignment of 1946?). if so this would be devastating for the Nats overall. I should have something in The Age soon on this. What about Dawson? Labor almost won it in 1990?

  16. Roger said


    If you neeed a WA seat to examine try Tangney. Has moved (usually unexpectedly see George Gear) a number of times; currently held by Liberal Party ‘scientist’ Dennis Jensen who apparently worked for CSIRO as a scientist – tho. in what field I have no idea. Was disendorsed by his electoral council apparently for a lack of attention to Branch matters (and then reinstated following jwh’s intervention), claims to understand global warming/ ‘climate change’ better than his international peers and identifies as a global warming sceptic (‘build your nuclear power plants HERE’), and is in a middleclass demographic. Tangney seems low on the ALP’s list of possibilities, but I’m not sure why. Jensen has an 11+ margin; but is evidently on the nose of his electorate supporters, and in a economically volatile electorate.

  17. Fargo61 said


    Interesting certainly, and the large intake of voters may itself gradually lead to a change in the margin, but you should take into account that the ALP votes at the Gold Coast state seats in 2007, especially in Robina, were influenced by the adverse reaction to the replacement of Liberal leader Bob Quinn just before the election. Also in the Currumbin seat, the vote was coming off a particularly low base (relativly speaking) in 2004 because of reaction there (then) to both the Tugun bypass route and the ‘Merri Rose affair’.

    Also I do not agree that people who vote Liberal federally but for the ALP at the state level are necessarily swinging voters. They have now voted for Mr Howard 4 times and Mr Beattie 4 times, so they may be splitting their votes, but they are not swinging, in my opinion, anyway.

    Would it be possible to replace that gun toting American Opossum with a fair dinkum Australian Possum wearing an Akubra?

  18. jocko said

    Hi Possum.I would be very intrested if you did do one of your wonderfull analaysis of fairfax. I live in coolum which also is where our local member Alex Somalay has his electoral office.I can confirm after speaking to a wide range of people that it is not inconceivable for this seat to go labours way.On top of the changing demographics of the area with a massive influx of new residents there is also a few other points i wish to make.
    1 our local member has not a very good reputation with the people he is suppose to be representing,he is rarely seen or heard from other than election time unless you take into account the somalay reports that end up in the bin.He does not respond to critisim well an
    eg. in response to a critical letter to the editor in the local paper he answered by saying that well he wont represent the author anymore.
    2 Kevin Rudd is more or less a local boy and qlders being qlders i think will have an impact.
    3 workchoices has had very negative impact on a lot of the population here as there are many people who are in the hospitality industry which seems to be one of the industries that have or will be affected by the law.
    there are others reasons but i think those 3 probably are the major ones and while i think the libs will probably retain the seat if a big enough swing is on it could fall and if it did and was uniform would the coalition be able to hold there party meetings in a phone box? thanks.

  19. David Walsh said

    Be careful with those enrolment stats.

    The last destribution added some 2600 voters to the seat of McPherson.

    In the AEC monthly figures that change came into place in November 2006. So it explains much of the Jun 2006 to Jan 2007 bump.

  20. KC said


    Nice analysis and like the Aussie possum.

    There will be surprise swings due to members popularity or dislikes and also as to how individual electorates are affected by housing affordability coupled with Work Choices. Eg the price of housing, the type of industry and the affect this has on loss of wages from Work Choices.

    I think there is now a general perception that the Howard government has been a lazy government that benefitted from previous reforms and the mining boom. That he has remained in for so long has been due to a real lack of alternative choice. This does justify to some extent the comparison of state and federal intentions. NSW may be the big surprise in this aspect in that the federal vote for labor may be bigger than the state vote. The labor govt in NSW should have been voted out but the opposition was hopeless.

    Similar with Qld, the lack of opposition may distort the state vote, but in the end it comes down to the number of people prepared to vote labor, whether it is at state of federal level.

  21. Possum Comitatus said

    Dickson is interesting.It doesnt seem to have had the major demographic shift that McPherson has experienced,

    but it’s had a steady population growth none the less.To me, Dickson is a hard seat to get a handle on because its

    made up of a huge mish-mash of socioeconomic groups and interests.It’s sort of urban, sort of not.Sort of capital

    city sort of not, sort of provincial sort of not.It will be interesting to see if any polling (leaked or otherwise)

    comes out of Dickson as it would be good to see how its actually playing out on the ground.

    To find out how many seats fall into any demographic, I’d have to look at them all – I really would love to be able

    to do that, but there’s only so many hours in this Possums day 🙂

    I’ve thought that too.In many ways the large national party presence is an historical anachronism fighting the

    futile fight against demographic modernity.It certainly benefits the ALP at the state level, although at the federal

    level the Nats biggest enemy seems to be the Liberal party and the three corner contests that occur whenever a Nat


    I’m not a daily reader of the Spencer Street Soviet, is there any chance you could give me a heads p when your

    article comes out, I’d be interested to read it?

    Dawson to me seems pretty safe unless there is something fairly radical going on up north.De Anne Kelly is a dill

    but being a dill in FNQ has never seemed to be an impediment to being an MP from any party.Would Mackay and Bowen

    really swing that much? Maybe mining is doing some interesting things and they’ve had a bit of population growth as

    well (and some of the biggest house price growth in the country), but those centers would need to swing heavily just

    to account for the old safe cocky booths away from the coast for Dawson to fall.In a whitewash its possible and no

    doubt there will be swing away from the government in Dawson like just about everywhere else.

    Is there anyone on the ground up there that can tell us the vibe of the place?

    When Quinn went, I’m of the view that rather then the Gold COast Liberal support dropping because he left, it just went back to its underlying natural level that Quinn had been artificially holding up in the first place.Merri Rose and Tugun might have taken a few points off, but the Tugun bypass was like council amalgamations – a small noisy minority of affected property owners, assorted nimbys and astroturfing political hacks making a whole lot of noise abut an issue the majority of the electorate either didnt care about or thought wasnt a bad idea.I know there was some qualititative polling floating around at the time about Tugun, but the problem with that sort of stuff is that it only tells you how people say they think about an issue, not how they’ll actually act on that issue.

    On the swing voter issue – it depends on you you define “swinging”.If you define a swinging voter as a person who is not rusted on to a particular party, and whom doesnt always vote for the same party – then Beatties Liberals, like Howards battlers are swing voters by the simple observation that they “swung”.

    It demonstrates that they are capable of changing their vote from one party to another – unlike some of the rural seats where people vote Nat because their parents did, their grand parents did before them and its just “the natural order of things”.

    After doing the King Canute thing over my Possum, is that cute and furry native more pleasing to everyone?

    I’ll do Fairfax next – sometime this week I hope.It does look interesting.

    you’re right, nearly all of those 2600 additions from the redistribution came from Burleigh Waters.The Caningeraba school booth .It’s been a solid ALP state booth since 2001 (which is as far as I looked back) with the ALP getting 10 to 20 points more than the Coalition in the booth.

    In the submissions to the redistribution, I think it was the Nats and Libs that were suggesting McPherson would have around 94 000 voters come the 2007 election.The AEC disagreed and made a lower estimate.I think the Nats and the Lins are pretty spot on with that and there should be a bit of an influx in enrolments over the next month or two.The greenfields urban development in the seat has all started to come online over the last little while. If what I think is occuring actually happens in terms of population growth, that will make it around 6-8 thousand new entrants into the seat since the last election, and 2 and a half thousand redistributed newbies into McPherson out of Burleigh Waters.

    If the redistribution numbers flowed through to the enrollment figures in November, that means the population growth in the seat in the six months to July is larger than the redistributed Burleigh Waters people.

  22. Fargo61 said


    Trichosurus Vulpecula posing with his paper. Just the ticket!

    You may well be right about the ‘Quinn thing’ but I think that the Council Amalgamation issue is much bigger than you realise. On the other hand it is mainly relevant in seats I would never expect the ALP to win anyway. The Tories claim however that they have a chance of picking up Capricornia on the back of the issue. This seems to be as be as equally fanciful. I do not however now expect the ALP to pickup any seats outside of the Greater Brisbane area. Seats such as Dickson and Ryan may be the ones to watch if a big swing is on.

    Finally, it is of course your blog, so you should pick any Avatar you want, regardless of any silly comments from the rest of us.

  23. bmwofoz said

    Very Interesting,

    An interesting question which may help predict the result, where are the new residants of McPherson from if we knew this we may have a clearer idea of potential result.

  24. David Walsh said

    It is rather strange that the parties would argue over the validity of the enrolment projections.

    I don’t believe there’s any scope whatsoever for the redistribution committee to work with anything other than the figures provided to them by the ABS. The committee is required to treat the figures as gospel, however imperfect they may be. And the political parties are wasting their time insisting otherwise.

  25. Possum Comitatus said

    Hi David,
    By “disagreed”, I meant that the AEC and the Coalition population estimations simply differed – I cant imagine that there would have been any great level of argument over it.It would be a bit futile since, as you say, the AEC goes with the figures they are officially provided with.The party submissions just reek of partisan political manipulation anyway and seem to be treated accordingly.

    So saying, I think the AEC population estimations are a bit out in McPherson through no fault of their own, but simply because of the nature of the growth in the area.The long dry spell we’ve had has actually allowed major greenfield developments to be completed ahead (sometimes way ahead) of schedule (It’s also spilling over into larger capital works programs like, say, the Tugun Bypass).Likewise the actual level of residential development seems to have been under estimated to boot.Those satellite shots of McPherson seem to be over 18 months out of date – the smudges of disturbed soil that look like the beginning of suburban developments in those photos are now nearly all completed residential housing stock.

  26. jasmine_Anadyr said

    I had the pleasure of visiting Varity Lakes and meeting the developer, inspecting their town centre etc. Will be interesting indeed on the night to watch how they vote.

  27. Spiros said

    Centrebet has the Liberals at $1.01 to win McPherson, that is, a near certainty, while labor is the whopping outsider at $11.00

    If the analysis in this post is even remotely right, then people should jump on Labor. They mightn’t win, but they are way over the odds.

  28. Mick Quinlivan said

    the same analysis could be done for Fadden esp with Mr Jull retiring
    I think the state figures have an unusually high vote for labor in robina
    and an unusually low vote for them in currumbin
    figures prob balance out any way

  29. watt said

    Centrebet odds down from $11 to $5.50!

  30. Peter K said

    I think transposing the state results will be a far more effective indicator than the demograpic changes. However significant in the long term, from election to election demographic changes will be far outweighed by the general swing.
    Where is the swing likely to be strongest? Those areas where the discrepancy between state and federal results are highest.
    The state/federal discrepency is not a predicator of what will happen, but of what could happen in the event of an ALP landslide – as it identifies areas where there is more of a predeliction to switch.
    Leichardt (Lib 10%)has an even bigger discrepancy than McPherson, I’d put it at almost 20% (ALP state margins: Cairns 8%, Barron River 5%, Cook 15%). BTW these seats also increased their ALP vote at the recent state election and there is no reason to read any demographic factors into it.
    Unlike McPherson, Leichardt also has a history of voting ALP at federal elections. Along with transposing of state results I believe this is another vital (and almost igored) indicator.
    The McPherson result will probably be similar to Ryan which is also around 50/50 on state figures. They will only be in doubt if the statewide ALP vote approximates that achieved by Beattie – possible but unlikely. I’d predict it will swing well above average – based on the federal/state discrepency being well above average. Using the same logic, I believe Ryan will swing below average.

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    Hasta la vista, McPherson.

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