At the Kenmore Bridge Club the political numbers game is weighing heavily on players’ minds ahead of next week’s federal poll.
- Ryan has been held by LNP member Julian Simmonds since 2019
- Labor and the Greens have are both targeting the seat
- Experts say the seat could change hands
They live in the seat of Ryan held by LNP high flyer Julian Simmonds, which he holds by a margin of 6 per cent.
But while they may be old-timers in the traditional blue ribbon seat they insist their vote cannot be taken for granted.
Sixty-five-year-old Elizabeth Handley said she was sick of both major parties complaining about each other.
“I am very disappointed in them,” she said.
The former consultant said Ryan was often described as part of “Brisbane’s wealthy western suburbs” but she maintained the electorate had changed in a socio-economic sense and so had its traditional vote.
“If you went through the area you could find pockets of poverty and there are people who are absolutely just getting by and our governments are not doing anything for those people,” she said.
A federal integrity body and action on climate change are what the Kenmore grandmother wants action on and it was pushing her vote towards an independent or the Greens.
“I have been shifting because what I have found is the major parties are not talking to me, they are not looking after my future and they are not looking after my children’s future,” she said.
‘We need to change something’
Fellow bridge player and former engineer Andrew Sharp has lived in the electorate for 55 years and said nothing has changed in that time.
He also maintains the LNP takes Ryan’s “conservative” vote for granted.
The 69-year-old said there was a lack of “real and intelligent” debate in this election campaign and he was also looking to switch his vote towards an independent.
“My vote will probably change this election, I will try something else. We need to change something,” he said.
While politics is not part of the small talk during their daily bridge competition, fellow players Anne Russell and David Douglas said they were also disillusioned with the major parties.
Ms Russell, a former lecturer at QUT, said she was a traditional LNP voter but was open to change at this poll.
Mr Douglas was leaning towards the Greens or Labor as he pushes for action on global warning and integrity in government.
“But I am over the election campaign,” the 72-year-old said.
Meanwhile over at the University of Queensland some first-time voters were variously disengaged or overwhelmed by the spectacle of a federal election campaign.
Common answers on campus this week to the question about “who to vote for?” had a common thread.
“Not quite sure yet who I am going to choose, I do not know what to do or how to vote.”
“I don’t follow politics so it is probably something I need to look at before the election.”
“I feel a bit under-educated about all of it to be honest.”
“I’ll just ask Mum and Dad what to do.”
But when asked about the issues mattered most, climate change and cost of living came to the fore.
Greens and Labor hoping to make inroads
Mr Simmonds was sensationally parachuted into the seat to bring in “generational change” after a hostile branch takeover that saw popular Jane Prentice, who had served as an assistant minister for social services and disability services, dumped ahead of the 2019 election.
Labor’s Leonie Short caused an upset in the seat in 2001 at a by-election, but was only in for eight months, before the LNP won it back.
This time around Labor and the Greens looking set to give Mr Simmonds a run for his money.
Actor Peter Cossar is standing for the ALP for a second time while the Greens have a “newbie” in architect Elizabeth Watson-Brown.
There is a question around which party is actually the main rival.
As in other inner-Brisbane seats, there has been a substantial rise in Green first preference support (20.3 per cent in 2019) at the expense of Labor.
The Greens hold the local state seat of Maiwar, which is also in Ryan, so political analysts say it is possible the Greens could overtake Labor in the poll.
University of Queensland political scientist Glenn Kefford said if he was Mr Simmonds, “he would be feeling anxious”.
“I think this has been a target seat for the Greens now for quite a while, and it builds on their success at the state level, in particular that they picked up Maiwar with Michael Berkman in the last state election and in the previous election to that,” he said.
“I think the outcome of this seat really comes down to a simple question, which is: can the combined Labor and Greens primary vote get close to or exceed 50 per cent because they will need that and a trickle of preferences to get ahead of the LNP in the seat.
“So this is an area, along with Griffith and Brisbane, these are the target seats for the Greens but they are also seats Labor would be looking at making inroads in as well.
“We did see the LNP primary go backwards in 2019, and it was one of the only electorates where we actually saw the LNP two-party-preferred vote actually decline in Queensland.”
Former prime minister John Howard has been on the hustings in Ryan to rally the troops in an electorate which covers 370 square kilometres extending from Moggill to Ferny Grove and Keperra.
But Dr Kefford said bringing in “Liberal royalty” was a sign of the concerns the LNP had more generally about its inner-city electorates.
“We can certainly see a similar level of concern and anxiety in Brisbane from Trevor Evans (LNP) and I think this goes to the broader dynamics of the election that we are seeing play out,” he said.
“Where in the inner-city seats Liberal and LNP moderates are deeply concerned about the way the campaign is playing out.
“The perception is that the strategy for the government is to try to hold onto all the outer metropolitan and regional seats and try to grab a few seats off Labor in those areas.
“But potentially that could mean sacrificing some of the inner-city moderates like Trevor Evans in Brisbane and potentially even someone like Julian Simmonds in Ryan.”
Flood snub reversed as LNP fights for votes
Thirty-five-year-old Mr Simmonds played a major role in getting Prime Minister Scott Morrison to reverse his decision to knock back the joint support for recent flood victims in a $771 million proposal to buy back or rebuild flood-prone homes.
His inner-city seat, along with Brisbane, were among some of the hardest hit areas, so fearful of electoral consequences they got the Prime Minister to bow to pressure and change his tune.
“I was able to be a strong voice in the party room and I hope my electorate sees that and willing to send me back to continue to do that,” he said.
“I do not take any vote for granted, I will fight to election day for every single vote.
“We will put in a strong showing.”
Labor says ‘It’s Time’ for change
Fifty-eight-year-old performer Peter Cossar said voters were disillusioned.
“People are angry, there is a real mood for change in the electorate,” he said.
“Health care, cost of living and climate change are the key issues.
“We are being out-spent by the Greens and the LNP in this election campaign, but I have knocked on thousands of doors and people are looking for responsible government.
“We can win this seat.”
He also stood in 2019, attracting a 1.3 per cent swing to Labor with 24 per cent of the primary vote.
The swing to the Greens was 1.6 per cent with 20.3 per cent of the primary vote. Both parties will preference each other at this election.
A genuine three-horse race
Sixty-five-year-old Greens candidate Elizabeth Watson-Brown was buoyed by data that showed the party’s vote was on the rise in Queensland, making Ryan a genuine three-cornered contest.
She said there was a real appetite for change from people who were rusted on Labor voters as well as long-term loyal Liberal voters.
“There is disenfranchisement, disillusionment, people do not feel serviced by the sitting member and they do not feel Labor is the answer,” she said.
“We are very confident. I don’t think the ALP is offering very much around the real concerns that people have.
“There is a real interest in action on climate change, no matter what people’s backgrounds are, what their voting habits have been historically.
“Housing affordability around young people never being able to afford a house is also a key issue.
“We have a very high proportion of renters in Ryan as well, so rental rights is also up there.”
There are no so-called “Teal independents” standing in the seat.
The United Australia Party’s Kathryn Pollard scored top spot on the ballot paper.
With Australian Federation Party candidate Alex Dancoisne, who posted on social media that the Ukraine Government was run by Nazis, is listed last.