HISTORY: Former LNP member for Blair Cameron Thompson wants strong and active members of parliament.
HISTORY: Former LNP member for Blair Cameron Thompson wants strong and active members of parliament. Cordell Richardson

Former member weighs in: Can the LNP win again in Ipswich?

BEFORE shifting demographics transformed Ipswich into safe Labor land, the Blair electorate was a treasured possession in a Liberal-National Government.

From its creation in 1998 to the 2007 election, the seat was held by Liberal Cameron Thompson, a member of John Howard's Coalition Government.

Mr Thompson has looked back on his time as the federal member.

He shared insight about the LNP's chances of winning the fast-growing region back.

"It's not the seat that it was," he said.

"Different boundaries would have helped."

Before the 2007 election, significant boundary changes removed the rural areas of Kingaroy, Nanango and the Brisbane Valley from the electorate and edging it towards Labor.

It cut Mr Thompson's comfortable margin of 11.5 per cent down to 5.7 per cent.

After a hard-fought campaign from all sides, Mr Thompson was one of 22 Coalition MPs to lose their seat in the 'Ruddslide'.

The former Coalition MP said it would be tough for the LNP to secure a significant swing to win back the growing electorate.

"It's just fundamentally a different seat," he said.

Mr Thompson has stayed out of deep politics since his defeat at the hands of Labor's Shayne Neumann 12 years ago.

 

 

Shayne Neumann wins Blair tearsheet.
How the QT reported the victory of Labor's candidate Shayne Neumann in 2007. Hayden Johnson

He will help the LNP campaign in Ipswich if asked but desires more for the region than partisan political battles.

"We need local MPs and candidates who can articulate that and not just give us lip service," he said.

Going into the 2007 election the Coalition had promised $4billion of road projects in the Blair electorate, Mr Thompson said.

"In 2007 the one feather the LNP had to fly with in Blair was, unlike everybody else, we were building two roads to Brisbane," he said.

"What Labor did was said we are going to now upgrade the whole of the Ipswich Motorway.

"The differentiating factor was the section between Rocklea and Darra."

Mr Thompson said, 12 years later, the section upgrade hadn't finished.

"It's 12 lost years in terms of prioritising 'jobs where you live' in Ipswich," he said.

"Congestion on motorways costs businesses, like JBS, a massive amount of money."

He said under Mr Howard's Coalition, "jobs where you live" was the mantra for Ipswich.

"We wanted to no longer be a dormitory for Brisbane," he said.

"It just hasn't happened.

"At the moment we're serving the economic needs of Brisbane."

 

bypa05bPrime Minister John Howard announces plans for a $2.3 billion bypass on the Ipswich Motorway.Pic by Michelle Smith. MA0507MB
Prime Minister John Howard with Member for Blair Cameron Thompson (left) announcing plans for a $2.3 billion bypass on the Ipswich Motorway. QT

The LNP's chances of winning back Blair on May 18 are slim.

There is an appetite for change and any chance of Ipswich voters bucking the national shift toward Labor is unlikely.

A change to Blair's eastern boundary has eroded Labor's margin since the last election; but only slightly.

The boundary redistribution to take 4200 voters from Karana Downs in the electorate of Ryan has caused the red margin to fall from 8.9 per cent to about 8.1 per cent.

Mr Thompson said no matter what side of politics held Blair, strong and active MPs were needed.

"You need people who can work together, at all levels of government," he said.

"You don't lay the blame at one person's door."

Mr Thompson wants all levels of government in Ipswich to have strong and unifying policies for the region to prosper.

"I think it's important the people work together and a clear vision and people get behind it," he said.

"You have to have policies that join up.

"Make 'jobs where you live' feasible and don't just spend time building never-ending suburbs to become the dormitory suburbs of Brisbane."

Since Mr Thompson, Mr Howard, Treasurer Peter Costello and Labor leader Kim Beazley left the parliament, Australian's trust in politicians has been crippled.

Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison have graced the top office in the 12 years since Mr Howard's 11-year prime ministerial reign ended.

"There are things now that are very challenging about politics," Mr Thompson said.

 

Peter Beattie has been announced as Labor's new candidate for Forde at Beenleigh Event Centre. (L-R) PM Kevin Rudd. Photo Inga Williams / The Reporter
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Inga Williams IR080813BEATTIE9

He believes social media has been beneficial for community groups to push their agendas straight to the top of the government.

Mr Thompson said there was a leadership vacuum in Ipswich and called for all candidates to have progressive community policies to ensure the fast-growing region is adequately serviced.

"There's been so much time, distraction and uselessness coming out of Ipswich City Council," he said.

"The council can represent local views and needs to start taking that mantle, taking that yoke and putting it somewhere.

"Not just jingoism and self-promotion we're used to getting."

The former speechwriter is close to finishing a novel, which has been much more enjoyable than he thought.

"Anybody who sits there and says it's too hard, really ought to get off their backside and give it a go," he said.

Blair 'will be difficult' for LNP to win back

IT'S a bet almost as safe as houses, Labor will hold Blair this election and for many to come.

While Ipswich did once bleed blue, University of Southern Queensland pro vice-chancellor John Cole believes it "will be difficult" for it to do so once again.

He said the removal of rural parts from the electorate in favour of Springfield and Ripley had sandbagged Labor's hold at this election.

"It's conceivable the seat can be in play at some stage," Professor Cole said.

"With a fast-growing population, the demographics can change.

"That can change the political character of it quite remarkably."

Safe Labor lands of Blair and Oxley mean Ipswich residents will escape much of the political discourse in the remaining four weeks to the May 18 election.

"You'll be able to tell the seats that are in play by the standard of visits they are receiving not just by the leaders but senior members on each side," Professor Cole said.

"People can feel like they're missing out because their seats are not in play but it does mean they're more likely to be in government.

"Ultimately you want to be in the party of government."

 

John Howard visits USQ when it opened in 2006. With Maha Sinnathamby.
John Howard visits USQ when it opened in 2006. With Maha Sinnathamby. QT File

Professor Cole said a national Labor victory should bode well for Ipswich.

"Shayne Neumann will be a member of the cabinet," he said.

"It means they've got someone fairly senior and influential.

"Politics is all about conduits of influence; quick pathways to people who make the decisions."

Prof Cole is not sure which party, the LNP or One Nation, will pose the biggest threat to Labor in Ipswich.

The undisciplined One Nation does well in this region.

"I think the Libs would only get so many of the One Nation preferences," he said.

"While there is a capacity for a protest vote, I don't get that sense there will be a protest vote of the kind we saw in 1998 (when Pauline Hanson won first preferences in Blair).

"One Nation preferences will bleed a little bit to both sides but I don't think Shayne Neumann will be any danger."