Chatsworth is the ALP’s most marginal seat in Queensland, lying in the outer eastern suburbs of Brisbane. The seat covers most of the centre of the federal electorate of Bonner. The electorate is split between two wards of Brisbane City Council that clearly lay out the divisions within the electorate. The northern parts of the electorate lie in the marginal Labor ward of Doboy, with the majority of the electorate lying in the ultra-safe Liberal ward of Chandler.
The seat is a traditional Labor seat, being held by the party since 1972. In 2005, Deputy Premier Terry Mackenroth resigned, triggering a by-election. Mackenroth had held the seat with an 11.4% margin after the 2004 general election, and a 13.9% swing saw Liberal candidate Michael Caltabiano take the seat at the by-election.
Caltabiano had been a leading figure in the Liberal Party in Brisbane, as a former Leader of the Opposition on Brisbane City Council. Caltabiano was immediately promoted to the shadow ministry and became Shadow Treasurer for the National/Liberal opposition for the 2006 election.
The last election saw the seat return to the ALP, although Caltabiano held on to most of the swing, losing the seat to former Channel Nine sports reporter Chris Bombalas for Labor, with Labor winning 50.8% of the two-party-preferred vote. The redistribution has made the seat slightly more marginal, and it now sits on a slim 0.1% margin.
According to the 2006 census, Chatsworth is a typical outer-subuurban electorate, with most demographic statistics lying close to the Queensland and national averages.
At first glance, Chatsworth has a lack of polling booths in its southern suburbs. At the 2006 election, the Liberals won two booths, which are much larger than the others and border the southern Liberal suburbs. The map shows the distribution of booths in Chatsworth. Green booths are those booths where the ALP won 50-56% of the two-party-preferred, while the pink booths are those where the ALP won with more than 56%.
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Just before the election was called, Bombalas announced he would retire. He is being succeeded as Labor candidate by “local firefighter and former Navy sailor” Steve Kilburn, and the Liberals will be represented by Andrea Caltabiano, wife of the former MP.
It’s hard to predict what will happen in this seat. Ordinarily you would expect the seat, as the most marginal ALP seat in the state, to be the first to fall if the statewide swing showing in the polls comes off. On the other hand, the Liberals will be disadvantaged by not having Caltabiano standing again, as a former local councillor and Shadow Treasurer he would have had a substantial personal vote. You’d have to also think that the loss of Bombalas’ profile would similarly hurt the ALP, and the LNP will benefit from Caltabiano’s surname appearing on the ballot, even if the man himself isn’t standing. In spite of the Caltabiano legacy, it’s worth remembering that, until four years ago, Chatsworth was a typical safe Labor seat, even during the Bjelke-Petersen years. It will be fascinating to watch on election night.