Election 2016: Voters disillusioned as battle for Palmer's seat of Fairfax revs up


As the prime minister traverses the southern states, it's in the north where Labor is hoping to steal seats and the election. Political reporter Brooke Boney visited the electorate of Fairfax on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland.

The federal seat of Fairfax stretches from Maroochydore in the south to the Palmer-owned Coolum resort in the north.

And now that Clive Palmer has confirmed he won’t contest a Queensland Senate spot with the Palmer United Party, his political career has gone the way of the dinosaurs he so proudly displays at the resort he once operated in the electorate.

The resort once employed 650 people but now runs on a skeleton staff, rumoured to be 23 employees. 

Local man, Michael, told SBS News the community would be glad to see the end of his reign in the electorate.

“He's obviously very self-centred and very greedy,” he said.

“In his time as member for Fairfax he's done nothing but destroy a resort that had an international golf tournament.”

In 2013 Clive Palmer took votes from both the Coalition and Labor and managed to scrape a 0.03 per cent margin to pry the seat of Fairfax from the Liberal National Party.

Dr Chris Salisbury, an expert in Queensland politics from the University of Queensland, said it was not yet known how the 'Palmer-effect' would impact the outcome of this election.

“What makes this election interesting is the winning back of that vote,” he said.  

But the history of voter disillusion in Fairfax goes back before Mr Palmer appeared on the political scene.

The lack of representation, changes to superannuation tax, tourism and delays to upgrades to infrastructure, like the Bruce Highway and the rail links, are all major concerns.

Local woman, Brenda, told SBS News some of the promises have dragged out for decades.

“When I first came up here about 18 years ago the trains were supposed to come within five years and still no trains,” she said.  

The whole area is traditionally an LNP stronghold, but the people of Fairfax say they’ve become disillusioned after years of delays on promises of major projects.

Scott Sawyer runs an opinion column in the local paper, The Sunshine Coast Daily, and says many felt their vote was being taken for granted.

“The whole thing that happened with Palmer, it was a bit of an exercise in, 'Well if you're not representing us properly then we'll turf you out'," he said.

"But then, given what's happened in the last couple of years too, they're probably thinking 'Geez did we go too far with it?'”

One man hoping to capitalise on the disenchantment with the major parties is the local independent candidate, Kris Bullen. He’s planning to run a campaign based on local issues.

“I think like a lot of people grew tired of our existing situation, and I thought to myself, 'Someone's gotta do something' and I'm not one to sit around and complain and expect someone else to do it,” he said.

And Mr Bullen isn’t alone - both the Labor and Liberal parties are running candidates they hope will be able to claim the seat.

Source SBS News

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