Climate change and elderly care are the main election issues in the mayoral debate at the Brisbane headquarters

Candidates for the hotly contested federal constituency of Brisbane faced a deluge of questions covering ‘elderly care’, ‘corruption’ and, most vividly, ‘climate change’ during a debate at the town hall last night.

Five of Brisbane’s seven candidates attended the debate, however, One Nation candidate Trevor Hold and the Liberal Democrat’s Anthony Bull were both notably absent.

A crowd of about 200 people left some empty seats and raised a number of heated questions, covering topics ranging from net zero emissions to the creation of a federal anti-corruption commission.

An impassioned attendee asked outgoing LNP member Trevor Evans to explain how the country’s elderly care crisis arose and asked the other candidates how they plan to address the situation.

Another asked if any party had “concrete plans” to address housing affordability in the electorate.

Mr Evans, a law graduate and Deputy Minister for Waste Reduction, campaigns on the cost of living and infrastructure such as ‘new green bridges’.

However, the candidates’ dialogue during the debate revolved heavily around climate change.

LNP Brisbane member Trevor Evans.(ABC News: Lexy Hamilton-Smith)

Mr Evans distanced himself from National Senator Matt Canavan’s view earlier this week that the Government’s zero emissions target was ‘dead’, saying the comments were ‘not in my view’.

It was a strategic decision to try to retain the electorate, which has the highest number of voters under 30 in the country and where the Greens’ popularity surged in the 2019 election.

Mr Evans said he is expected to win the seat in his primary vote as Labor and Greens swap seat preferences.

“It’s a swing seat, it’s an enclosed seat,” he said.

“Similarly in previous elections Labor and the Greens consider this to be one of their target seats, they also trade preferences quite strongly.”

The 40-year-old was the LNP’s first openly gay politician and holds the seat by a 4.9% margin.

He said he was worried and saddened that the transgender debate was “politicized”, however, he said he did not believe government legislation was needed to “strike the balance”.

“These issues are actually being handled very sensitively on the ground by non-governmental community organizations,” he said.

Greens candidate Stephen Bates is also openly gay.

Portrait of Stephen Bates, candidate for the Greens
Greens candidate Stephen Bates(ABC News: Alice Pavlovic)

The 29-year-old works in retail but has a degree in social sciences.

“Don’t underestimate the retail worker,” he told the crowd.

He was greeted with raucous applause, illustrating the intensity of the battle for one of the main constituencies in the southeast.

Mr Bates campaigns on climate change, cost of living pressures and calls for an independent federal commission against corruption and a code of conduct for politicians.

Greens candidate for the Brisbane seat Stephen Bates waves to the camera with two supporters with a sign
Greens candidate for the Brisbane seat Stephen Bates (left).(Provided)

“In every other workplace there are work standards that workers have to follow. Parliament should be no different,” he said.

Campaigning in Wilston during rush hour on Tuesday, he said he was “very optimistic” of a vote in favor of the Greens.

“Action on climate change is the big issue that people are bringing up with us, and people are saying they’re tired of politics as usual under the status quo,” he said.

Chart showing surge in Green votes in Brisbane seat
Chart showing surge in Green votes in Brisbane seat(ABC News)

A moving seat

In existence since Federation, Brisbane has generally been a Labor seat and former members include Manfred Cross (1961-75, 1980-90) and Arch Bevis (1990-2010).

A redistribution before the 2010 election, however, moved the boundaries, encompassing strong Liberal voting areas around Ascot and Hamilton, which reduced the Labor margin by more than 2%.

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The LNP has held the seat since then, but in 2019 former Greens senator Andrew Bartlett boosted support for the party to its highest ever percentage.

Support rose from 11.8% to 22.4%, putting the Greens just two percentage points behind second place.

While Mr Bates said he was a ‘newbie’ to the electorate, he said he had been out for at least eight months.

Preferences can determine the outcome in Brisbane

The ABC’s chief election analyst, Antony Green, said Brisbane would be determined by the LNP’s first preference vote.

Mr Green said if Mr Evans’ first preference vote fell below 45%, down from 47.8% in the last election, there was a good chance he would be beaten by whoever finished second.

“It’s a left-right contest, but the left vote is now split between Labor and Greens,” he said.

“The Greens can get second place in Brisbane, but they won’t win the seat unless the LNP’s first-preference vote falls.”

The anti-Labour trend withstood the last Brisbane election

ALP candidate Madonna Jarrett first threw her hat in the ring in 1995 in the Liberal seat of Aspley.

She had worked as a political adviser in the Goss government, as well as in public affairs and crisis management.

This time around, the 56-year-old is campaigning for a change in culture in Canberra and leaders who put women ‘front and center’.

ALP candidate for Brisbane Madonna Jarrett with Anthony Albanese.
ALP candidate for Brisbane Madonna Jarrett with Anthony Albanese.(Provided)

The businesswoman said job insecurity, housing affordability and climate change were also issues voters had repeatedly raised.

“It really boils down to people having pain in their hips, they have no money to spend on flat salaries.”

The mother-of-two said compassion “was in her DNA” and she was confident she could snatch the seat at the LNP.

Antony Green said that between 2007 and 2019 preferred support for both Labor parties fell by 11%.

However, in the 2019 poll, Brisbane recorded one of Queensland’s few switches to Labour.

The seat has seven candidates vying for votes on election day with the number one Animal Justice Party on the ballot.

The Greens took third place, Labor fourth and the LNP fifth.

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Teresa H. Sadler