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Independent Wins Surfers Paradise By-Election; National Party Mauled By Voters

An independent candidate, Lex Bell, has won the by-election for the Queensland Legislative Assembly electorate of Surfers Paradise, vacated by the former National Party leader, Rob Borbidge.

In another rebuff to the coalition, the National Party vote in the formerly safe seat fell to 7.77%, a 42% primary vote swing. The ALP’s primary vote also dropped by nearly 18% to 20.38%.

Most of the swing went to Lex Bell, a former local mayor.

The loss leaves the National Party with just eleven seats in the Legislative Assembly.

The Labor government led by Peter Beattie has 66 seats, the Liberal Party has 3, and One Nation has 3.

Bell’s victory brings the number of independents to six.

Surfers Paradise
By-Election 5 May 2001
Candidate Affiliation Votes %
Fred Fraser Ind 61
Perry Cross Ind 648
Arthur Coghlan Ind 46
Tony Horkings Ind 181
Linda McGill Ind 143
Richard Alcorn ALP 3699
John-Paul Langbroek Lib 3803
Lex Bell Ind 6433
Susie Douglas NPA 1410
Lesley Millar ONP 862
Rob McJannett Ind 11
Dean Hepburn Greens 852

Surfers Paradise
General Election 17 February 2001
Candidate Affiliation Votes %
Dean Hepburn Greens 2899
Richard Alcorn ALP 9259
Rob Borbidge NPA 12033
Rob Borbidge NPA
Richard Alcorn ALP

The by-election result can probably be attributed to continuing dissatisfaction by the electorate with the coalition, but particularly to annoyance that the by-election was held at all.

The former National Party Premier, Rob Borbidge, held the seat with 55% of the two-party-preferred vote in the February 17 general election.

It is risky to draw too many conclusions from the by-election result, but it is clear that the National and Liberal parties remain electorally unpopular in Queensland.

Surfers Paradise is a traditionally conservative area, inhabited by retirees, many of whom settled from interstate.

Aside from the electoral popularity of the ALP, particularly its leader, Peter Beattie, the by-election probably indicates disquiet about issues such as the GST and concern by self-funded retirees about their financial futures.

The combined total of 28.72% of the primary vote for the coalition parties is almost exactly equal to the 28.48% combined total for the parties in the general election.

The by-election came at the end of a bad week for the coalition following the leaking of a confidential memo from the Liberal Party Federal President, Shane Stone, to the Prime Minister, John Howard. In the memo Stone reported on comments made by Liberal Party MPs the day after the Queensland State election.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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