This seat is supported by retail, industrial and farming sectors. The current member is the Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton, on a margin of 5.1%. The electorate is situated in Brisbane's north-west and also takes in expanding areas of the Moreton Bay Regional Council area.
Peter Dutton, the Controversial Immigration Minister and local member for Dickson, has benefitted from some instability inside the local camps of both the Greens and Labor parties.
The ALP pre-selected former Queensland Attorney-General Linda Lavarch after the withdrawal of 2013 candidate Michael Gilliver, due to the premature birth of his son.
The Greens finally gave the nod to Brisbane environmental lawyer Michael Berkman after the 2013 candidate Tyrone D’Lisle indicated he would not re-contest the seat.
Lavarch is standing for Labor in a seat held by her ex-husband, former federal Attorney-General Michael Lavarch, from 1993 until 1996. She withdrew from public office in 2006 after succumbing to depression.
“While he’s (Dutton) been focused on all the politicking down in Canberra, he’s neglected the local issues concerning residents,” Lavarch recently told The Courier-Mail. Labor has targetted cuts of $2.3 billion from the Metro North Hospital District and $153 million from schools in Dickson as a focus for Lavarch’s campaign.
Greens candidate Michael Berkman is an environmentalist and lawyer who represented community groups in legal action over the impact of the resources sector on the Great Barrier Reef. He ran for the state electorate of Ferny Grove at the 2015 state election and this is his first time running at a Federal level. He told UniPollWatch his main focus would be on marriage equality, saying legislation was long overdue and a proposed plebiscite on the issue is unnecessary and divisive.
Dickson is a “mortgage belt” seat with a predominantly middle class voter profile. Created in 1992, it encompasses several suburbs northwest of Brisbane, including Strathpine, Kallangur and Albany Creek. The seat is named after Sir James Dickson, a former Premier of Queensland and strong advocate of Federation. he was also Australia’s first federal defence minister. A suburb in Canberra also bears his name.
Dutton has held the once marginal seat since 2001. He defeated former Australian Democrats leader, Cheryl Kernot, who held it for Labor from 1998.
In 1993 a supplementary election was held in the seat due to the death of an Independent candidate shortly before the election, one of the few times this has happened in the country’s political history. A month after Paul Keating’s Labor government was elected, Michael Lavarch won the supplementary election and became Attorney-General, a position Keating had kept open for him.
Dickson remained marginal during that period due to the redistribution of boundaries with the rapid growth of suburban Brisbane. The suburban growth has largely stabilised in the area, reinforcing Dutton’s hold. However, he won by a mere 217 votes in one of the closest results in Australian history in the landslide ALP election victory in 2007. In July 2009 redistributions on the western edge of the seat, Dutton sought endorsement for the safe Liberal seat of McPherson. He was unsuccessful and has remained in Dickson since, enjoying a positive swing to the Liberal party of 1.59 per cent at the 2013 election, despite support for a Palmer United Party candidate who drew 9.79 per cent of the vote.
Bryan Cranston, politics lecturer with Swinburne Online, said the demise of Palmer United would bolster the Liberals, who were likely to receive the bulk of the more than 8000 votes that went to the troubled tycoon’s party at the last election.
He said Dutton had only had to go to preferences once, in 2004, and had largely maintained a comfortable majority vote. Given the dwindling of Palmer United support, Mr Cranston said, “I think it’s far more likely that Dutton will win a majority of the primary vote than he will lose his seat”.
The controversial nature of both the Abbott and Turnbull governments’ immigration policies has seen some focused campaigning in Dickson, with both the Greens and Labor eyeing Dutton who faces the challenge as a high profile candidate to maintain a local focus during the campaign. But this strategy may backfire, according to Cranston. “The electoral profile of Dickson is actually not unfavourable to the Turnbull (and Abbott) Government’s immigration policies, so the attacks may not have the desired outcome,” he says.
The Greens poll poorly in Dickson, below the state and national averages. At the 2013 election their candidate, Tyrone D’Lisle, won just 6.42 per cent of the vote with a swing of -4.49 per cent. Cranston says a general distaste for Greens politics in the electorate, coupled with the diminishing Palmer United vote, will work further in the Coalition’s favour on July 2.
Though Guardian Australia recently cited polls suggesting Dickson may be among six to 10 Queensland Coalition seats at risk, Mr Cranston says, “If Dutton were to lose his seat, then it would be indicative of a shocking night nationwide for the Turnbull Government”. Despite the perceived safety of the seat, Dutton’s team was erecting campaign placards as early as February. Dutton has a strong hold on Dickson but a strong Labor showing on July 2 could make the seat marginal once again.