Fisher is a blend of bush and beach covering parts of the Sunshine Coast Regional Council. Photo by Paul Bafe, Flickr
Held the seat of Longman from 1996-2007.
Despite being known for its political drama and tourist attractions, Fairfax has a diverse range of industries from farms to services, such as a regional university, and the Sunshine Coast University Hospital due to open in 2017. The current member, Mal Brough, will not recontest the seat, following a controversial return to Parliament.
The division of Fisher is traditionally one of the most conservative in Australia and in recent times has also become one of the most controversial. Remarkably, the electorate has had just six representatives since its inclusion to the federal elections in 1949. Sir Charles Aldermann of The Country Party (now the National Party of Australia) held the seat for its first 23 years, having sat in Maranoa for two terms before Fisher was created. It was then picked up by Mr Aldermann’s son, Evan, for 12 years before it became a Liberal National Party safe seat. During that time Labor has held the seat for only two terms. It remains a safe seat for the LNP despite its past two candidates being embroiled in federal investigations.
Peter Slipper ruled the division for 23 years, but was dethroned after he was accused by former staffer James Ashby. Mr Slipper eventually resigned from his post as Speaker of the House of Representatives after a motion of no confidence. Having stepped down from the LNP, he recontested the seat as an Independent, securing 1.55% of the votes. His successor Mal Brough was elected despite a scathing attack on both the LNP and Mr Slipper just years prior when he quit his role as LNP president in spectacular fashion. Then in 2014 Mr Slipper accused Mr Brough of having a hand in his demise. The accusations were thrown out, but the Australian Federal Police opened an investigation on Mr Brough which led to the Special Minister of State stepping down from his portfolio and announcing he would not recontest the seat.
Controversy aside, the division of Fisher is a blend of bush and beach covering an area of 1170 sq km of the Sunshine Coast Regional Council. In the east is the jewel of Fisher, Mooloolaba, a coastal tourist hotspot; in the south are the rural areas of Beerburrum and Beerwah nestled into the famous Glass House Mountains; in the west are the hinterland communities of Maleny and Montville perched atop the Blackall Range that looks over much of the Sunshine Coast; and even further west is the cattle farming communities around Conondale that meet the Conondale National Park.
Fisher’s biggest industry is undoubtedly tourism. It attracts holidaymakers from all over Australia during school holidays and Brisbane residents often venture up for the weekend for the beaches and hinterland retreats. Other industries include small business and both dairy and beef cattle farming. The area’s combination of tourism and farming results in hordes of international tourists working in the region to attain visas. Many use the region as a base before travelling further north to other tourist hotspots such as Noosa, Rainbow Beach and 1770. This has led to the mistreatment of some workers and has become an issue for the electorate. Issues include racism, staff being underpaid and unfit conditions. One of the Coast’s biggest issues is how it can diversify its economy away from tourism with youth unemployment steadily sitting above the national average.
The Bruce Highway is a constantly contentious topic for residents of Fisher. It connects voters from the Glass House Mountains with the rest of the Sunshine Coast and many residents from areas such as Mooloolaba, Caloundra and Sippy Downs commute to Brisbane. One of the Sunshine Coast’s biggest tourist locations, Aussie World at the former Ettamogah Pub, sits on the Bruce in between the turn off to the Sunshine Motorway and the Caloundra/Landsborough exits. This area specifically has been a hotspot for dangerous road activity because of its high amounts of traffic. As a result Mr Brough has championed an initiative with surrounding electorates called Boost the Bruce. Mr Brough believes the entire stretch of highway needs upgrading to include an extra lane.
Fisher is the home of the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Sippy Downs campus which is by far the largest of the institution’s facilities. In December 2015 it recorded a 23% increase of applicants on the previous year’s record numbers. It is the only university in the electorate and has recently had major upgrades to car parking and food stalls to accommodate its growth.
Other developments include the $2 billion Sunshine Coast University Hospital in Kawana, which was set to open on April 17, but has been delayed by five months. Further south is Stockland Homes’ Caloundra South "Aura" project, which is expected to create 20,000 new lots during the next 11 years.
Fisher is also home to Sunshine Coast Stadium, which hosts Melbourne Storm-affiliated rugby league side the Sunshine Coast Falcons, who play in the Queensland league, the Intrust Super Cup. It is also home to the Sunshine Coast Fire, who turn out in the National Premier Leagues Queensland.