Forde takes in areas south of Brisbane, including large parts of Logan City, with suburbs ranging from Beenleigh to Shailer Park to Upper Coomera. It is a growing area with many working-class families. The seat has been held since 2010 by LNP member Bert van Manen, who defeated former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie in 2013.
In 1945 Australia’s shortest-serving Prime Minister, Frank Forde – the man for whom the marginal south –east Queensland electorate of Forde is named – lasted just eight days in the job before making way for the higher profile Ben Chifley.
Just before the 2013 election, Labor candidate Des Hardman experienced something similar. After preselection and campaigning for a year, he was asked to stand aside to allow former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie to switch to the federal arena by contesting the seat.
It did not go well for Labor; Beattie was soundly beaten by Liberal Party incumbent Bert van Manen, who gained a 2.8 per cent swing.
Now, Hardman has his chance – he is running against van Manen in what looks set to be a close contest. Among the hot button topics: negative gearing, youth unemployment, transport and company tax.
Hardman, a radiographer at Logan Hospital, will need a 4.4 per cent swing to take the seat.
Forde, created in 1984, is a T-shaped electorate about halfway between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. It spans a 419 kilometre stretch of Logan City suburbs and Gold Coast semi-rural localities.
The Logan River flows through the area where much of the electorate lives.
The media spotlight was on Loganholme on May 10, when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and van Manen visited a local Mitre 10, touting the Government’s promised company tax cuts.
Van Manen invited a local golf course owner along, who complained about a local union operating like the “mafia”.
Two weeks earlier Queensland unions had staged a protest outside van Manen’s Beenleigh office to “make tax fair”.
Queensland Council of Unions General Secretary Ros McLennan says, “the government seems to think providing tax cuts to big corporations is magically going to stimulate the economy. This ‘trickle-down’ logic is a fantasy.”
Also a key issue is trickle-down traffic. Beenleigh is just 36km from the central Brisbane, where many locals work. But it can take up to two hours to drive their, says Kelly Daniels, a journalist for Logan City newspaper The Reporter.
The main problem is the stretch of M1 motorway connecting Logan to Brisbane, described as a “car park” by Labor leader Bill Shorten.
“It goes from four lanes to two lanes and then four again, creating different bottlenecks,” says Daniels.
There was no government pledge to upgrade the M1 in this year’s federal budget, but Labor has promised a $168 million widening of the highway’s most congested eight-kilometre stretch.
Daniels says that will take five years and she and her family are considering moving because of the transport. The train takes as long as driving and is more expensive, she says.
That would mean leaving an area which still offers affordable housing; in Forde you can get a spacious four-bedroom property for less than $400,000. The area has long attracted property investors and has become a focal point of the negative gearing debate.
Van Manen has come out strongly against any changes to negative gearing, saying Labor’s policies will hurt the nearly 8,000 Forde residents who use the tax break and drive local down house prices.
Tony Miller, selling principal for Ray White Logan Central, disagrees. He says, we are “not likely to see negative gearing changes have a dramatic adverse impact on property prices in Logan City”.
The area is very affordable with “many properties already being neutral to positively geared”.
If negative gearing changes hit prices in other parts of Queensland, it could raise values as more buyers focus on the Logan area, he says.
Also focusing on the area are three other Forde candidates, all of whom also stood in 2013.
Greens candidate Sally Spain, a Gold Coast teacher, will be hoping to improve her party’s vote. At the previous election the Greens’ vote collapsed from 12.2 per cent to just 4.2 per cent.
A likely factor in this was the candidacy of Palmer United’s Blair Brewster, nephew of party leader Clive Palmer, who secured 12.5 per cent of the vote in 2013.
Mr Brewster recently told The Courier Mail that there was “not a chance” he would recontest the seat for his uncle’s party in 2016, and no other Palmer United candidate has been announced.
The other declared candidates for Forde so far are Amanda Lynch, Family First, and Jonathan Jennings, Rise Up Australia.
Labor needs to take a net minimum of 19 seats to ensure that the Turnbull government becomes a one term government – and Forde is the 21st most marginal Coalition-held seat.
It hosted a prime ministerial visit in the earliest stages of the campaign and, as election day nears, political traffic down the M1 will most likely reach gridlock.