The Surfers Paradise skyline. Photo courtesy of Petra Bensted, republished under a Creative Commons licence.
Moncrieff takes in the Gold Coast's beachside suburbs and central hinterland and its industry is dominated by tourism and small business. One of Australia's safest conservative seats, it has been held by the Liberals (and the Liberal National Party) since its 1984 creation. Key election issues include transport, tourism, housing, education and family services.
Welcome to Queensland’s Gold Mine. It’s 2am on the streets of Surfers Paradise and the nightclubs are pumping. Thousands of party-goers have flocked to the glitter strip to experience a taste of the nightlife. Everywhere, people can be seen stumbling in and out of clubs. Others, with matted hair and smudged mascara, are scoffing down slices of giant pizza and kebabs as they try to catch an Uber.
The Gold Coast is known as Australia’s party capital and the Moncrieff electorate - which covers 92 square kilometres of the city and is home to the city’s tourism and business hubs of Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach, plus almost 150,000 residents - is right at its heart. It’s a party locals are keen to keep rolling, with small business and support for tourism and entertainment industries among some of the key issues for voters.
But it’s an electorate whose concerns are unlikely to feature prominently in national debate, in large part because Moncrieff sits comfortably as the ninth safest Coalition seat within Australia, and Labor has yet to even declare a candidate for the electorate.
It would take an 18 per cent swing to win the seat, which runs along the coast from Miami to Southport, and west to Nerang, Gilston and Worongary. Its neighbouring electorates, McPherson in the south-west and Fadden in the north, are also safe Liberal seats, won by margins of 14.4 per cent and 13 per cent, respectively.
Current sitting member 42-year-old Steven Ciobo has already served five terms in parliament. Seen as a Turnbull supporter within the party, Mr Ciobo was also appointed the Minister for Trade and Investment in early February.
Bond University politics and government lecturer Terry Gygar said the Gold Coast had three of the safest seats in Australia.
“All of the Gold Coast is a typical middle-class, upper middle-class area [so] there won’t be too many surprises,” Mr Gygar said.
However, he said that this did not mean there were not concerns for specific industries within the electorate.
As thousands of tourists splash in the salty blue water and lounge along the beach with their dripping ice-creams, their spending supports the many who work in tourism and hospitality, whose livelihood is affected by even a slight downtown in these, largely seasonal, industries.
According to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, cafes, restaurants, and takeaway food services are the highest industry of employment in the electorate, with 4,281 employees (6.2 per cent of the electorate’s workforce), followed by accommodation, with 2,994 employees (4.3 per cent of the workforce). The median personal income ($562 a week) and household income ($1063 a week) for the electorate are slightly below the state and national medians.
“[Locals in Moncrieff] are concerned about the economy and jobs,” Mr Gygar said.
The Gold Coast economy has grown by 37 per cent over the past decade from $16.8 billion to $23.0 billion, however this is primarily underpinned by population growth.
In 2012, there were a total of 60,391 small businesses in the city, which decreased to 57,562 by the end of the 2015 financial year.
Surfers Paradise toy shop owner Sun Tai said she believed many businesses on the Gold Coast were currently struggling.
“I think everybody is quiet because I have friends who have shops and restaurants in Surfers and they said this period is quiet,” she said.
The state Labor Government’s proposed "lockout laws" further threaten Gold Coast industries, particularly entertainment and hospitality businesses.
Vice President of the Gold Coast Chamber of Commerce and Founding Director of Planit Consulting Boyd Sargeant said the legislation might have a flow-on affect on other businesses.
“It will affect those operators directly affected by the change and it will also affect the associated takeaway food type vendors who benefit from people coming and going,” Mr Sargeant said.
While the Gold Coast’s current productivity is well below the state average, the Gold Coast City Council aims to lift it to the current state level, which would grow the economy by 24 per cent or $5.5 billion over 10 years.
The 2018 Commonwealth Games is a key opportunity for the region.
It is hoped the global spotlight and influx of tourism will give confidence to businesses and provide the city with opportunities across a variety of sectors including tourism, hospitality, health, education and sport.
In the meantime, on the so-called Glitter Strip, the party pushes on as well as it can. By day, you can hit the waves and laze on the golden sand. By night, the city transforms into a boozy world filled with strobe lights and beats that leave ears ringing for days. And behind the scenes, locals and government focus on creating a thriving economy supported by the right infrastructure to grow healthy businesses so that the lights never turn on and the never music stops.