'Ryan houses the University of Queensland, the largest uni in the state' photo by Tim Swanston
Ryan lies in Brisbane's western suburbs on the north side of the Brisbane River, with primarily residential and acreage suburbs along with some commercial and retail activities. The seat houses the University of Queensland in St Lucia, as well as Brisbane's television transmitters atop Mt Coot-tha. Ryan is also home to some farming activity and a large amount of forest parkland. As a result, Ryan is a seat with great diversity, serving up issues related to small business, tertiary education and much more.
The electorate of Ryan encompasses much of Brisbane’s inner North West, housing a diverse population with equally diverse activity. Ryan follows the Brisbane River from Auchenflower to Karana Downs, extending north to include Mt Coot-tha, Enoggera and Ferny Grove.
The electorate is large in size by comparison to the neighbouring seats of Brisbane, Griffith, Moreton and Oxley, that have a combined total size of 384 square km compared to Ryan’s 441 square km. Ryan is generally described as a ‘leafy’ electorate, owing to the large amount of Brisbane Forest Park within its boundaries.
Created in 1949 the electorate is named after T.J. Ryan, the former Labor Premier of Queensland. The seat only had two members its first 50 years. For 25 years the seat was held by John Moore, a former minister to the Fraser and Howard governments.
In the past decade the seat became much more interesting with John Moore’s retirement from politics and an ensuing by-election in 2010. Growing resentment towards Moore coupled with rising frustrations with the Howard government led to the ALP winning the seat by a few hundred votes. The Liberal Party’s Michael Johnson claimed back the seat in the 2001 federal election shortly afterwards. Mr Johnson was famously expelled from the LNP in May of 2010 after accusations he solicited donations outside of the LNP’s usual fundraising channels.
The University of Queensland (UQ) can be found in St Lucia, one of the main suburbs of Ryan. St Lucia and its neighbouring suburbs of Toowong and Indooroopilly, house a very high proportion of university students compared to other suburbs across Queensland, making Ryan somewhat of a university student hub.
Census data from 2011 reflects Ryan’s favour with university students, with the seat having the nation’s second highest proportion of residents aged 15-24. The median age of people in St Lucia was 23 in the 2011 census with 49 per cent of the population enrolled in a university or tertiary institution.
Despite the high student population in Ryan, the electorate is one of the wealthiest and most economically prosperous in Australia. This was exemplified by the 2006 census, whereby Ryan was named in the top ten electoral divisions according to relative socio-economic advantage, economic resources, education and occupation.
The varied demographics of Ryan mean that the important issues are just as wide-ranging. Defence is a hot-ticket item with more than 6000 Australian Defence Force (ADF) members and reserves living in Ryan, stationed at the base at Enoggera.
Incumbent for Ryan, Jane Prentice was appointed the assistant minister for disability services in Turnbull’s 2016 cabinet reshuffle and has sufficiently highlighted much of the agenda for veterans and serving officers. This generally boosts the importance of defence spending and ensuring a safe and viable NDIS.
Ryan is also home to retail and commercial activity, with the Indooroopilly shopping centre and north-side Brisbane businesses, many located in Ashgrove and a portion of Paddington. Local business owners will be paying less tax under the LNP budget.
Students will be making a big fuss out of the LNP’s traditionally harsh attitude toward them in recent years. The 2016 budget proposes that there will be $2bn worth of savings from Higher Education Reform, making university more expensive and with less subsidisation, impacting on the pockets of students in Ryan. Much of the 2016 budget will be important for the large proportion of upper-middle income earners in Ryan benefiting from the LNP’s plan to increase the upper limit for the middle income tax bracket. Approximately 11,000 people in Ryan earn somewhere within the affected bracket, lowering their effective tax rate if the Coalition are to be elected.
The environment is also of note, with much of Ryan being forest park. The limited attention paid to the environment in the proposed LNP budget could become an issue for local environmentalists in the typically safe seat.
After a turbulent year so far for Turnbull facing slumping polls, retaining a safe seat like Ryan is critical.