With tourism and primary production as the main industries operating in Wright, the backpacker tax could be a key issue for voters. Photo by: Kelly Hunter, Flickr
The rural electorate of Wright encompasses the Lockyer Valley, Scenic Rim, and a large section of the Gold Coast Hinterland. As the main industries in the area are primary production and tourism, farming and agricultural interests are supported by the electorate. Scott Buchholz has safely held Wright since the seat was first contested at the 2010 election.
The rural electorate has been represented by Liberal National Party (LNP) member Scott Buchholz since the seat was first contested at the 2010 federal election. The electorate is considered to be a LNP safe seat with Mr Buchholz winning comfortably in the 2010 and 2013 federal elections with over a 10 per cent margin. Mr Buchholz was a political staffer prior to his candidacy serving as Chief of Staff to then Nationals Senator, now Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.
Wright is one of Australia’s newest electorates after it was proclaimed in the lead up to the 2010 federal election. The electorate was named to honour the Australian poet, environmentalist and Aboriginal land rights activist Judith Wright. The name was originally chosen to represent the central Queensland seat of Flynn in 2007, however was abandoned to avoid association with disgraced Labor MP Keith Wright who had previously represented the area.
Wright covers approximately 7,589 sq km and comprises of a range of communities within southern Queensland. The electorate spans from Gatton and Logan Village to the New South Wales border. It encompasses sections of the Lockyer Valley, Scenic Rim, and Gold Coast Hinterlands and the outer suburban regions of Ipswich and Logan. Major city centres within Wright are Beaudesert, Boonah, Gatton, Hatton, Jimboomba, and Tamborine.
The main industries operating in Wright are tourism and primary production. These industries are particularly central to the Scenic Rim and Lockyer Valley as they are agricultural centres often visited by eco-tourists. The backpacker tax, a proposal to remove incentives for volunteers in the working holiday visa program, has been incredibly unpopular with farmers from these regions. The current government said the tax was addressing concerns that foreign workers were being exploited, however due to the backlash the government has postponed the tax for sixth months. The tax was set to be implemented on July 1, a day before the election.
A new freight and heavy industry is expected to become another main industry in Wright due to the construction of a new freight terminal in Bromelton. Construction on the $30 million freight terminal, located six kilometres west of Beaudesert, commenced in May this year and is set to finish in mid-January 2017. It has been estimated that the construction of the terminal will create over 150 jobs and when completed the project will lead to 1,000 new jobs in the area.
Youth unemployment is a key issue within the Wright electorate. In April this year, the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that youth unemployment in Logan and Beaudesert were among the highest in Queensland at 16.4 per cent. This was 2.1 per cent above the Queensland average. Current member Mr Buchholz told The Queensland Timesthat he is confident that the construction of the new freight terminal will help combat youth unemployment in the area.
Wright had Australia’s second highest proportion of children aged 5-14 at the 2011 Census. Given that these children would now be aged 9-18 coupled with the high youth unemployment rate, higher education could be a dominant issue for Wright in the 2016 campaign. The electorate is home to a University of Queensland campus, however it is the only university located within the vast rural electorate. Higher education students make up 14.1 per cent of the Wright population, 7.5 per cent lower than the national average.
There are four current contenders for the seat of Wright down from eight in the 2013 election. Candidates include: Mr Buchholz, current incumbent and member of the LNP; Allistair Smith, Australian Labor Party (ALP) candidate; Pietro Agnoletto, the Australian Greens (GRNS) candidate; and Rod Smith, One Nation candidate.