Groom in southern Queensland is held by the Liberal National Party by a more than 20 per cent margin, but this might change tomorrow.
- A religious split in the LNP in Groom has seen one of the strongest challenges yet to the second safest Coalition seat
- A religious expert says “evangelical piety” developed on the Darling Downs since colonisation
- Still predicted to win, but YouGov polling recently found the LNP might have to go to preferences for the first time
The Labor party has been active for months, and two independents have also been running strong campaigns around integrity and climate change action.
Some even have disgruntled former LNP members working against their old party.
And in a place known for conservative, white farmers, there are four women and a non-binary candidate running.
Suzie Holt is one of independents and is the only Voices candidate running in Queensland – a community-led political movement more recently associated with inner city electorates.
Which brings us to the MP for Groom, Garth Hamilton, a former mining engineer and writer at the right-wing publication The Spectator.
Mr Hamilton was largely unknown before his surprise pre-selection after the retirement of the popular John McVeigh in 2018 due to personal reasons.
Despite having the backing of the mining lobby and the Prime Minister, popular female candidates were passed over by preselectors who reportedly nearly selected controversial Toowoomba doctor David van Gend, a man who has publicly supported gay-conversion therapy.
“David van Gend led from the outset,” an LNP member reportedly said at the time.
So instead of van Gend, they got Garth.
The tense pre-selection battle can be traced back to a fallout following the same-sex marriage plebiscite in 2017.
At the time, Groom MP John McVeigh voted yes, despite 50.8 per cent of the electorate voting no, and he was accused of breaking trust by prominent Christian LNP members.
‘A bastion of conservative religion’
South-east Queensland has long “been very conservative in terms of traditional religious values”, according to Dr John Harrison from the University of Queensland, who has written extensively about the intersection of religion and politics in Queensland.
He argues that because it was hard to get qualified priests to move beyond colonial centres like Brisbane, uneducated congregations began leading churches.
He said it saw the “phenomenon” of “evangelical piety” take hold in regional areas like the Darling Downs.
“You’ve got this almost resistance to ecclesiastical authority running through the denominations,” he said.
At a national level, Dr Harrison also argues the votes of these Pentecostals and evangelicals have become more important to the Coalition.
Will Groom stay safe for the LNP?
So how might the “evangelical piety” that evolved on the Darling Downs impact the vote on Saturday?
Recent YouGov polling for Groom has the LNP on 48 per cent.
If that happened it would be the worst primary vote since the seat was created, and the first time the LNP has ever had to go to preferences.
The poll also found Labor could be on track for its best result in 15 years.
Either way, the LNP will most likely still win, but maybe Groom will not be so safe.
Posted , updated