One of the seats I have visited a lot of during this campaign has been the Brisbane based seat of Moreton, which has been held by the Liberal’s Gary Hardgrave since 1996. He currently holds it by a margin of less than 3 per cent. My estimation of him went down dramatically when he weighed in supporting Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews public vilification of refugees who have come here from Africa, saying his electorate was “exhausted by the influx of African refugees“. This was a particularly damaging comment, as his electorate has the highest percentage of African born people in Queensland. It also has the highest percentage of Muslims of any seat in Queensland, and they of course are also quite sensitive about politicians who are prepared to target minorities, particularly in the light of Kevin Andrews’ political misuse of the Migration Act in the Dr Haneef debacle. Gary Hardgrave didn’t speak out in support of the Muslim community then either. The Democrats candidate in this seat, Emad Soliman, is a Muslim and a migrant originally from Egypt, who is doing a PhD at Griffith University in the heart of the electorate.
It is always hard to be completely certain about these things, but I’ve been getting a very consistent message from a range of sources that the Liberals have all but given up on this seat. Certainly if Labor hopes to win government, this a seat they simply have to win. If Gary Hardgrave is exhausted by having so many refugees in his electorate, perhaps he needs a break from his current job. If there does turn out to be a particularly strong swing away from the Liberals in this seat at the weekend, hopefully it will be seen as an indication that targeting minority groups in the community is not a political winner.