In 2016, following the retirement of long-time Labor Councillor, Helen Abrahams, Jonathan Sri became the first Greens candidate to win in the Brisbane City Council elections.
LNP candidate Sean Jacobs won the first preferences, with 35.9% of the vote, Cr Sri followed with 31.7% of the vote, with Labor’s Nicole Lessio on 30.0%. The Greens gained the seat with Labor preferences, but there was a 3.3% swing to the LNP.
In a referendum held on the same day, voters supported a move to four-year fixed terms for Council elections.
There have been changes to the Gabba Ward boundaries since the 2016 election and some suggest the election on the 28th of March may be less favourable for the LNP.
The redrawn boundaries mean The Gabba has lost East Brisbane and Buranda to the Coorparoo Ward. The Tally Room, estimates this may result in an increased margin in favour of the Greens against the LNP from 5.0% to 6.8%, others suggest the redistribution may favour Labor.
On current boundaries, the ward includes Kangaroo Point, South Brisbane, West End, Highgate Hill, Dutton Park and parts of Woolloongabba.
Gabba Candidates 2020
Incumbent Cr Jonathan Sri will again present himself for election in The Gabba against two first time candidates, urban development academic, Rachel Gallagher standing for Labor, and local West End Police Officer, and Nathaniel Jones for the LNP.
Key Issues – What the experts say
Development, Green Space and Transport
Urban and social planner at the University of Queensland (UQ), Laurel Johnson told The Westender, that people are looking close to home for this election.
“My observations are that Brisbane people are looking at localised issues like the quality and amount of public spaces, quality of design and neighbourhood impacts of infill development (particularly the seminal bulk and height of buildings and on-street versus off-street car parking issues)”.
Additionally, Ms Johnson said, people are looking at:
“High rise versus other forms of densification like granny flats and three-storey unit blocks, frequency and quality (including cost) of Brisbane bus services, safety in cycling and walking and climate change action.”
“The climate crisis is too hard to picture globally, local actions for local solutions are wanted,” Ms Johnson, told the Westender.
Dr Dorina Pojani, West End resident, and lecturer at UQ in urban planning, agrees that Climate Change mitigation and adaptation are important issues for The Gabba as we experience more extreme variations in the weather.
“We need to think about how to make The Gabba Ward more resilient to hotter summers, and possibility to more flooding,”
“We need to make sure our drainage systems work properly, we need to make sure our streets are shady, and we need to start thinking about how we get people in the Gabba Ward out of their cars and using other modes of transport,” Dr Pojani said.
Transport and Mobility
When talking about sustainable planning solutions, Dr Pojani said it is not helpful to focus on single solutions such as a green bridge.
“A bridge can be built or not built,” she said, “but it is not as if the bridge itself is going to resolve all the transport problems in The Gabba”.
“We need more holistic thinking, a system of well connected, integrated cycle-lanes, properly separated from car lanes,” Dr Pojani said.
As our suburbs heat up, shade will be needed not just for pedestrians, but also for cyclists, and she thinks that we may even need a system of electric bikes as peddling becomes increasingly difficult in the heat, Dr Pojini said.
Dr Pojani said we that we may also need to rethink our bus services to support shorter trips and more localised travel.
Dr Pojani said that housing affordability is another major issue in The Gabba Ward.
“The closer you get to the city centre, the worse it gets,” she said, “so West End is already worse than other parts of The Gabba.”
Dr Pojani said that building more units is important to bring prices down, but it is not enough. Other responses she said include, better protections for tenants, and the provision of more social housing for those who are unable to enter the housing market.
When thinking about these issues, Dr Pojani thinks we should not make too much of the “old West End” and “new West End” divide.
Most of us, she said, were once new to West End.
“As a community, we need to be a little bit more open to change and to new waves of in-migration … in the end, people want to come to West End, and we can see that as a sign of success rather than, being worried about it”.
Key Issues – What the candidates say
The three currently declared candidates have provided The Westender with brief profiles and responses to questions about what they are hearing from residents.
When it comes to the key issues, there was quite of lot of consistency from the candidates.
Labor Candidate, Rachel Gallagher, said that, population growth, associated infrastructure challenges and climate change are the biggest issues facing our city. Her priorities include, greenspace, more trees and to improve the amenity of our streets, public transport, cycleways and pedestrian network.
Nathaniel Jones for the LNP, talks about investment in roads and bridges and active travel, such as cycling and walking, infrastructure to support population growth, a clean, green and sustainable city through improving local parks and green spaces and encouraging people to live sustainably. He also comments on the need to support small business.
Current Greens Councillor, Jonathan Sri, says his conversations with locals focus on over-development, inadequate public green space, the shortage of community facilities, homelessness, and housing affordability and security. He also talks about public transport, pedestrian safety and bike safety, high commercial rents, and action on climate change.
As we have seen in Federal and State politics, there can often be agreement on the issues, but fierce disagreement about how these issues should be addressed.
During the campaign then, it may be best to focus, not on the what, but on the how.
Engaging with Candidates
There will be plenty of opportunities to hear more from all candidates and to ask them questions of your own.
Candidates are busy door-knocking, launching their campaigns, and holding community meet and greet events.
A Candidates forum and Q&A is planned for the afternoon of Saturday the 7th of March – more details to come.
Candidates profiles can be found here:
Rachel Gallagher – Labor – HERE
Nathaniel Jones – LNP – HERE
Jonathan Sri – Greens – HERE
Nominations for candidates for election as mayor and councillors will be open from the publication of the Notice of Election on 22 February, until midday on Tuesday, 3 March 2020. Details of candidates will be published on the ECQ’s website after this date.
If new candidates are announced the Westender will endeavour to provide updates.
Election day is on Saturday, 28 March 2020, and polling booths will be open from 8.00am to 6.00pm.