Why the seat of Flynn could change hands

IT MAY be the fifth most marginal seat in Queensland on paper, but both sides of politics privately agree that the seat of Flynn is one of the most vulnerable to change on May 18.

The central Queensland seat is divided between the Labor stronghold of Gladstone and the traditional Liberal National Party-supporting coal fields and farmlands of the state's central highlands.

It has been held by the LNP's Ken O'Dowd for nine years, following just one term as a Labor electorate from when it was established in 2007.

But Mr O'Dowd could struggle this time against the younger Labor candidate, Zac Beers, who is contesting the seat for the second time.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Labor candidate for Flynn Zac Beers at Gladstone’s port. Picture: Kym Smith
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Labor candidate for Flynn Zac Beers at Gladstone’s port. Picture: Kym Smith

Mr Beers, an Australian Workers' Union organiser, has effectively been campaigning since he lost to the incumbent in 2016, giving him name recognition and standing in the community beyond that of most new candidates.

He has focused on rural areas of the electorate where Labor has less support, targeting towns including Emerald, Biloela and Blackwater.

Mr Beers has been campaigning on job security, arguing Labor will limit the use of labour hire and temporary foreign workers on 457 visas.

Labor has prepared a billboard claiming that Mr O'Dowd will not change 457 visas and is "for multinationals … not you".

Flynn MP Ken O’Down during Question Time at Parliament House. Picture: Lukas Coch/AAP
Flynn MP Ken O’Down during Question Time at Parliament House. Picture: Lukas Coch/AAP

The party has also focused on health, with a pledge to expand remote facilities and take over Gladstone's private Mater Hospital.

LNP sources argue that Labor's workplace rights campaign is not cutting through with voters as much as at the last election because of the current strength of the local jobs markets in mining and manufacturing.

The Coalition has countered with warnings that Labor's climate change policy could damage the viability of the Boyne Island smelter.

Support for the coal mining industry could help the LNP in the seat but Mr Beers has made a point of arguing in favour of projects like the Adani mine - in contrast to many others in his party - in a bid to shield himself from attack.

A senior Liberal National Party source said Mr Beers has proven to be a formidable opponent and conceded Flynn would be "difficult" for the party to hold and more at risk than neighbouring marginal seats.