31 January 2015
Queenslanders go to the polls today, for a state election likely to produce an interesting outcome. The Liberal National Party Government of Campbell Newman won office at the last election, in 2012, by an almighty landslide, and arguably should’ve been expected to govern for at least two or three terms. But after a controversial first term, highlighted by massive public sector job cuts and abrasive style of Newman as Premier, he now looks like leading a one-term government to election defeat, and losing his own seat in the process. However, my prediction is for a hung parliament and a new person as Premier.
Going into the 2012 election, the Labor Party had been in office for over a decade, and by then it had both the signs of age and a stench of corruption about it. Actually, the signs of age were showing at the previous election, in 2009, but voters simply weren’t warming to the Opposition. So after the 2009 election, with the Opposition unconvinced of the ability of its existing MPs to win over voters, it turned to Newman, who was then Lord Mayor of Brisbane and immensely popular. As such, there came a scheme whereby Newman would lead the Opposition and attempt to win the 2012 election from outside Parliament, while he was running for a marginal Labor seat, which turned out to be Ashgrove in inner Brisbane.
This was perhaps unprecedented. It also left a big question – who would be Premier if the Opposition won the election but Newman failed to win Ashgrove? Indeed Labor raised this question many times after Newman became Opposition Leader.
In the end, it didn’t matter in 2012. Not only did Newman win Ashgrove, but he led the LNP to a whopping election victory. Out of eighty-nine seats in Parliament, the LNP ultimately won seventy-eight. The size of this victory was beyond all comprehension. Labor was reduced to a “netball team” of seven seats. Two Independents also won seats, while two other seats went to a political party set up by Federal MP Bob Katter.
Although many people believe that the Newman Government hasn’t governed too badly, the style of Newman in particular has really put voters off, and there have been controversies. As a result, since the 2012 election the Government has shed five seats. One MP defected to Katter’s mob, two MPs are now Independents, and the resignations of two other MPs have resulted in by-elections which Labor won.
Such has been the ability of the Newman and the LNP to upset voters, in only their first term in office, that opinion polls have been indicating a swing of 11-12 per cent against them in this election. Such a swing would perhaps be enough to defeat the LNP today. Of course, it hasn’t helped the LNP, created from a merging of the Liberals and Nationals in Queensland in 2008, to have hanging over it the stench of intense voter dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the Liberal-National Coalition at national level. Indeed the unpopularity of Abbott was partially blamed for the defeat of the Coalition at a state election in Victoria last year. But even without Abbott, Newman and the LNP were going to struggle to win.
The only saving grace for the LNP has been that voters haven’t really warmed to Labor, now led by Annastacia Palaszczuk. Leading a team of seven, subsequently increased to nine after two by-elections, Palaszczuk looks uninspiring and shouldn’t really be in a position of coming within striking distance of victory, let alone winning the election. But she looks like she’ll be competitive. However, I suspect that she’ll fall short of a majority in the end.
Anyway, with Parliament currently reading 73-9-4-3 to the LNP over Labor and the Independents and Katter’s mob, after tonight I’m tipping a hung parliament. I tip Labor to win thirty-three seats from the LNP and two from Independents, for a total of forty-four. My tips are for Labor to gain twenty-four LNP seats in Brisbane and its immediate surrounds, three seats in Queensland’s far north, three seats around Townsville, and a seat each in the Toowoomba and Rockhampton and Mackay areas, plus Independent-held Gladstone and Yeerongpilly. Apart from those thirty-three losses to Labor, I also tip the LNP to lose a seat to Katter’s mob and a seat to another Independent, but it’ll gain another seat from Katter’s mob and Independent-held Gaven, to finish on forty. On this prediction, neither Labor nor the LNP will win enough seats to govern alone. And Newman will lose Ashgrove, which he holds by a margin of only 5.7 per cent from Labor.
The election in Queensland will leave a few noses out of joint and how.