A new Galaxy Poll has appeared in today’s Courier-Mail; let’s look at the figures, and then analyse what they might mean.
The latest poll in advance of the pending state election in Queensland shows primary vote numbers of 52% for the LNP, 28% for Labor, 10% for the Greens, and 10% for “Others.” After preferences, this translates into a 63-37 lead to the conservative party.
With Campbell Newman well ahead on the preferred Premier measure (55 to 38), well-endorsed in his own approval ratings (55% approve, 28% disapprove) and Premier Anna Bligh on the nose (40% approve, 56% disapprove, and a tiny 4% undecided) it is clear that barring a miracle, the ALP’s hold on Queensland is likely to be broken at the election due by March 2012.
Figures from the Galaxy poll equate to a swing of 14.2% after preferences from the previous state election held in 2009; the article in the Courier-Mail accompanying the poll states that if replicated at an election, this would leave Labor with 10 seats in Queensland’s 89-member unicameral Parliament.
A quick check of the Queensland electoral pendulum suggests a swing of that magnitude, if uniform, would actually leave the ALP with nine seats (the tenth — Logan, the electorate of former Premier Wayne Goss — is held by 14.1%).
Even so, these figures suggest nothing less than a wipeout.
For comparison purposes, the last Newspoll conducted in Queensland for The Australian — three months ago — showed the LNP ahead by 57% to 43%; even that would only see 20 Labor members returned if replicated at an election.
I suspect there will be a Newspoll from Queensland in the next couple of weeks, given their state surveys there are quarterly.
I was originally a staunch opponent of the Liberal and National parties merging in Queensland; in many ways I still am, and view the pending return to government of the conservative parties there as largely the consequence of a turn in the electoral tide.
(Readers may like to see what I had to say at the time here http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/opinion/mergers-all-smoke-and-mirrors/story-e6frerdf-1111116272850 ).
The first observation I would make is that were the LNP not led by a Brisbane Liberal (or at least a Liberal from south-east Queensland) then it’s unlikely that party would be contemplating a return to government.
Since the final election win of Joh Bjelke-Petersen in 1986, the only conservative leader to win an election in Queensland was Rob Borbidge in 1995 (or 1996, after the Mundingburra by-election if you like).
Borbidge — a small businessman from the Gold Coast, and representing the uber-urban, uber-urbane electorate of Surfers Paradise — despite his familial National Party heritage, could just as easily have been a Liberal as a National.
The days of rigged boundaries in Queensland are gone, and with them went the days of cow cockies winning elections with a quarter of the primary vote.
I believe the LNP will win in Queensland — by a landslide — and that Campbell Newman will be Premier of Queensland by Easter next year.
Yet I maintain this will be in spite of the merger, not because of it.
Moving along, what I also wanted to talk about in relation to the Galaxy poll today is the Queensland state election result of 1974.
The parallels are stunning.
The state election held in Queensland in December 1974 occurred at a time when the then-most unpopular federal government in Australia’s history — Gough Whitlam’s Labor administration — was in power in Canberra.
The coming state election in Queensland will be held against the backdrop of the most unpopular federal government since Federation — Julia Gillard’s Labor administration.
In 1974, old Joh was determined that the state election that year was to be a referendum on the Whitlam government.
In 2012, the Queensland state election will be viewed across the country as a referendum on the Gillard government.
In 1974, Labor was in Opposition in Queensland; at the state election it lost 22 of its 33 seats (in an 82-member assembly at the time).
In 2012, Labor is in government, but of its 51 current seats, it stands to lose 40.
In 1974 — before the rise en masse of minor parties and independents — Labor won 11 of 82 seats with 36% of the primary vote (as opposed to 30 seats with 31.1% for the Liberals, and 39 seats with 28.9% for the Nationals).
And in 2012, Labor looks to be going in at this stage with 28%; the LNP 52%. Redistributing out the Greens (and remembering preference allocation in Queensland is optional) my best guesstimate of an underlying primary vote is LNP 56%, ALP 34%, “Others” on 10% — or overall, not much different to 1974.
Labor has attempted to make much of the fact Campbell Newman is contesting as leader from outside Parliament, and that the incumbent in his selected seat of Ashgrove — ex-Environment minister Kate Jones — has been an effective local member since replacing the long-serving Jim Fouras.
But Newman has been one of the most popular Lord Mayors Brisbane has seen, and certainly the most popular since Sallyanne Atkinson in the 1980s and early 90s; in a way, Brisbane generally is already his electorate.
And as capable as Jones may be, the historical reality is that she sits in a traditional Liberal electorate lost to that party in the disaster of 1983, recovered briefly in 1986, and lost again in the Goss landslide in 1989.
Fouras was run close in what should have been a conservative landslide in 1995, had the electoral boundaries been updated prior to that election; but he held on against the tide — and here we are.
The state seat of Ashgrove is overlapped by the safe Liberal federal electorate of Ryan, and largely covers the ultra-safe Liberal Brisbane City Council ward of The Gap.
There are various reasons as to why Ashgrove fell to Labor in 1983 in the first place, and why it has largely remained there.
As with other traditional Liberal electorates like Mount Ommaney, Mount Coot-tha, Mansfield and so forth, good candidate selection combined with a favourable electoral climate means 2012 is an excellent opportunity for Liberals to recover many of these seats — and with them, government.
My belief is that Labor will not be reduced to 10 seats, but will nonetheless be thoroughly enough smashed as to virtually ensure three terms in Opposition.
Yet if next year’s election is as dire as 1974, I can’t wait. Not just on account of my membership of the Liberal Party and personal conservative inclinations, but because as a keen watcher of politics, I’ve never seen an electoral mauling like that close-up. I was 2 at the time of the 1974 election, and thus too young to possibly recall it.
But as an ex-Queenslander and former member of the Queensland Division of the Liberal Party prior to coming to Melbourne in 1998, I retain a very keen interest in the political goings-on of the Sunshine State.
Rest assured that come election night, if not fortunate enough to attend any of the local functions on the ground in Brisbane, I will be in front of the television here in Melbourne, watching every update in the count, and constructing my own analysis of the emerging trends and overall outcome.
We will revisit Queensland politics again in the run-up to next year’s election there.