I was waiting until the seats were declared, but recent events delayed this a couple of weeks longer; the historic Queensland state election of 2012 is now concluded, and I wanted to provide some thoughts and comment.
Readers will note that I make much mention of the 2012 election pendulum; you can either open a second browser and click between the two for ease of reference, or click between the two articles using the links at the right-hand side of this article.
The obvious place to begin is to offer Campbell Newman hearty congratulations on his election as Premier of Queensland, and to his LNP colleagues across the state; together they have achieved a stunning electoral result, and it is to be hoped that they serve the state of Queensland faithfully, honestly, and well, and that they are able to effect the change in that state which is so long overdue, and which they have promised so effusively to deliver.
In fact, measured solely on results in terms of the numbers of seats won and lost, Newman’s LNP government has scored the most overwhelming election win in Australian political history; the 78 of the 89 seats won by the LNP eclipses Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s haul of 69 from 82 in 1974, and any other landslide win recorded anywhere else in the country, state or federal, be it by the conservatives or by the ALP, does not come close by comparison.
And — incredibly — the prospect of a 79th LNP seat is very real. Following the decision of former Premier Anna Bligh to quit Parliament, her seat of South Brisbane — now held by Labor on a margin of just 5.6% — is the subject of a by-election next weekend.
Remembering South Brisbane fell to the Liberal Party in the 1974 rout, and that Anna Bligh reneged on a pledge to serve a full term as its representative if re-elected last month, it is very possible (I would say, highly likely) that it will fall to the LNP on Saturday, giving that party a total of nearly 90% of the seats in the Queensland state parliament.
On a two-party preferred basis, the overall swing to the LNP appears to have been some 14.9% from the 2009 result; swings in individual electorates ranged from a 2.2% swing away from the LNP in Burnett to a swing to the LNP of 21.5% in the seat of Coomera.
87 of the 89 electorates swung to the LNP; in the other two, no swing occurred in a pre-existing safe LNP electorate (Condamine) and a small swing to an Independent, after preferences, was recorded in Burnett.
The great subtext of the 2012 election story in Queensland has got to be “the storming of the citadel”; since 1989, the ALP has maintained an iron grip on Brisbane at the state level, with Liberal representation in the capital fluctuating during that period between three seats (2001) and eight seats (1995).
Depending on which way you cut it, and whose judgement you accept as to where the line of Brisbane state seats ends, we’re talking about either 34 or 38 electorates; in other words, the Queensland capital has been either the bedrock upon which ALP majorities were built or the beachhead from which to advance again (in 1998) for nearly quarter of a century.
Rather, the ALP now holds just Woodridge and Inala in Brisbane; heartland electorates that party has never lost, although in both it was taken to preferences this time around after swings of between 15% and 20% in those seats.
As mentioned, Labor’s third (and final) Brisbane seat — South Brisbane — looks likely to be lost to the ALP in Saturday’s by-election in any case.
Some of the seats the LNP picked up in Brisbane ought never have been lost to the Liberal Party, whether in 1983, 1989 or later; natural urban conservative electorates such as Mount Ommaney, Mansfield, Ashgrove, Greenslopes, Mount Coot-tha and Redcliffe have all gone home to roost.
Yet as is the way of it, the LNP has picked up virtually all of Labor’s Brisbane heartland in addition to the traditional swing seats and its own traditional base, and so now it is the ALP with the pitiful presence in Brisbane, and with nothing north of the River.
Readers will note from the pendulum I published early this month a breakdown by electorate, who the winning candidate was in 2012, what their two-party margin is and what the swing to the LNP was, and I want to comment on a few individual seats.
Please note members marked + are new members in seats held by the same party e.g. John McVeigh of the LNP succeeding Mike Horan of the LNP in Toowoomba South; members marked * are newly elected in 2012 and have won their seat from another party based on the 2009 result.
- Surfers Paradise — with a margin of just over 29% after preferences, John-Paul Langbroek in this seat recorded more primary votes than any other candidate in any seat in Queensland.
- Moggill (23.9%) remains the safest LNP seat in Brisbane.
- Mount Ommaney — once the seat of Sherwood, and held by Liberal stalwarts such as Angus Innes and John Herbert, this classic Liberal electorate returns to conservative hands for the first time in 15 years.
- Ipswich, not held by conservatives since the days of Llew Edwards (1972-83) and seldom prior to that has been picked up by the LNP for the first time in 30 years.
There’s nothing particularly special about these, although all of them were of interest to me in the run-up to the election. Ipswich in particular, where I felt a colossal swing was likely 12 months ago and which, indeed, has come to pass.
The situation for the ALP is bleak, an analysis made no brighter by looking region-by-region at the election results.
Labor has as good as been evicted from Brisbane; it has also been evicted completely from the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, Toowoomba, Townsville, and from anything in the entire state not located in a strictly coastal region.
Ominously, it has also been run very close to complete eviction from its heartland cities of Cairns and Ipswich and their surrounds; and also lost seats around Rockhampton, another traditional Labor fortress.
In fact, all the Queensland ALP is left with is a disparate handful of marginal seats strewn up the eastern seaboard; no concentration of its votes, no obvious base from which to rebuild, and no guarantee of holding onto everything it has left if the LNP proves adept at the task of governance in Queensland.
Looking forward, we can see that the uniform swing now required for the LNP to lose its majority at a future election is 10.3%, with Mundingburra being the 45th LNP seat on the pendulum; to win a majority in its own right, the Labor Party would need an overall swing of 10.7%.
This does raise the point of the fairness of Queensland’s electoral boundaries; in 2012, a party winning 64% of the statewide two-party vote is susceptible to loss of government on a swing nearly four percentage points below that.
The point is underscored by the experience of 1995, in which the then-Coalition recorded 53.7% of the two-party vote in Queensland only to fall two seats short of a majority.
Much has been made over many years of the principles of “one vote, one value” in Queensland, and rightly so; it is clear that this is one area in which the new government must invest rigorous review and, if necessary, reform.
I’m not suggesting the boundaries are rigged; but it’s glaringly obvious that anomalies such as these should at least be investigated.
And I would make the point that as “independent” as boundary reviews in Queensland may be in the post-Fitzgerald era, every electoral redistribution in Queensland since the one in 1985 has been overseen by a Labor government.
That, of itself, is as much reason to scrutinise afresh Queensland’s electoral boundaries as was 30-odd years of fiddling by the National Party; and in case anyone reading has a short memory, it was actually the Labor Party who invented the gerrymander back in 1949, rigging electorates to suit its own ends until falling from power in 1957.
I think Cameron Dick was right not to contest Anna Bligh’s electorate; the risk of being beaten was too high, and the election result too fresh and raw. If Dick is to lead Queensland Labor, his opportunity will come, most likely by re-entry to Parliament in 2015 if he can win his seat back then.
I think Kate Jones is now so badly damaged — and has been so poorly used and treated by her party — that, politically, she is completely and utterly finished.
By running that ridiculous “Keep Kate” campaign the ALP has made it impossible, if any personal and/or political integrity is to be maintained, for Kate Jones to ever credibly stand for any other elective office other than as member for Ashgrove.
Of course, the day may come when they try, but as many plaudits as Jones won for her feisty rearguard action in Ashgrove, she would surrender threefold if put up, say, as a Labor candidate for the federal electorate of Brisbane.
In any case, my sense is that provided Campbell Newman is seen to perform well as Premier, and if his electorate receives the level of service to which it is entitled, he will likely double his margin in Ashgrove in 2015.
In closing, where will all of this lead?
For the LNP, it has a blank canvass in government. Newman appears to have made a very strong start; it is true he has already ruffled some feathers, but I would contend that the closure of a literature competition is nothing compared to the scale of the job the LNP faces — and the voters know it.
It’s perhaps unfortunate that the LNP lost a minister — David Gibson in Police — so quickly. Yet Queenslanders should be encouraged that the action taken was decisive, instant, and indisputably made in the interests of maintaining the high standards of ministerial conduct Newman had campaigned on.
In any case, it is politically untenable to have your Police minister driving around on a suspended Driver’s Licence irrespective of the circumstances. Enough said.
And of Labor?
Annastacia Palaszczuk will need to be watched; she is relatively unknown in coming to the Labor leadership, and how she performs is very much an exercise in guesswork at this early stage.
Clearly, Labor will not form a government after the 2015 election.
And so, if Palaszczuk is able to hold what’s left of her party together, fight a clean and honest fight, and approach 2015 with a positive agenda, she might aim to win 12-15 seats back from the LNP at the next election.
I think 15 seats would be at the upper end of expectations (reliant, of course, as things are on what happens in the meantime), but were Labor to emerge in three years with 21-22 seats, I think that would represent a successful term in opposition, and would provide a solid base from which to make a more concerted attempt three years later again.
In the meantime — it’s been an exciting few months in Queensland politics; as ever — even from this distance — I will continue to watch events in the Sunshine State like a hawk, and when there are issues in Queensland that need to be discussed, we will continue to do so right here at The Red And The Blue.
All feedback welcome, especially from Queenslanders and followers of the game; please keep your comments on-subject and to the point.