Cowardly: Qld ALP To Wait For One Nation To “Implode”

IN A DESCENT into the depths of gutlessness, Queensland Labor is to delay a state election widely thought to have been just weeks away in the hope Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party implodes; the decision — weighed against Hanson’s declaration that Labor is her “enemy” — defies the fact Labor won in Western Australia on Saturday in a canter, and flies in the face of the abjectly pathetic campaign performance turned in by Ms Hanson herself.

My grandfather used to have a saying: it was better to keep quiet and let people think you were an idiot than to speak up and prove that you were, and this idiom is one that certainly applies to Pauline Hanson and the eponymous One Nation outfit that may not yet have collapsed but which, based on the frightful performance turned in by Hanson herself on the stump in Western Australia, is looking decidedly shaky at best.

I am going to keep my comments brief this afternoon — there may well be a federal Newspoll out later tonight, and if there is, I will repost again with analysis of that — but an interesting snapshot of the mentality of ALP types in the wake of Saturday’s thumping win in Western Australia has emerged, and it speaks volumes of the misreading of the political climate that is being engaged in with the distractions of red herrings like One Nation and its preference deal with the WA Liberals being given more oxygen by the media than they deserve or warrant.

I have been reading an article posted in the Fairfax press this afternoon by James Massola, whose observations on political behaviour are usually pretty good; the core thrust of his piece is that Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is set to defer the looming state election that many suspected was a matter of weeks away — or even a chance to be called tomorrow — on the basis that Labor would prefer to give Hanson and One Nation time to “implode” before they head off to the polls.

“The thinking process is, we give them enough time to do our job for us (sic),” Massola’s article quotes an ALP source as saying. “We let them go and let them implode and let the public see them for what they are. Waiting until early next year does that.”

Never mind the fact the ALP — despite a high-profile One Nation presence — has just scored its biggest state election win in Western Australian political history.

Never mind the fact that Hanson — upon whom naive journalists have lavished the unjustified praise in recent weeks that she has “matured” — saw fit (among other things) to posture as an anti-vaccination campaigner, to urge GST monies to be diverted from Queensland to WA (despite the obvious need to front Queensland voters at some point within the next 12 months) and to make the stunning confession on the stump that she “is from the east” and that whilst she consequently might not always “get it right” in Western Australia, her defence to accusations she didn’t understand the West at all essentially boiled down to no more than an empty assertion that her heart was in the right place.

And never mind the fact that the WA Liberals, in making the quantum leap gaffe of a preference deal that not only placed One Nation ahead of Labor and the Greens (as it should have) but above their National Party governing partners as well, have guaranteed themselves ridicule and condemnation on a national scale that will follow the LNP into the Queensland election, and probably still plague the Liberals in Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia next year too, even if common sense prevents a repeat of what can only be described as a fuck-up.

Hanson — early in this latest incarnation of her on-again, off-again One Nation juggernaut, which she launched claiming to be “fed up” — made the declaration that the ALP was “her enemy,” presumably on account of the fact it was a Labor state government that jailed her in Queensland on convictions for electoral fraud that were eventually quashed.

Yet traditionally, it has been the Liberal Party and its satellites that have repeatedly been the worst affected by One Nation and the effects of its preference strategies: Coalition state governments killed off in Queensland in 1998 and Western Australia in 2001; a Country Liberal administration destroyed in the NT in 2001; and Coalition oppositions all but obliterated in Queensland in 2001 and New South Wales in 1999 stand testament to One Nation’s disproportionate drawing power of votes from the Coalition’s base and/or preference strategies explicitly calibrated to wreak as much damage as possible upon the Liberals, the Nationals, and in today’s parlance in Queensland, the LNP.

To say that Queensland Labor is using One Nation as its pretext for delaying a state election in view of all this is bizarre: a judgement less based in spin than reality suggests that despite the smashing victory enjoyed by its western brethren, Queensland Labor is simply terrified.

The simple truth is that by moving to abolish optional preferential voting and restore the compulsion to allocate preferences that was dispensed with in Queensland 25 years ago — and to do so before this latest burst of One Nation activity had really cranked up to full throttle — Queensland Labor thought it would steal a march on the LNP by harvesting Communist Greens preferences, and gaining an unfair advantage over the LNP led by Tim Nicholls in so doing.

Instead, this brazen electoral rort has backfired: just as there is a stream of preferences Labor might harvest from the Greens, so too now are there preferences en masse for the LNP to target from One Nation that it can, and should, target (so long as it is less hamfisted in its approach than the WA Liberals were).

The fact is that by forcing One Nation voters to allocate preferences — especially when it is remembered that such votes are disproportionately drawn off the Liberal pile anyway — the probability Queensland Labor can reap the ill-gotten fruits of its electoral rorting and win a majority becomes significantly lessened; far from waiting for One Nation to “implode,” the likelier explanation is that Labor knows Queenslanders really aren’t impressed, after two lacklustre and do-nothing years: “not being Campbell Newman” might have been a strategy of sorts for winning an election against Campbell Newman himself, but it is not a template for government, and Queenslanders have well and truly woken up to it.

The strategy of Palaszczuk and the Queensland ALP is nothing more than old-fashioned gutlessness.

Hanson conducted herself appallingly in the WA campaign; her party scored less than half the votes it was expected to attract; WA Labor won its biggest ever state election victory despite her presence; and when the Liberal Party isn’t confronting the political mortality of Malcolm Turnbull this week, it has the headache of the WA Division’s stupid and destructive deal with One Nation to unpick, unpack, and discard.

Why is Palaszczuk delaying a state election in Queensland?

Readers can play “connect the dots” for themselves, but among the plausible or proffered reasons, the likelihood of the Palaszczuk government being re-elected is not one of them.

 

Get Your Hand Off It: Queensland Redistribution An Embarrassment

HAD Annastacia Palaszczuk wished to signal Queensland’s resumption of its status as a laughing stock, no better way could be found than the idiotic redivision of state boundaries; not content with rigging the electoral system, Palaszczuk has now seen fit to leave a lasting, and embarrassing, mark. Her electoral commissioners should, to put it crudely, get their hands off it — and give place names to electorates, not slogans or jingoistic rubbish.

It is the end of a long week and I’m tired, and there are weightier matters than this that we will canvass over the weekend: that much I promise.

But in a break between work and a meeting I had last night, a quick scan of the Murdoch mastheads over a hurried dinner revealed a nugget of excrement from the Sunshine State that made me shake my head in disbelief.

And worst of all, it is apparently serious.

It is always a bad sign when supposedly independent electoral commissions trumpet the pending release of a redistribution of boundaries in whatever jurisdiction they are located in; for days there has been a steady stream of (what I gather was intended as) suspense-building pronouncements about a release today by the Queensland Redistribution Commission of a redraw of that state’s electorates.

The only problem? Some bastard leaked it to the Fairfax press, and in turn, it’s been published everywhere else in the past 24 hours, including in the Courier Mail, from which you can read some coverage here and here.

And as the Courier Mail bluntly noted, the Commissioners haven’t just rejigged the boundaries — they’ve smashed and reshaped the electoral map.

The addition of four new electorates to what had since 1985 been an 89-seat unicameral Parliament is, on its own, no particular cause for outrage or ridicule; provided these — called for by the LNP as a way of gently scaling down vast rural electorates that have grown in size due to population drift toward the coast and cities — adhered to the principle of “one vote, one value” enshrined after the Fitzgerald Inquiry, with a small weighting for a handful of the largest rural electorates, nobody would have cause to quibble.

But as the bill to establish them came before Parliament, Labor rammed through an amendment to discard the optional preferential voting system (again, a direct legacy of the Fitzgerald probity reforms) and instead restore compulsory preferential voting — for no other reason than to guarantee itself a much higher flow of Communist Greens preferences, and thus substantially rig the entire system in its own favour.

Happily, the growing likelihood that the emergence of One Nation will, thanks to that change, also guarantee the Queensland LNP a much higher flow of preferences too will probably negate that ill-gotten advantage altogether: this is the problem with cynical rorting of political processes — one day, it will rebound on you altogether if you are stupid enough to try it on.

Even so — and undaunted — word is going around that Palaszczuk is about to call a snap election to avoid having to fight on the new boundaries; and so, idiosyncratically, Queenslanders are likely to head to the polls on the boundaries as they stand today — but not on the existing optional preferential voting system, which Labor has trashed in the brazen interests of self-advantage without consultation or debate.

Confused? You’d have every right to be. It isn’t a good look, and with One Nation thrown into the mix for good measure, Queensland politics is about to better resemble a lottery than a serious exercise in ascertaining who is most fit to govern the state.

At the very minimum, Palaszczuk and her cohorts are merrily turning Queensland back into the national laughing stock it was lampooned as for decades during the Bjelke-Petersen years — albeit without the tangible, commensurate legacy of state development and economic growth that accompanied the former National Party strongman’s tenure during what was a rotten regime to boot.

It’s some achievement, to be sure, and a dubious one indeed.

Yet it’s often the little things that really make a bad change stink, and the thing that leapt out at me — as I perused the proposed new boundaries over a mouthful of salmon last night — was the unfathomably idiotic and in some cases downright ridiculous names the Queensland Redistribution Commission has seen fit to allocate to some of the heavily redrawn state electorates.

A new electorate of “Bonney” on the Gold Coast. Where in hell is that? Glass House being renamed “Tibrogargan” makes a crumb of sense, given the mountain there, but the change smells dangerously of some smartarse thinking a trendy and puerile idea ought to be enacted. Calling what was Mount Isa “Traegar” is laughable. An electorate centred on Taringa, St Lucia and Mount Coot-tha, called “Maigar,” is ridiculous.

Yes, Coopers Camp Road runs obliquely through what was Ashgrove, and Cooper himself is probably a minor local historical figure of mild note, but to rename the electorate after him?

Brisbane Central — which does exactly what it says on the packet — is going to be far less obvious to the outsider and the local alike once it becomes “McConnell.”

And in the silly politician-speak phrase that begins “The people of…,” what subterranean point is there in having an electorate called “Hill” south of Cairns?

Some of these electorate names appear to have an indirect link to roads and topographical features they contain; some seem to be a tokenistic sop to Aboriginal culture, as has become all too fashionable these days; and some are just impermeable in terms of any rational person being likely to be able to ascertain just what the hell the Commissioners were thinking.

The practice of naming electorates after people of note has never sat all that well with me; it is hokey and jingoistic. “The people of Burt,” an electorate created in WA at the last federal redistribution was, I thought, the ultimate piece of electoral crassness, but I think “the people of Hill” have them covered now, or at least soon will.

Even if it takes another electoral cycle for “Hill” to exist at all, if only as a dumb name for a state seat.

Now, Queensland is set to have a state littered with such monuments to the stupidity of people too busy trying to look important and far less deserving of their salaries than their job titles would otherwise suggest.

Bancroft. Oodgeroo. Jordan. Ninderry. Miller. Toohey. I’m pretty sure the last two aren’t describing beer brands, but who in hell would know?

Seriously, these electorates — and the massive changes they inflict on the political landscape in Queensland — will have profound ramifications for all parties to coming electoral contests, with the radically redrawn boundaries likely to unleash a colossal degree of brawling and internal warfare across the political divide, as factions and vested interests set out to seize and protect as much turf as they can, and to protect MPs at high risk of defeat in seats some retain little connection to on their reformed configurations.

But taken in aggregate with the Palaszczuk’s rigging of the electoral system, the opacity of whether the next election will be fought on the old boundaries or the new, and the cringeworthy (and frankly imbecilic) names some of these seats have been given, it isn’t unfair to say that Palaszczuk has directly and indirectly turned Queensland into a joke — and not the kind run out of illicit brothels and casinos in Fortitude Valley under the benign gaze of corrupt Police during the Bjelke-Petersen era, who in any case were far shrewder and more astute than anyone sitting in the ALP party room today, even if they did deploy those attributes toward such improper ends.

Irrespective of who wins the next election in Queensland — whenever that is, and whichever boundaries it is conducted on — the new boundaries themselves have been created through a process that is entirely proper and in accordance with the legislative framework set out in Tony Fitzgerald’s recommendations: that much we do not dispute.

They will not be redrawn again until three elections, or eight years (whichever comes first) have been held or passed: this, too, is entirely appropriate.

But the minute Palaszczuk is thrown out of office and forcibly ejected from the Premier’s suite — hopefully, the day her cynical snap election is held in the near future — the LNP should rename all of the “interesting” electorates the process has created, and resume the system that has always applied in Queensland, whereby electorate names actually describe the places they cover and in terms normal people recognise and understand.

And in the meantime — not to put too fine a point on it — the Queensland Redistribution Commission should get its collective hand off it.

For a state that pompously declares itself to be the “smart” state, this is just dumb, dumb, dumb. And a bit too smart by half.

Needless Chaos: CFMEU Thugs Do Not Run This Country

CHAOS caused yesterday by CFMEU goons to “support” 55 sacked Carlton and United Breweries workers offers a timely reminder that wanton anarchy in the union movement must be smashed, and that union thugs do not run this country — whatever they think. A limited show of support was warranted, but gratuitous chaos unleashed in Melbourne and in Brisbane smacks of no more than an unjustifiable “lesson” of who unions believe is in charge.

As readers will have surmised, I am absolutely flat strap right now; we may be able to partially redress some of the issues we have missed over the weekend, but for now at least I wanted to make some very brief — and blunt — remarks about what the CFMEU got up to yesterday.

Supposedly “in solidarity” with 55 workers at CUB in Melbourne — who, according to reports, have been sacked and offered re-employment on contracts, and on lesser conditions than they enjoyed as employees — the unions, led unashamedly by the CFMEU, staged demonstrations in Melbourne and in Brisbane, causing gridlock in the Melbourne CBD yesterday as they marched on Parliament House in Spring Street and in Brisbane (1,750 kilometres away, for goodness sake).

Making declarations such as “I love a fucking revolution” and “We just love a fucking blue,” CFMEU officials led ragtag mobs through the commercial centres of both cities, ensuring each was thrown into chaos that lasted (in the case of Melbourne at least) for hours, and — aside from the fact CUB operates relatively small brewing operations south of Brisbane — with no justifiable reason for spreading their protest more than a thousand miles to the north.

I am obviously not party to the minutiae of the industrial dispute at the heart of yesterday’s demonstrations, but the unions’ version of it is enough to render judgement upon; if full-time employees have been fired, and offered re-employment of contractors, it is a matter for the employer to sort out — with the union directly involved, should the affected employees opt for a union to represent them.

But this in no way justifies two capital cities being thrown into disarray for hours over what is, on any reasonable assessment, a minor industrial dispute.

It is significant that these protests occurred in Victoria and Queensland, the states run by ALP governments so beholden to violent and militant unions for their very existence as to have no practical choice but to acquiesce to whatever those unions decree.

And on that basis, it is certainly interesting that no such tomfoolery was engaged in in Sydney.

So-called Industrial Relations ministers — former union cat’s paws implanted into state Parliaments — do not provide “leadership” by publicly siding with the unions over the company, but rather simply form additional prongs of a tawdry and one-sided multilateral attack aimed at demonising employers irrespective of any substantive case that might exist to justify their own side of the dispute.

It is significant, therefore, that ALP figures in Queensland — where none of the affected workers are even based — were gushing in their praise for the wildcat industrial action the unions took in their state.

And “wildcat” is the correct term: whilst Police were apparently notified in Queensland of the unions’ intentions, the actions that threw inner Brisbane into chaos were, by the unions’ own admission, an impromptu exercise.

Trades Hall filth will attempt to excuse yesterday’s actions as a “national issue,” and will claim the ramifications are important for every wage and salary earner in the country.

Yet Labor’s own industrial laws — pointedly, crafted at gunpoint and created from a union wish list — offer ample redress, at little or no cost, to employees who have been unfairly or unlawfully treated.

In the final analysis, yesterday’s actions can only be interpreted as a flexing of union muscle, led by the most insidiously criminal and wantonly violent outfit this side of the waterfront — the notorious CFMEU, which repeated tsunamis of successful court actions and a corresponding flood of multimillion dollar penalties seems unable to curb.

The plight of the CUB workers aside, the only acceptable response from government — any government — is that the CFMEU does not run this country, and secondary pickets and wildcat industrial actions ought to be met with the full force of the law.

It would serve the Turnbull government well, and its industrial relations ministers especially, to take up this argument with gusto this morning.

Regrettably, like so many of the key issues it faces, however, the Turnbull crowd will likely botch its handling of the matter or ignore it altogether.

If, that is, it manages to avoid a counterstrike with some new self-inflicted debacle of its own.

And meanwhile, the “grip” unions like the CFMEU think they are perpetuating over Australia will simply strengthen — with no moral, ethical or legal justification whatsoever.

As Margaret Thatcher — who knew a thing or two about managing unions — would say, it’s a funny old world.

 

Queensland: Nicholls’ Opportunity To Overhaul LNP And Win

IN WINNING leadership of Queensland’s LNP, Tim Nicholls has been given an opportunity to professionalise the conservatives’ parliamentary wing ahead of a state election expected within months; the opportunity comes with risks, and the new team must be on its game: in its messaging, its policies, in the rapid acquisition of real tactical and strategic firepower, and in much sharper responses to the activities of its Labor opponent.

At some point very soon, our focus will move away from Queensland and back onto federal politics, which for the next eight weeks is set, to coin a phrase, to be the only game in town; even so, we have always paid close attention to the political goings-on of the states when appropriate to do so, and in 2016 Queensland has certainly warranted the scrutiny it has attracted.

But first things first: heartiest, and sincerest, congratulations must be offered to new LNP leader Tim Nicholls and his deputy, Deb Frecklington; I have consistently supported Nicholls in this column since it commenced five years ago, and in the years prior to that privately among LNP figures I speak with, and I am delighted he has been given the opportunity to fulfil an unquestioned political talent and achieve his potential to be Premier of Queensland. He deserves the chance his colleagues have entrusted him with, and we wish him the very best of luck.

It is not without reason that in the past few days, Queensland Labor’s dirt unit — and the cabal of spivs and hacks that flood social media with its vapid, disingenuous propaganda — has gone into meltdown, pumping out messages attacking Nicholls bitterly over his time as Treasurer in the Newman government; Nicholls is by far the likeliest senior LNP figure to inflict an election defeat on the Palaszczuk government this year, and whilst it will never admit as much, the Labor Party knows it.

As I pointed out to a couple of them over the weekend on Twitter — and at the risk of being indelicate — they would be trying to kick shit into the eyes of whoever won Friday’s ballot, in any way possible. Yet the vitriol behind the immediate Labor response is real, and with Palaszczuk’s economic record a serious weakness for the ALP to defend, you have to wonder whether the attacks on Nicholls’ stewardship of state finances are a case of just a little too much protestation to be believed.

A particularly encouraging sign that Nicholls will not suffer fools — and is unlikely to easily be hoodwinked — was his declaration that the Katter’s Australian Party would be treated as a political opponent (which is what it is) rather than a “partner” to be coddled and indulged; the Katter crowd is predicated upon hiving off ex-National Party electorates with promises of archaic protectionist policies that are internationally discredited, and which would cause more damage than good if ever revisited: and its most recent act in Queensland was to sell out both the conservative side of politics and the state’s post-Fitzgerald era of clean government to permit Labor to rig the state’s electoral system, and could hardly be described as the act of a friendly and/or responsible entity.

More on that later.

But the reshuffle announced by Nicholls this morning has a lot to like, and whilst some critics have questioned whether the changes were simply a case of rewarding support at the leadership ballot, there is a strong case to be made that the new leader has forged the very best team possible from the personnel on hand.

Several long-term LNP stalwarts who either deliver nothing and/or are, judged objectively, past their use-by dates — Jann Stuckey, Mark McArdle, Fiona Simpson, Ray Stevens — have been dumped to the backbench or left there, and it is hoped these individuals, almost all holding very safe conservative electorates, might be prevailed upon to leave Parliament whenever the next state election is held to inject some fresh talent into LNP ranks after the Newman debacle wiped out so many promising faces almost 18 months ago.

The appointment of Indooroopilly MP Scott Emerson as shadow Treasurer is promising; since its resumption in office the ALP has achieved little in Queensland aside from restarting its debt and spending binge, with the attendant haemorrhaging of red ink from the state budget; a more forensic approach might be just what is required, and as a former journalist, it is to be hoped Emerson will add great potency to the LNP’s message in this critical portfolio.

Nicholls has taken a risk in restoring controversial former minister Ros Bates to the frontbench; on the basis that everyone deserves a second chance, Bates — certainly a talent — now has the opportunity to prove she can deliver without the whiff of scandal that followed her during the Newman era. If it pays off, Nicholls will have reaped a significant dividend. If it doesn’t, he will have no choice but to dump her: stonewalling and digging in won’t be an option.

It will be interesting to watch how Tracy Davis fares in Education against Labor’s Kate Jones; Jones is no world beater, and it perhaps says something that every item of collateral from the confected “local” campaign to “Keep Kate” in 2012 featured authorisations by the ALP’s secretariat in central Brisbane. Jones is a Labor insider, a spiv, an apparatchik — a hack — and not a serious ministerial quantity. Some, including within the LNP’s own ranks, have made similar criticisms of Davis in the past. But vanquished leadership aspirant Tim Mander made few inroads against Jones in the portfolio, and it will be fascinating to see if Davis now fares any better.

Moving former leader John-Paul Langbroek into Health to square off against Labor’s leader-in-waiting, Cameron Dick*, is an astute move; Langbroek is an effective performer with a pre-parliamentary career as a dentist, and should be on comfortable ground. This appointment elicited the first outburst of hubris from the government, with Dick declaring that the LNP’s previous Health spokesmen “hadn’t caused him any trouble” and that he “(didn’t) think Langbroek would either.”

Never mind the fact one of those spokesmen — beaten leader Lawrence Springborg — had to fix the mess Dick left behind as Health minister under Newman.

There are some new faces; the promotion of Moggill MP Christian Rowan, in particular, is encouraging; Rowan was rightly touted even prior to his entry to Parliament as a possible future leader, and it is to Nicholls’ credit that this first frontbench appointment will start to get the necessary experience into Rowan to determine whether such lofty predictions might come to pass. Relative newcomer Jon Krause, installed on the frontbench for the first time in the Tourism portfolio, is also worth watching in the longer run.

Harnessing the unpopular Jeff Seeney as the LNP’s leader of opposition business puts an attack dog into a role that requires one, and should add steel to the party’s performance in Parliament, whilst moving departed leader Springborg to the chairmanship of the parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee is the perfect place for such an experienced and wholly decent MP to continue to render valuable service away from the strictures of the leadership prism.

Depending on preference, more coverage of the reshuffle can be accessed from the respective Fairfax and Murdoch portals for those so inclined.

This reshuffle positions the LNP well for a likely state election now expected in the aftermath of the imminent federal election, perhaps as soon as September; it makes a sound fist of the task of matching the right people to appropriate responsibilities, and it refreshes the opposition into an outfit with a distinctly hungry look: something it never really had during the 14 months in which Springborg most recently led it.

Significantly, the team bears Nicholls’ unmistakable stamp: a professional outfit ready to get on with the job, and not exactly wanting — like its new leader — for impatience; it will have to be on its game, for Labor in Queensland has feasted on conservative amateurism and incompetence for decades. If there is to be any chance of breaking that cycle now, before it evolves into another decade of defeat and misery for the LNP, the best opportunity to do so is the one likely to be forthcoming in just a few short months’ time.

And this brings me back to the undemocratic outrage of Labor’s restoration of compulsory preferential voting in a subterranean Machiavellian coup that completely blindsided the LNP and arguably triggered Springborg’s downfall.

It is paramount the LNP make it crystal clear that the first bill it puts through the Parliament, if it returns to government this year, will be the restoration of optional preferential voting: this measure was a recommendation from the post-Fitzgerald process of cleaning up decades of corruption and cronyism in Queensland after the Bjelke-Petersen years — not a Labor fix, despite the fact the measure suited ALP interests at the time — and as such, no party in Queensland should have the right to change it without either a referendum or unless the change has been laid out before voters ahead of an election.

What Labor did last month in reverting to compulsory preferences was a blatant and cynical exercise in rigging the electoral system to try to entrench itself in power of the worst possible kind; no consultation, no mandate, and no pretext other than bald self-interest and a cavalier “fuck you” to the system it had itself implemented 25 years ago in the name of transparency. Everyone in Queensland is entitled to be outraged and the LNP is entitled to milk political gain from the grubby exercise. For a party that has spent decades accusing its opponents of corruption and criminal misconduct without a shred of proof, the vote-rigging Labor has engaged in robs it of every scrap of the principle it has correspondingly sought to parade itself as the defender of.

What the LNP cannot afford to do is make itself a one-trick pony; this issue, properly handled, is an ideal instrument with which to channel dissatisfaction with the Palaszczuk government. But the real arguments for voting it from office must come from what it has done (or, as the case may be, not done) with its time in office: a moribund economy, a state budget in a mess, shortfalls across the spectrum of key portfolios, and the promises Labor made, not expecting to have to deliver on them, and subsequently broke.

If Springborg showed the party anything, it is that obsessive tangents can be as politically destructive as the autocratic, inarticulate model of governance practised so adroitly by Campbell Newman, but which completely alienated the electorate.

Making the arguments for a change of government will demand the LNP show it has finally learned to communicate — and do so — effectively with the voting public. No matter how well the seating arrangements have been determined, the issue of mass communication has bedevilled conservative parties across the country for a decade, and arguably poses the LNP’s greatest challenge. Time will tell whether Nicholls is able to resolve it.

 

*Whenever Cameron Dick’s name comes up, it involuntarily recalls a joke I share with some of my old Queensland LNP buddies; all of us are waiting for the day Labor makes him its leader, for all of us are looking forward to the headline in the Courier-Mail proclaiming that “Labor Gives Dick Head Job.” On account of Nicholls’ ascension to the LNP leadership, that day may have drawn a little closer in the past few days.

Bjelke-Echo: Qld Labor’s One-Fingered Salute To Democracy

IN THE CONTEXT of post-Fitzgerald Queensland politics — emphasising clean and transparent government — Queensland Labor has committed a brazen act of electoral self-interest that would make Russ Hinze and Joh Bjelke-Petersen blush; the abolition of optional preferential voting at 15 minutes’ notice is a shameful act that merits retribution from voters, but the poorly led LNP has made itself implicit in an outrageously indecent event.

When I first heard on Thursday (appropriately enough, whilst wandering around in Brisbane) that Queensland had abolished optional preferential voting (OPV), I thought there must have been some kind of belated April Fools’ prank played on news services, but regrettably, the news was no joke.

OPV — introduced by Labor in 1991 by the Goss Labor government as part of sweeping Fitzgerald reforms to clean up the rotten state of governance in Queensland after the Bjelke-Petersen era — has long since become a headache for the ALP, as the effects of its left flank being hived off by the Communist Party Greens was compounded by the merger of the Liberal and National Parties north of the Tweed in 2008 as a response to the impact of OPV on traditional three-cornered contests in seats featuring both Liberal and National candidates.

Even so, Labor has prospered in Queensland over the quarter of a century since OPV was introduced; so much so that it has held office for all but five years since 1989, and so much so that Queensland’s only rival for the mantle of Labor’s best mainland state* is Victoria: and in Victoria, the Liberal Party has governed over the same period for more than twice as long as its northern counterparts.

At every turn, Queensland Labor has paraded itself as an unimpeachable beacon of post-Fitzgerald integrity and virtue, so much so that it has had little reticence or compunction in falsely labelling its opponents as corrupt on the most spurious grounds ever since, with an endless stream of referrals of conservative identities to the state’s anti-corruption watchdog that have invariably been found baseless, and even to the point of smearing former Premier Campbell Newman as “little Bjelke.”

Bjelke-Petersen — and the stench of corruption that forever stains his legacy — indeed lives on, it seems, through an act of wanton electoral fixing that would make even Bjelke-henchmen Russ Hinze and Don “Shady” Lane blush, with the wildcat abolition of OPV on Thursday afternoon in an unforgiveable attempt to entrench the ALP in office in the Sunshine State.

First things first: readers can peruse some additional coverage from the Courier-Mail here and here; that paper’s characterisation of this distasteful episode as a “dark chapter” in Queensland politics is absolutely correct, and anyone remotely interested in standards in public life is entitled to be outraged.

The indecently subterranean manner in which this disgrace has been foisted on unsuspecting Queenslanders and on an unsuspecting Parliament is one of the more insidious aspects of the sordid affair; confronted by the knowledge that the LNP-sponsored bill to enlarge the Legislative Assembly from 89 to 93 seats had secured crossbench support, the Palaszczuk government did a secret deal of its own with the crossbench to pass an amendment to restore compulsory preferential voting (CPV).

(For those in the southern states who don’t know, the LNP wanted the parliament enlarged slightly: not to rig it — by the party’s own admission, it knew the extra seats would appear in and around Brisbane — but in the hope the “ripple effect” on boundaries pushed outwards would result in slightly smaller rural electorates, geographically, for its MPs to need to travel across to cover. “One vote, one-value” was never at risk in this scenario).

There was no warning, no debate, and no public discussion whatsoever; there has been no groundswell of support in Queensland for the restoration of CPV either. Quite the contrary, for the “exhaust” rate at Queensland elections now averages 50%, which is solid evidence that Queensland voters increasingly do not wish to allocate a preference to candidates other than the one they opt to vote for.

This, in turn, destroys the argument used by Labor hacks that CPV is the “most democratic” option: yet forcing people to express preferences for candidates they have no interest in voting for is not at all democratic. Clearly, those who wish to do so under OPV can, but the rest aptly exercise their democratic right by choosing not to. In my own case, I vote Liberal. The rest of the candidates on the ballot paper can go to hell. There are millions of voters in this country who take a similar approach to the voting process. Forcing them is simply not on in my view.

But the introduction of OPV was the direct result of the reform process overseen by Tony Fitzgerald QC at the end of the 1980s, and OPV was an explicit recommendation of the Electoral and Administrative Review Committee (EARC) charged with the abolition of the zonal electoral system (the gerrymander) and its replacement with an open, transparent system that was most democratic and which sought to most accurately produce results that reflected the “one vote, one value” principle.

The Queensland ALP has now thoroughly trashed that principle. CPV, had it applied at last year’s state election, would have netted Labor nine extra seats and a solid majority. It’s not difficult to ascertain the motivation for this change.

Even so, any measure of public policy that becomes known just 15 minutes before it’s dropped like a bombshell in Parliament — and the bill presented as a fait accompli — is inherently malodorous, to say the least.

But Labor doesn’t seem to care, and indeed is jubilant about the rort it has just implemented; Transport minister Stirling Hinchcliffe — the so-called architect of the plot — dismissed the Fitzgerald reforms as “something that happened 25 years ago,” to which I can only respond, as someone who grew up in Brisbane in the 1970s and 1980s and witnessed the worst excesses of Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s junta first hand during my formative years, is that those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.

In deference to the late Lane, perhaps Hinchcliffe should, in future, simply be referred to as “Shady.” After all, if the shoe fits…

It is not the place of the electoral system to do the bidding of any particular party (although an earthy view compels me to note that the evolution of Australia’s voting systems has mostly been driven solely by self-interest); Labor — with the three-cornered contests once fought out by the Liberals and Nationals a thing of the past, now finds itself bleeding on account of the quarter of its vote that has been annexed by the Greens over the past 20 years and the increasingly unreliable flows of preferences that have derived from them under OPV.

The Liberals and Nationals found a solution that involved adaptation on their own part rather than rorting the system: amalgamation, whether you’re a fan of it or not.

Labor’s solution? Rig the electoral system.

It comes as no surprise that critics and sometime allies alike have condemned the Palaszczuk government over the past 48 hours; even Fitzgerald — who over the years has done nothing to actively dispel public perceptions of passive support for the ALP — has indicated he is disgusted, stating that he “has found refuge in a zone of indifference.”

But probity and decency have never meant much to the ALP in Queensland; the party that rigged the electoral boundaries in 1947 in the first place only became indignant about it once it discovered someone else — Bjelke-Petersen and his Country Party — was even better at “fixing” things than Labor was. The fact Labor was the beneficiary of the fallout at the 1989 election had more to do with being in the right place at the right time than with any particular standards of principle or decency.

It is to be hoped Queensland voters respond with a violent lurch against the ALP when next it goes to the polls; to say Labor is now thoroughly unfit to govern Queensland is an understatement, but unless it is hit by a massive backlash — and quickly — it will be entrenched in office for the foreseeable future, stitched up with a rock-solid flow of Greens preferences in marginal seats, and shutting the door on the LNP for another generation.

This is, of course, precisely the desired outcome.

In closing, I ask readers (and especially those floating around the LNP, telling themselves how brilliant and politically astute they are) to spare a thought for embattled LNP leader Lawrence Springborg.

Once it became obvious what Labor’s game was, neither Springborg nor his minions made any attempt to withdraw their bill; hurried “negotiations” on the sidelines with the pivotal Katter MPs, yes, but no attempt to kill the whole thing off.

As a consequence, Springborg got his four extra seats in the state Parliament: but his bill, violated and exploited to permanently advantage the ALP, was allowed to sail through passage unmolested. Yes, any attempt to withdraw it might well have failed, but Springborg didn’t even try to stop it.

It speaks to the truly shocking lack of political judgement that characterises his leadership of the LNP, and underscores in graphic detail the reasons this column has called for him to be replaced (or preferably, to never have been restored to his post at all after the defeat of the Newman government).

Labor has engineered a ruthless and ethically bankrupt coup in an area that should have been off-limits in a state with such a protracted history of institutionalised corruption, and should have been beneath it to even contemplate had its hot air and bullshit about standards been based on conviction rather than expediency.

Springborg, for his part, has the four extra seats he wanted added to the chamber as part of the upcoming state redistribution: but he is also the sponsor, and now the proud owner, of a tarnished set of electoral laws that will put future elections beyond his party’s reach.

That’s a hell of a price to pay for enlarging the size of Parliament.

My final thought is that with such a fatally flawed and chronically defective leader, the LNP simply doesn’t have the mettle to fight the fight over this issue at a state election: the only way to reverse the travesty sprung on Queensland by Labor is to so turn public opinion against the government that it loses — and loses so badly the ALP will never attempt this sort of stunt again.

Springborg can’t convince voters in Brisbane to vote against Labor at the best of times, as has been shown at all three elections he has previously contested as leader. If he couldn’t prevail at any of those — two of which should have been unloseable — there is no reason to believe he could make a decent fist of trying to capitalise on a political gift like this either.

 

*I’m not counting South Australia, with its rigged boundaries and the supposedly “fair” process that contrives to entrench the ALP in office: little better than an actual gerrymander, nobody can seriously claim South Australian politics — despite the ineptitude of that state’s Liberal Party — operates on anything less than an institutionalised stitch-up.

 

 

Queensland: A 14 May State Election Is Worth Betting On

WHILST NOTHING is certain in an infinitely changeable political world, a smart bet (for those wont to wager) is that Queensland will go to a state election on 14 May; facing an LNP led by a moribund failure and which ought to be a mile ahead in the polls, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk could inflict a potentially lethal blow to the Coalition at any double dissolution election announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull — as seems certain — for 2 July.

I do apologise to readers for my sudden silence this week; once again I have found myself otherwise preoccupied, and for once I also downed tools completely for a day or two. I am cognisant that we have things to talk about, and I will come back to some of the week’s issues over the next few days.

But I’m starting to think that the swirling clouds gathered over Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s head could shortly be turned to immediate (and possibly deadly) advantage by the ALP; racked by the instability of a fractious hung Parliament to the point she could engineer a blow-up substantial enough to justify an election at just an hour or so’s notice, Palaszczuk is “blessed” by perhaps the most fortuitous circumstances she is likely to confront for the balance of the three-year term her government is nominally serving, and will reap little benefit from any delay in the hope of better weather.

And ironically, the (deserved) belting the ALP suffered in council elections in Brisbane a week ago arguably strengthens the case for Palaszczuk to go to the polls as soon as possible.

With its announcement early in the week that not only will the Senate be recalled early on 18 April to debate stalled legislation the Coalition nonetheless (probably) wants rejected to give it the trigger for an anti-union election campaign, but that the federal budget will also be brought forward by a week to 3 May — enabling both opposition “leader” Bill Shorten to formally reply and the passage of a temporary supply bill to cover an election period before the budget itself is passed — the Turnbull government has all but locked itself into a double dissolution election to be held on 2 July; these things are not absolutes, of course, and the path to the “September or October” election publicly spruiked for so long by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull remains technically feasible.

But I think the only possible variant on a 2 July double dissolution is to hold it a week or a fortnight later, and even then, the formal campaign for it would run to nine or ten weeks; as I have opined in this column many times, I also believe that the longer Turnbull leaves his re-election attempt, the harder it will grow to secure victory: and in the past few days, the bickering and apparent estrangement between the PM and Treasurer Scott Morrison merely add an additional layer of validation to my judgement.

So, barring some unforeseen event from well beyond the horizon, 2 July it is for a double dissolution: and that means an election to be called, for legislative and Constitutional reasons, on 11 May.

I think the Queensland ALP would win an early election, and win it with at least 50 seats in the 89-member unicameral Queensland Parliament; it is for this reason I think a 14 May state election would be such a prudent enterprise for Palaszczuk to consider, as any Labor victory — even by less than the margin I’ve indicated — would puncture Turnbull’s momentum right from the outset and, depending on the degree of (guaranteed) recriminations that subsequently erupt within the Queensland LNP, perhaps derail his campaign altogether.

Last Saturday, Labor went very close to suffering a wipeout in a city that for decades had been its citadel; for 24 years prior to the election of Sallyanne Atkinson in 1985, the ALP ruled City Hall with an iron fist, a phenomenon reprised with the election of Jim Soorley as Lord Mayor in 1991 until his successor was dislodged by Campbell Newman 13 years later.

The disconnect between civic and state results in Brisbane has occurred regularly; in 1976 — two years after state Labor was annihilated, and less than a year after the election of the Fraser government all but destroyed Labor in Queensland — the ALP reduced the Liberal Party to a single ward on Council; in 2015, it reclaimed state government (and 24 Brisbane electorates) on a massive double-digit swing despite going down to the LNP in elections for the Brisbane City Council in 2012 and last week that were both major humiliations.

And it should be remembered that Atkinson’s thumping Council win in 1988 (17 wards to Labor’s 9, and 66% of the two-party vote for the mayoralty) was bookended by paltry returns for the Liberals at state elections in Brisbane of nine and five seats respectively in 1986 and 1989.

So let’s hear no more of the theory that Quirk’s latest landslide automatically spells trouble for Palaszczuk in Brisbane: it might, as I said last week, but unless the LNP does something to avert it, it probably won’t.

In fact, to the extent the council election matters at all in the context of a state election, there is a strong case for the Palaszczuk government to call an election quickly; for the first time, the Communist Party Greens have secured a ward on Council — the previously ultra-safe Labor Woolloongabba ward — and a quick state election would deny the Greens the time to organise, strategise, and harbour their resources strategically for an assault on Labor’s surrounding seats at the state level.

But looking across the aisle at her opponents, Palaszczuk finds nothing but extra reasons to make a dash for a fresh three-year term.

Every party that loses government can find the adjustment to opposition difficult, to say the least, and especially so when it’s the LNP, having squandered the biggest election win in Australian political history after a single term in office.

Yet even this basic law of politics fails to account for the malaise that has passed as “opposition” from the LNP, which has given every appearance over the past 14 months of being more interested in being diverted along tangents and squabbling internally than in any serious endeavour to tear the shaky Palaszczuk regime apart.

The very, very heavily qualified endorsement of the LNP I published on the day of last year’s state election explicitly stated that it would be void if the party restored Lawrence Springborg to its leadership after the expected defeat of Newman in his seat of Ashgrove: and the reasons for that refusal to back Springborg have been visible for all to see ever since, and readers can access some of my past writings on that subject through this article and the links embedded in it.

Just as Palaszczuk’s government is open to the charge it has done nothing except waste money and try to erase Newman’s from the political landscape, the Springborg LNP has squandered repeated opportunities to inflict real blows on Labor.

It wasted time dithering over whether to try to force a by-election in a traditional Labor seat the LNP narrowly lost last year. It failed to try to engineer a winnable by-election by moving a parliamentary expulsion motion against an MP expelled from the ALP. And the LNP has, beyond a few slogans and a bit of occasional mock outrage, shown Queenslanders that it really doesn’t stand for much if the opportunity to reclaim the Treasury benches should confront it any time soon.

Moreover, the same old charge I have repeatedly levelled at Springborg rings true now: over three state election defeats, he has proven to have exactly zero appeal to voters in Brisbane; they may have elected the LNP to council in consecutive landslides, but they spectacularly failed to embrace him in 2004, 2006 and 2009, and there is nothing to suggest they would do so now.

And the state Parliament — now stacked 42-all to the ALP and LNP, with two Katter MPs, two former Labor MPs and an “Independent” who arguably hates conservative political parties — offers Springborg little chance of a mid-term change of government unless a by-election happens in a Labor seat that the LNP wins.

If the expelled (Billy Gordon) and disgruntled (Rob Pyne) former Labor members tried to support a Springborg government in retaliation for an attempt by Palaszczuk to call an election, the Premier could plausibly argue that the behaviour of both in Parliament (especially Gordon) in almost invariably voting with the ALP shows stability could not be guaranteed by such an arrangement, and I would think she would be granted any dissolution of Parliament she sought.

I was discussing these matters with a mate of mine from Queensland during the week and suggested (rather inelegantly) that unless the LNP got its shit together and replaced Springborg with someone from Brisbane, and quickly, it risked getting its collective dick stuck in a pencil sharpener: and if Palaszczuk were so inclined to provoke Pyne and Gordon into the folly of publicly withdrawing support for her government on confidence and supply, then that is exactly what will happen, so to speak.

Pyne and Gordon, for their trouble, are unlikely to survive a state election; meanwhile, with Springborg in charge, Brisbane — where the LNP must win seats if it is to reclaim office in Queensland — is unlikely to swing against Labor at all, and could yield an additional three seats to the ALP (enough to win the election) on a swing to Labor in the capital of less than 2%. As things stand, that swing is likely to be closer to 5%, costing the LNP half its remaining Brisbane seats and leaving it with just the five (out of 38) secured on Springborg’s watch in 2009.

Just those results alone would sorely tempt Palaszczuk to chance her arm.

Last January, the LNP lost 24 seats in Brisbane and 12 elsewhere in the state. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where that election was lost, or where the party’s current electoral weakness lies. By persisting with Springborg, the LNP risks being wiped out in Brisbane perhaps just weeks after securing arguably its greatest triumph on the city’s Council.

And this brings me back to Malcolm Turnbull, and why a state election in Queensland on 14 May must be a tantalising bet.

Such an election would need to be called by mid-April; that’s only a window for the LNP to get rid of Springborg of a few short weeks, and replacing Springborg with someone from the south-east is perhaps the only way to stop an early election from costing it a stack of seats in and around the capital.

With a double dissolution to be formally called on 11 May, the timing of polling day in Queensland for 14 May would lob a grenade squarely at the federal Coalition’s election campaign: and if Labor were to win in Queensland, the knock-on effects might be considerable.

Calling the election in Queensland would bet on Turnbull following suit on 11 May, but as I explained at the outset, I think Palaszczuk could count on that: and it would lock Turnbull into gambling on the possibility of having to contend with a Labor election win that I think would be a certainty given the LNP’s current leadership.

For one thing, it would erase the Brisbane City Council result as a brake on federal Labor’s prospects in Queensland, where fully one-quarter of the Turnbull government’s lower house electorates are held.

For another, it would gift momentum to Shorten, who might be lacking where policies and ethics are concerned, but has proven uncannily adroit in milking the conservatives’ woes for populist gain. Just ask Tony Abbott.

And there is a precedent for federal Labor to gain from the good fortune of its state counterparts immediately prior to a federal election: in 1983, with the overall winner of an early double dissolution already as good as certain the day it was called thanks to Bob Hawke’s ascension to the ALP leadership that morning, a state election in Western Australia, two weeks before polling day, secured the ALP a win and a change of government; there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that Brian Burke’s win in WA added momentum to Hawke’s campaign that ultimately magnified the scale of his win over Malcolm Fraser. Whilst the comparisons aren’t necessarily straightforward, something similar in this case would fill Shorten’s sails with wind as he tackled Turnbull.

And unlike Springborg, Shorten certainly knows how to capitalise on his opportunities, no matter what (or how little) you might think of him.

In short, Turnbull might be walking straight into a trap: virtually obliged to call a double dissolution election amid falling poll numbers, policy confusion, misfiring communications strategies and after a string of ministerial scandals that have exposed his dubious political judgement — and faced by a resolute, if unscrupulously unprincipled, opponent — a Labor win in one of the big eastern states in the early days of a federal election campaign might be one blow the Coalition simply can’t counter, spin, or explain away.

If you like to have a wager, the field trip to the TAB to bet on the date of the next state election in Queensland could be a richly profitable walk.

 

This article originally suggested a Queensland state election on 13 May, until it was pointed out to me I’d inadvertently proposed a polling date that fell on a Friday. See, I am human, too.  🙂

 

Brisbane: Big LNP Win Carries Messages For Springborg, Palaszczuk

A THUMPING WIN has seen Lord Mayor Graham Quirk easily re-elected in Australia’s largest municipal authority; whilst a swing of around 10% was expected after Quirk polled 68.5% four years ago, the LNP’s grip on council may yet tighten. The result carries messages for Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and LNP leader Lawrence Springborg, and almost certainly finishes ALP mayoral hope Rod Harding as a political force at his first tilt at elected office.

I have followed local government elections in Brisbane (and elsewhere in Queensland) reasonably closely, although today I am going to restrict my remarks mostly to Brisbane in the interests of concision.

Despite a rogue poll during the week claiming Lord Mayor Graham Quirk (or “Floored Mayor,” as the Courier Mail‘s histrionic rubbish characterised him) was on the ropes and facing defeat, I don’t think the result in Brisbane was ever in any doubt: and from the time we looked at Labor wannabe Rod Harding’s ridiculous scheme to tear up the contract for a road project in January that had already commenced — even as the debacle of the East-West Link fiasco in Victoria should have forced him to think again — the damage to the ALP’s prospects was probably already terminal, if not perhaps completely obvious.

First things first: I would like to minute hearty congratulations to Graham Quirk and his team on what is a well deserved and thoroughly appropriate victory, but especially to Graham himself; of all the senior Liberal Party people in Queensland I have had dealings with over the years he is one of the best: an unbelievably decent individual whose integrity is matched only by his capacity for workload, Quirk has been one of the finest foot soldiers for Queensland’s conservatives over many years, and I am delighted that he has been given a further four years to serve the people of Brisbane and work to continue to improve what is — on any measure — a booming, thriving place to live and work (even if the weather is mostly unbearable).

Readers know that I have been spending a little more time than usual back in my former northern seat; my current weekly FIFO day trips have allowed me to watch the city’s continued evolution from regional centre into a serious city on the march more closely, and whilst it isn’t perfect (nothing is), Quirk’s administration must rightly be credited with a share of the kudos for what is happening in modern Brisbane today.

What started under Campbell Newman as the “Can Do” approach — a slogan consigned to the dustbin in the wake of Newman’s ultimately disastrous foray into state politics — has nonetheless proven surprisingly durable in its subsequent incarnation as “Team Quirk,” with the central themes of sustainable development, infrastructure construction and civic growth of the 12-year-old Liberal/LNP administration clearly given a resounding thumbs-up by voters yesterday for a fourth consecutive time.

Whilst final results are far from being declared — the Electoral Commission of Queensland has had local government elections across the state, the big event in Brisbane (with both a mayoral election and separate contests in 26 wards), and a referendum on fixed four-year terms for state elections (that looks, surprisingly, like passing narrowly) all on the one weekend — it appears Quirk has recorded 53% of the primary vote in Brisbane, stretching at close of counting to 58.7% after preferences; this equates to a swing of just less than 10% to Labor, and as I said in my introduction, a correction of roughly that magnitude was completely foreseeable after the record 68.5% Quirk reeled in back in 2012.

Interestingly, the longer the count progressed before the Commission called it quits for the night, the higher Quirk’s share of both the primary and two-party votes drifted, and the lower the swing against him became; with almost 40% of the mayoral vote still to be processed, it is not inconceivable that the swing could fall as low as 8% as outstanding ordinary votes and early pre-poll votes (which the LNP traditionally does very well with) are added to the tally: and a swing in the order of 8%, against a 12-year-old administration and off such a massive win four years ago, would be an electoral achievement of remarkable quality indeed.

It is also perhaps a tantalising indication of what the Newman government might have scored across Brisbane had its strategic and tactical apparatus not misfired so spectacularly.

Across the 26 wards, the stunning Quirk win appears to be even better.

At the close of counting, the LNP leads the ALP in 20 on primary votes and in 20 after preferences; remarkably, it appears highly plausible Team Quirk will retain all 18 wards it was notionally defending after a boundary redivision, and could well pick up the vacant ward of Northgate — a traditional ALP stronghold — where it currently leads by some 600 votes after preferences with roughly 60% of the vote tallied.

Independent councillor Nicole Johnston is certain to retain her ward of Tennyson, aided in no small part by a sexting scandal that forced the disendorsement of LNP contender Ashley Higgins during the week.

But the election has been a comprehensive humiliation for the ALP; not only has its mayoral candidate finished with less than a third of the primary vote for the third election in a row, but Labor appears set to lose one of its seven existing seats to the LNP in Northgate, and another — The Gabba — to the Communist Party Greens on preferences.

Should that occur, Labor’s miserable return of just five of 26 wards probably places it two terms away from reclaiming City Hall at the very minimum after one of its worst performances in Brisbane (if not the worst since Council was established in 1925) and finishes (or at least should finish) the political prospects of Harding at his first electoral outing for good.

Readers can access ECQ results here for the mayoral count and here for the wards. I expect these will update during today and again early in the new week.

Much as Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk might feel emboldened by leadership unrest at the state LNP, the reasonably solid polling numbers for her do-nothing minority government, and the apparent success of her referendum on fixed four-year terms, yesterday’s council results in Brisbane should bring any plot to call a snap state election to a screeching halt.

For one thing, the LNP vote in Brisbane yesterday outperformed state election numbers for comparable electorates last January by more than 10% — a clue that just as insecurely seated as some of the LNP’s remaining Brisbane state MPs might be, there is both scope and voter inclination to support conservative candidates, which means a clutch of extra seats in the capital might just propel the party back into power on George Street if Palaszczuk tempts electoral fate too quickly.

For another, yesterday’s results should temper some of the more fatuous ideas ALP hardheads might have about making gains in and around Brisbane at the imminent federal election, too; with just six out of 30 federal Queensland electorates, some believe the only way for Labor to go this year is up. But it is defending two marginal seats (Lilley and Moreton) on margins of 1.3% and 1.6% respectively, and had yesterday’s votes been applied to the corresponding boundaries of those two federal seats, the ALP would have lost both.

And the hard, cold fact that will occupy Labor strategists is that had these results materialised at the state election held 14 months ago, then Campbell Newman would still be Premier today or, at the very minimum, the LNP would remain in office under a new leader thanks to perhaps an extra half a dozen state seats it would have held onto if the voting patterns yesterday applied at state election time.

But just as there is food for thought for Labor in all of this, so too there is for the LNP and in particular, what its state MPs do about the liability leading them toward a likely fourth election loss as leader.

I don’t need to spell it out again, or post links to previous articles; the archly rural Lawrence Springborg is a good and decent fellow with exactly zero electoral appeal in Brisbane — rightly or wrongly — and the abjectly pathetic results in Brisbane, recorded at all three of the state elections he has previously contested as leader, prove it.

There are some in and around the LNP who continue to work to a strategy of seizing government by way of a change on the floor of state Parliament; such a transition may or may not occur — such is the fluid state of febrile numbers in that hung chamber — and were Springborg to become Premier in such a manner, he might or might not be able to translate incumbency into an election win 12 or 18 months down the track.

But I wouldn’t count on it, and in any case, if this is the best plan for reclaiming government in Queensland the LNP can come up with (or for simply achieving Lawrence a tenure in the Premier’s office, which some of them seriously believe he “deserves”) then it’s patently obvious that LNP state election strategy is a complete oxymoron.

Just as it has been, with few exceptions, for 30 years.

Yesterday’s council results in Brisbane — in addition to the usually dominant Coalition position federally in Queensland since 1996 — underscores the willingness of voters in the Sunshine State to embrace conservative governments; just a year after ejecting the LNP from George Street, they yesterday handed it a stunning win in Brisbane that will take Labor years to recover from.

But the variables and permutations — the LNP leadership, the precarious state of Palaszczuk’s regime, state election timing, the prospect of the next election being for a four-year term, and the proliferation of vulnerable electorates on both sides of the pendulum — means there are no guarantees around what outcome a state election might produce, and certainly no guarantee of an LNP victory even after a day to savour yesterday in Brisbane, most of the south-east corner, and elsewhere across the state.

As I said, it’s food for thought. But my feeling is that if the LNP sorts its baggage out quickly and moves Springborg on, its position at a state election — likelier sooner rather than later — could quickly be made unassailable.

 

AND ANOTHER THING: For the benefit of those who might be wondering, I will be making no comment whatsoever in this column in relation to the Liberal Party preselection for the federal seat of Goldstein, in Melbourne’s southern suburbs (and in which I live), that took place yesterday afternoon.