Council Elections In Brisbane: It’s Quirk By A Landslide

Voters in the City of Brisbane go to the polls tomorrow to elect a Lord Mayor and Council to serve for the next four years; barring any major surprise, incumbent Liberal Lord Mayor Graham Quirk appears set to be re-elected in a landslide.

Of course, voters across Queensland go to the polls to vote in local government elections; the date for councils to face the ballot box was deferred on account of the timing of last month’s state election, and with that now out of the way, it is time for Queenslanders to vote in their local municipalities.

There will be many fascinating contests across the state as the votes are counted tomorrow night, and I wish it were possible to follow them all; however, the one of most significance, and interest, is the contest taking place to formalise a new administration in Brisbane, and to formalise a successor to new Queensland premier Campbell Newman as Lord Mayor.

Like all local government elections in Queensland, Brisbane’s has been overshadowed by the state election; the campaign has been relatively low-key, and little has been offered by either side by way of show-stopping initiatives.

That said, it is clear that the ALP team led by Lord Mayoral candidate Ray Smith is not up to the job of running Council.

Smith himself has committed a series of gaffes, which together add up to a recommendation for a vote against him.

He has promised to cap rate rises for Brisbane residents at the level of inflation; the problem with this is that Smith’s idea of “inflation” is a figure two to three times the current official rate of inflation.

Is this the thin edge of the wedge?

Smith also admits, candidly, that costings on his election promises are reliant on finding several hundred million dollars in savings once installed in office; standing for election on what is effectively a wish and a prayer smacks of desperation, and screams of a lack of credibility and of proper preparation to assume power.

And some of the Labor team’s promises can only be described as cack-brained: the half-baked scheme to divert superannuation monies into capital works projects, for example, is ridiculous, and any fund manager investing in this type of scheme would quite rightly be in line for the sack.

“Team Quirk” as it calls itself, by contrast, has run a steady, measured campaign, focused on continuity and on building on the achievements from the first eight years of Liberal/LNP control of the Brisbane City Council.

There is nothing in the LNP offering to frighten the horses; the Liberal administration in Brisbane has been competent and has done much to modernise Brisbane’s ageing infrastructure at a modest cost to its ratepayers, and on a sustainable basis.

There are other good reasons for the return of Graham Quirk as Lord Mayor; not least because of the synergies and efficiencies that can be realised through working with a state government of the same political persuasion.

Those of us who have lived in Brisbane at times of “co-habitation” over the years — the old Labor administrations with Bjelke-Petersen, Sallyanne Atkinson’s Liberal council with the Goss Labor government and, more recently, Campbell Newman with Anna Bligh at the state level — know too well the friction, wasted opportunities and blame games that are part and parcel of such arrangements.

And having voted LNP on such an overwhelming basis just last month in a state election, it’s inconceivable that Brisbane voters will now elect a Labor administration to City Hall — especially when the incumbent council team has run Brisbane with great ability and competence.

What little opinion polling has been conducted during the council campaign points to Graham Quirk being re-elected with some 58-59% of the mayoral vote, after preferences; my sense is that those figures will likely be accurate.

If there are to be any real surprises tomorrow, they will come from the wards; in 2008 the LNP in Newman won 16 of the 26 wards; some of these were snared by tiny margins, and there has of course been some controversy involving individual LNP councillors in the four years since.

I would expect Quirk to be re-elected tomorrow as Lord Mayor; further, I would expect the split of the wards to be more or less the same as it is now between the LNP and Labor.

One interesting contest will be in the Central ward, where Heather Beattie — wife of former Labor Premier Peter Beattie — is standing in a vacant Labor ward overlapped by state and federal electorates which have both been captured by the LNP in the past 18 months.

I will be watching the count online tomorrow night; not only do I believe Team Quirk will win in Brisbane tomorrow, but I believe they deserve to win; and should they do so, the stewardship of the City of Brisbane will be in safe hands for another four years.