Finally Gone, Yet Finally Listening: Anna Bligh Quits Parliament

Queensland’s Labor government, led by Anna Bligh, was spectacularly  obliterated at yesterday’s state election; today, in breach of a promise, Bligh — whilst I was at 40,000 feet, returning to Melbourne — resigned the ALP leadership and with it, her seat in the Queensland Parliament.

Campbell Newman and his LNP team have recorded what looms as the single biggest election victory, federally or in any individual state, in Australian political history.

Whilst a tiny number of electorates remain in doubt, my best estimate is that the final breakdown of seats in Queensland’s 89-seat Parliament will be LNP 77, ALP 8, Katter’s crew 2, and 2 Independents.

It is a stunning electoral triumph that now dwarfs Dean Brown’s win in South Australia in 1993 (39 of 47 seats) and Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s 1974 victory in Queensland (69 of 82 seats), and which makes anything Neville Wran ever achieved in NSW in the 1970s and 1980s look pedestrian by comparison.

Tonight’s post is one that comes with a YouTube clip; a little more obscure than some I have shared, but bang on the money.   🙂

The song says it all; in point of fact, it is precisely how I feel about quite a serious long-term girlfriend I broke up with about 12 years ago. But that’s just the thing: when voters break the relationship off with their governments — especially long-term governments, which this one in Queensland was — it really is tantamount to a divorce.

And whilst you listen to that in another browser, back to the serious stuff.

The estimated seat count I’ve just given you may change, as beaten Labor leader Anna Bligh has opted today to resign her seat in Parliament, effective immediately.

This has to be viewed as an extraordinarily selfish act on one level; having solemnly pledged to serve out a term in Parliament irrespective of the overall election result, Bligh has quit Parliament less than 24 hours after the polls closed yesterday.

In terms of how far anyone could trust anything she says, this development speaks volumes.

And the hundreds of thousands of dollars the by-election will cost the Queensland taxpayer is something the citizens of that electorate and that state should rightly be enraged over.

Yet on another level, I find it difficult to criticise Anna Bligh’s decision too heavily.

It seems that finally, she has listened to a message of sorts from Queenslanders; they don’t want her, they no longer wish to see her, they don’t care any more what she has to say, and they couldn’t care less if they ever hear from her again.

On that level, her course of action is sound, and what she said in her press conference this afternoon was correct: it will be impossible for her party to ever rebuild for as long as she remains as part of its public face, or part of its parliamentary team.

And in a roundabout way, this validates every last criticism that has been levelled against her in the course of the past three years.

Premier-elect Campbell Newman will be sworn into office tomorrow, along with Jeff Seeney as Deputy Premier and Tim Nicholls as Treasurer (good on you mate, Tim!); the full ministry will be sworn in later this week, and then it will be down to business.

And as we have discussed in this column many times now over the past six months or so, there is much to be done in Queensland.

With an eye on the result, I stand by my assessment that the dishonest and virtually fraudulent campaign conducted by Anna Bligh and the ALP worsened what was always going to be a bad result.

And now, I think we can quantify that.

All reputable polling and opinion sampling for the past 18 months has pointed to, on average, a swing of 10% against the ALP in Queensland.

It must be noted that due to the polls conducted around the federal ALP’s leadership contest, there were no statewide opinion polls conducted in Queensland until the end of the campaign; the final Newspoll showed a swing of just over 11%.

Whilst the actual swing won’t be finalised until the count is completed in a couple of weeks, it is clear that it will be in the order of some 15% to 16%; and on that basis, I would directly attribute five percentage points of the swing against Labor to the disgusting campaign it waged and the despicably baseless slurs it aimed at Campbell Newman and his wife.

In other words, Labor directly cost itself at least ten seats by virtue of its own actions.

Seats never lost to the ALP and/or never won by conservative candidates have been claimed by the LNP at this election, including several that stood firm for Labor in the 1974 massacre, including Cairns, Lytton, and Nudgee.

Labor was even taken to preferences in seats like Inala and Woodridge, which simply illustrates the sheer scale of the rout that party has suffered.

I will be posting again on the Queensland election result during the week, and there is much more to discuss than I had even thought; and so given this is not my last word of analysis but merely an introductory overview, I thought I would round out tonight’s post with a look at the predictions I made at the beginning of the campaign and to see how we fared on those (and yes, I’m copying and pasting those predictions from the earlier post so they are here verbatim; the original predictions are in bold, with my comments in separate paragraphs below).

The LNP will win government in Queensland (which will in no way mitigate the legitimacy of my own reservations about the Liberal/National merger; it’s simply time in Queensland).

It did (obviously!) and it doesn’t. And it was time.

Campbell Newman will win Ashgrove and become Premier — I’d expect a 55-45 result in Ashgrove, which is tantamount to a 12.5% swing.

Newman won in Ashgrove and did better than I thought — the eventual result will be near the 60-40 range.

The ALP will win more than 10 seats, despite opinion polls; I’d guess around the 20 to 25-seat mark, give or take.

Labor won’t even make it to 10 seats, but even with my cynical and jaundiced view of the Australian Labor Party, even I didn’t expect the disgusting campaign it chose to pursue — and as I said earlier, that reprehensible strategy has cost it at least ten additional seats.

Bob Katter’s Australian Party won’t win a seat.

It won two, actually; but my guess of zero was closer than virtually every other commentator who had the Katter crowd on track for five to ten seats.

Brisbane will swing heavily to the LNP, yielding at least 10 additional LNP electorates.

Absolutely correct. Brisbane yielded closer to 30 seats than 10, however.

Cairns and the neighbouring electorate of Barron River will fall to the LNP (I know, I know…Labor has held Cairns forever…not this time, methinks).

Bang on the money…

Townsville will mostly return to the Liberal fold — expect to see some big swings there to build on those recorded in 2009.

The Liberals appear to have scored a clean sweep in Townsville for the first time since 1980. However, the seat of Thuringowa remains undecided with Katter claiming his lot can win it, but the overwhelmingly likely outcome is that he won’t.

The ALP and Independents will fail to win any seats on the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, or in Toowoomba.

Correct, with the exception of the seat of Nicklin, where Independent Peter Wellington seems to have held on despite a massive swing to the LNP. Labor has been banished from all three regions, however, with a cumulative loss of six seats across the three.

The LNP will win at least one Labor-held electorate currently on a margin greater than 16% (I have an electorate in mind; think I’ll keep that to myself for now).

The electorate I had in mind — as some of my readers already know — was the seat of Ipswich (16.6% margin), which has indeed fallen to the LNP’s Ian Berry on a swing of some 20%. Waterford (16.1%) has also been won by the LNP, with (unbelievably) Mackay (16.7%) a chance to follow, with ALP incumbent Tim Mulherin some 200 votes ahead with a quarter of the roll still to count.

That’s it for tonight, although as I said, we’ll be discussing more of this during the week…

…as well as (hopefully) returning to other political news in other areas of the country and beyond.

But as we all know, events happen where they happen; and for now, Queensland is the hot political story in Australia — and this column will follow developments there through until the election results are finalised.