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After the deluge

February 7th, 2004

Electoral commentary hasn’t yet absorbed the magnitude of the disaster suffered by the anti-Labor parties in Queensland tonight. It’s true that Labor’s massive majority has been reduced a little relative to the outcome in 2001, but this was distorted by the presence of One Nation, which has now been almost completely eliminated. This was a ‘normal’ election, with no last-minute scare campaign or other disturbing factor, and the coalition has been crushed.

Let’s look first at the National Party. They are supposed to be the alternative government, but they got only about 17 per cent of the first preference vote and have been reduced to the status of a rural rump, as in NSW and Victoria, the only other states where they remain a significant force. The seats they have regained have been in areas that should have been safe and were lost because of the One Nation upsurge. . Outside their heartland, they actually lost more ground this time around, losing the seat of Keppel. In the Gold Coast, where they were once the dominant party, they have disappeared for good. In provincial cities like Cairns, Toowoomba and Townsville they have gone nowhere. Even in the heartland, their gains were partly dependent on the “agin the government” vote in sugar electorates – this will work against them when the Federal election comes around, unless the fabled FTA with the US includes access to sugar markets (and, since GWB has an election of his own coming on, that’s not very likely).

Then there’s the Liberals. They hold about half the Federal electorates in Queensland, but they remain completely marginal in State politics. It’s quite possible that they will hold only one Brisbane electorate in the new Parliament, as they did in the old one. As a resident of Indooroopilly, I only have to walk down the street to be stunned by the idea that this is a marginal Labor seat. admittedly the University of Queensland is a disturbing factor (it brought me here, after all) but the general ambience is that of Toorak or Double Bay. The same is true in spades of Clayfield, which Labor looks certain to retain. At least at the state level, urban electors want schools and hospitals and think Labor is more likely to deliver them than the Liberals.

Perhaps the best feature of the election from my viewpoint is that Labor’s massive win followed the introduction of a new tax (the ambulance levy) and there was no commitment not to raise existing taxes or introduce new ones. There were some justified tax cuts (for example, in stamp duty on house purchases) but the government is now in a position to meet its expenditure commitments without resorting to deficit finance.

State and Federal politics are very different, but the core vote from which the Coalition is working is about 35 per cent. Given a competent campaign, Federal Labor should pick up enough Queensland seats to make the next election a very close call.

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  1. Brian Bahnisch
    February 7th, 2004 at 23:23 | #1

    John, that’s a good analysis. I agree with what you say.

    It is clear that One Nation is dead. Tablelands returned a ON member, but I understand she is popular locally and might as well be an independent.

    Speaking of which, only one of the 6 sitting independents lost their seat. 4 out of 5 were returned with increased majorities. The fifth (Jo’s old seat) already had a significant majority after preferences.

    So there are 6 out of 89 not from the major parties.

    Also the socalled ‘sugar independents’, supported by Bob Katter, probably saved Labor a few seats in the provinces, as the conservative vote was split by them without an exchange of preferences. Hence Katter continues to be a nuisance to the conservatives. One has to admit that he puts a very consistent anti-economic rationalism argument.

    Labor looks impregnable in the metropolitan area.

  2. wmmbb
    February 8th, 2004 at 08:21 | #2

    Since New Zealand followed Queensland in abolishing its Legislative Council, perhaps consideration might be given to adopting an MMP, especially by the Liberals. The ALP is projected to have 63 out of 89 seats, or almost 70% with less than 48% of the vote.

  3. Mike Hunt
    February 8th, 2004 at 08:40 | #3

    The problem with the conservatives is that they are not very conservative. The only thing the Liberal Party supports is balancing the budget.

  4. Dave Ricardo
    February 8th, 2004 at 09:14 | #4

    I agree. This is a much more devastating defeat for the Liberal and National Parties than 2001. This time around, they ran a reaonably good campaign, there were no three cornered contests, with green votes exhausting, the optional preference voting system was supposed to vote against Labor, and the Beattie government was not without odour. Yet still they could only win a handful of seats, and one of those, Currumbin, was probably due to voters’ personal distaste for the local member.

    It’s one thing for the surgeons, law firm partners and stockbrokers in Clayfield to vote Labor in 2001. That could have been dismissed as an act of collective, but temporary, insanity. For them to it again though, having had three years to think about it, speaks volumes about the Queensland Liberal Party.

  5. John
    February 8th, 2004 at 09:41 | #5

    In fact, it looks as if Currumbin will be the only seat lost by Labor anywhere south of Bundaberg (the Libs also picked up Borbidge’s old seat of Surfers Paradise, which had been won by an independent in a by-election). The sitting member, Merri Rose, was a one-woman disaster area with accusations of impropriety every other week.

  6. Brian Bahnisch
    February 8th, 2004 at 11:51 | #6

    Dave is right about Clayfield. If anything it’s bluer than Indooroopilly, with an element of racing industry backlash thrown in.

    The Clayfield sitting member is ex Playschool presenter and seems an active, diligent member. As a subtheme such members who work hard and stick up for their electorates seemed to do well, eg the feisty Noosa lady, who threatened to leave Labor over some trees and who recorded the biggest pro-Labor swing of the night.

  7. Homer Paxton
    February 8th, 2004 at 15:09 | #7

    The most amazing thing about this win ( and Bob Carr’s) was it was a third term election.

    You would think the opposition would pin their sails on every person making noises but the ALP went on by.

    The Libs are in all sorts of trouble at the grassroots in QLD and this will cost them in a close Federal election.

  8. February 8th, 2004 at 17:01 | #8

    Yep, agree with JQ.

    The Qld Libs can’t just walk in and expect people to vote for them just because they are anti-Labor. They really are the easy-beats of state politics.

    That siad, there may be more than a few cricket bats waiting for Howard’s boys in November if they don’t wake up too. The next election will be all about homes. What’s innim and who’s gottem.

  9. magoo
    February 9th, 2004 at 10:49 | #9

    I can’t remember who said it, but there was a comment last year to the effect that we (aussie voters) will not trust the Liberals with our social assets (i.e. schools and hospitals), but we won’t trust the countries treasury to Labour.

    The logic was that we believe the Liberals are too hard nosed to trust our schools and hospitals to, but we don’t trust labour to look after the money or security.

  10. Aidan
    February 9th, 2004 at 13:41 | #10

    wmmbb wrote:

    “Since New Zealand followed Queensland in abolishing its Legislative Council, perhaps consideration might be given to adopting an MMP, especially by the Liberals.”

    Huh?! New Zealand has (in my living memory) only ever had a unicameral system. No “Upper House” to speak of.

    If New Zealand could be seen to be following anyone it would be Germany, as the flavour of proportional representation adopted by NZ is modelled on the German Federal election system (or so I was led to believe).

  11. wmmbb
    February 10th, 2004 at 23:57 | #11

    Aidan:

    You have stimulated me to research my facts.

    The Queensland Legislative Council was abolished in 1921-22, offset by gerrymandering. There was an earlier comment by John in relation to this.

    According to Keith Sinclair, A History of New Zealand, the Legislative Council was abolished by the hand of the newly elected National Party. Professor Sinclair is somewhat dismissive:

    “Even the abolition of the Legislative Council in 1950, which left New Zealand with a uni-cameral legislature, seemed a minor deed, for the Council was dead if unburied.”

    I am supposing that they may have been influenced by the Queensland example. NZ had a simple plurality, or first past the post,electoral system until the introduction of MMP, which as you correctly state was adopted from Germany. There is a summary of the the features of MMP here.

    I was merely suggesting, perhaps too obliquely, that Simple Plurality was similar to an Optional Preference System where the preferences are not expressed. My guess was based on the proportion of first preferences for the ALP compared to the projected number of seats won.

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