After the deluge
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.