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Stafford by-election

July 20th, 2014

Another big loss for the Newman LNP government here in Queensland, with a swing of nearly 19 per cent in the Stafford by-election. I did my little bit for this, speaking at a public forum on asset sales. However, since only the Labor and Green candidates showed up, and no-one in the crowd seemed inclined to vote for the LNP or Family First anyway, I doubt that my contribution to margin was noticeable.

Like Newman’s previous drubbing, this by-election was caused by the resignation of the sitting LNP member. However, whereas in the previous case, the resignation resulted from personal financial scandals, the member for Stafford was a doctor who resigned as a result of disagreement with Newman’s health policy. So, the outcome may fairly be interpreted as a rejection of the government’s approach, both in terms of policy substance and authoritarian style.

There is so much disillusionment with politics at present that just about anything can happen. My own guess is that the state election, due in March next year, will see Newman lose his own seat of Ashgrove (held on a margin of 5.7 per cent) and that no party will secure a majority. After that, who knows? Informed or uninformed speculation welcome.

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  1. Robert
    July 20th, 2014 at 10:43 | #1

    My personal hope is that Newman holds on, because I don’t think the Qld Labor party is ready to govern again just yet. More importantly, I think an anti-LNP Qld protest vote in 2016 is the best chance we have of making Abbott a oncer, and I think that requires an LNP government in Qld.

  2. Pete Moran
    July 20th, 2014 at 11:11 | #2

    People want to punish the neo-Liberal over-reach, but why do we do it to ourselves?

  3. Ikonoclast
    July 20th, 2014 at 11:34 | #3

    I agree that, “There is so much disillusionment with politics at present that just about anything can happen.”

    The problem is most of the electorate have little history and less political economy. They have no understanding of the larger forces at work. Therefore they keep flip-flopping between the two bourgeois capitalist parties, Liberal and Labor, and wonder why nothing ever changes. The Australian electorate is ill-educated, conservative and right wing. (These things always seem to go together.) I expect no signifincant changes, just more flip-flopping, in the foreseeable future.

    The one good thing is we are laid-back, stolid and peaceable for the most part. Of course, it’s easy to be that way when times are good as they are for most Australians… except the unemployed, the young and minorities. Therein lies our danger. More and more people will become disaffected and antagonistic if we allow and foster ever more inequality as we are doing at present.

  4. Julie Thomas
    July 20th, 2014 at 14:40 | #4

    Anything could happen here in Condamine. The current member, Ray Hopper, not very fondly known as Fence-hopper Ray, is all over the place.

    I would have thought that whatever he did, and how ever much people disrespect him, he would have been re-elected, against the gormless LNP candidate who replaced him after his defection to Katter.

    But the doofus is apparently trying to start a dynasty and plans to install his 20 year old son in this seat, Condamine, and Ray will stand in the next electorate over, Nanango. The consensus among the people I talk to and they do include LNP voters is that he’s given this seat back to the LNP and will probably lose Nanango also.

    In his column in the local newsletter, that nobody else but me reads, it seems, – everybody else seems to read only the classifieds – Ray makes some very interesting comments about the perfidy of his previous colleagues in the LNP and how badly they treat him, but the best part is often the quote he provides.

    This week’s quote was from J. Edgar Hoover, FBI, “The individual is handicapped by coming face to face with a conspiracy so monstrous he cannot believe it exists”.

    Who knows what that means?

  5. Megan
    July 20th, 2014 at 15:39 | #5

    Another thumping victory for the LNP in the unpopularity contest that passes for Queensland elections.

    According to Antony Green this is an all-time record win (swing of 18.6%) beating the previous record, also by the LNP, set recently in Redcliffe (17.3%).

    Newman should lose Ashgrove in 2015 but my feeling is that he will retain Ashgrove based on the fact that he is the premier and the inevitably bad candidate the ALP will throw up against him won’t get those voters back.

    PUP may well force him into minority government requiring their support. Palmer loathes Newman but I can’t see Newman refusing such a prospect.

    Until we have an upper house again, a minority government with as many independents and others required to form government as possible may be our next best option.

  6. 2 tanners
    July 20th, 2014 at 16:10 | #6

    @Megan – in the circumstance of the PUP holding the balance of power, which do you think would appeal to Clive more? An alliance with Labor, making them somewhat beholden to PUP and Clive’s demonstrated showmanship/negotiation skills, or an alliance with Newman, forcing painful, often public, concessions from him for every vote? Decisions, decisions…

  7. Stockingrate
    July 20th, 2014 at 16:15 | #7

    There is a lot of disillusionment with politics.

    This will be greatly magnified by the large and unavoidable decline in Australian living standards which I believe is underway. Furthermore both disillusionment and economic decline are, and will continue to be, magnified by economic policy maldjustments to that decline.

  8. Megan
    July 20th, 2014 at 16:42 | #8

    @2 tanners

    I don’t think Palmer would form government with the ALP under any circumstances at all.

    After what Gillard did to her minority partners (eg. Wilkie on pokies) and what Beattie did to Wellington – I’d be surprised if anyone would trust the ALP in that situation again (except maybe the Greens, who seem determined to become ALP-Lite).

  9. bjb
    July 20th, 2014 at 17:26 | #9

    Megan :
    @2 tanners
    I don’t think Palmer would form government with the ALP under any circumstances at all.

    I wouldn’t be too sure about that. His loathing for Newman is visceral. If PUP pickup 15% of the vote, then they would be in a much stronger position than any previous independents.

  10. Felix Alexander
    July 20th, 2014 at 18:54 | #10

    @Megan, when was the last time anyone trusted the Liberals/Coalition/LNP in a minority government anywhere in Australia? All of the recent minority governments I can call to mind have been Labor ones. Often over the objections of the constituents. Labor will learn or they will be taught.

  11. Megan
    July 20th, 2014 at 19:04 | #11

    @Felix Alexander

    I don’t know about “trusted”, but isn’t there a minority LNP government in Victoria at the moment?

  12. Felix Alexander
    July 20th, 2014 at 19:34 | #12


    I guess technically that’s true. But when he defected he brought down the premier and the new guy’s been having a bit of trouble keeping control.

    I did forget about it/ignore it because at the election it was a Coalition goverment with a bare majority. Not really a precedent for what happens after an election, and definitely not a precent for the Coalition being trustworthy.

  13. Chris
    July 20th, 2014 at 19:50 | #13

    John – I was at the public forum on asset sales. The discussion was very insightful. Thanks for your input. Shame the LNP did not attend to defend their actions. Clearly the government still hasn’t got the message after 2 terrible results at by elections. Apparently now Newman believes Queenslanders “don’t understand what he’s trying to do” and that he will redouble his efforts to explain to all us dummies why we need “strong choices” like asset sales. When will he realise that Australians don’t want asset sales?

  14. J-D
    July 20th, 2014 at 20:08 | #14

    Recent examples of Coalition governments in Australian States without parliamentary majorities include, working chronologically backwards:
    Western Australia from 2008 to 2013
    South Australia from 1997 to 2002
    Tasmania from 1996 to 1998
    Queensland from 1996 to 1998
    New South Wales from 1991 to 1995

  15. Felix Alexander
    July 20th, 2014 at 21:27 | #15


    WA’s recent experience particularly conflicts with my thesis. I’ll be quiet now.

  16. paul walter
    July 20th, 2014 at 22:26 | #16

    I hope the ALP reps at Prof. Quiggin’s forum have developed a more sobre appreciation, as to privatisations and neoliberalism in general, since the last ALP government there.

  17. Hal9000
    July 20th, 2014 at 22:40 | #17

    Newman is gone in Ashgrove. Gone.

    The interesting thing now is how many rats will start to abandon the sinking ship that is the LNP government in Queensland. Expect to hear stories about how minister x desperately tried to persuade Newman away from policy y but was bullied into acquiescence.

    It truly is a remarkable achievement for a landslide elected government to have completely reversed its electoral fortunes within 30 months. Newman truly is a phenomenon.

    I expect the same for Abbott.

    Australians abhor liars, narcissists and megalomaniacs. Newman and Abbott have both achieved the trifecta. Both have the same aversion to evidence as the basis for policy. We can only hope that their fate will inform future governments.

    Sadly, the ALP at all levels shows little sign of having learned anything from the experience of the last decade, preferring to pander to the press gallery – an institution that is entirely devoid of connection to the Australian public.

  18. michaelfstanley
    July 20th, 2014 at 22:48 | #18

    paul walter :
    I hope the ALP reps at Prof. Quiggin’s forum have developed a more sobre appreciation, as to privatisations and neoliberalism in general, since the last ALP government there.

    Because if there’s one thing the ALP do well, it’s learn from their mistakes.

  19. paul walter
    July 21st, 2014 at 10:17 | #19


  20. July 21st, 2014 at 11:51 | #20

    I went to a candidates debate (laugh about it…) in Swan before the 2009 (?) federal election, and all the candidates turned up except the Lib (Steve Irons). I wonder if they have a policy of not risking public appearances.

  21. J-D
    July 21st, 2014 at 17:44 | #21

    It interests me to see somebody write ‘Australians abhor liars, narcissists and megalomaniacs’. ‘People abhors liars, narcissists and megalomaniacs’ is what I would have written. I wouldn’t expect a significant difference between Australians and other people in this respect.

  22. totaram
    July 21st, 2014 at 19:50 | #22

    You might be surprised, if you look at the difference between coalition supporters and others, within Australia itself.

  23. jdgang
    July 21st, 2014 at 21:58 | #23

    What we don’t have is political leadership that can speak with the people. It’s no longer the case of politicians speaking TO the people. Times have changed, and so have the power relationships – for all the electorate spin is as obvious as a fart in a phone box.

  24. James Wimberley
    July 21st, 2014 at 22:50 | #24

    “‘People abhors liars, narcissists and megalomaniacs’ is what I would have written.” How then do you explain the elections for Mayor of London: Ken Livingstone followed by Boris Johnson?

  25. July 22nd, 2014 at 00:18 | #25

    @James Wimberley

    And Kevin Rudd 🙂

    But the truth is that we seem remarkably incapable of recognising liars, narcissists and megalomaniacs until it is too late. If we were any good at it, how would Sol have got to run Telstra? How would Al Dunlap have got a job anywhere?

  26. Graham
    July 22nd, 2014 at 04:17 | #26

    is the electorate still favors labor if I’m not mistake (40 seats in Brisbane 49 outside)

    historically this is the high water mark for a challenger (24-30 months after the last election) and the libs didn’t have the benefit of the sophomore effect which is worth about 1.5 points

    So if the total swing was 18.5 points 9 months out from an election against a non incumbent I would expect a total swing of 11-12 plus or minus 3 for whoever wins the campaign. I would expect the couriermail to help newmann a lot in the campaign

    Rough gut feeling is that labour have a 1 in 3 chance of winning

  27. J-D
    July 22nd, 2014 at 08:35 | #27

    @James Wimberley

    ‘People abhor liars, narcissists and megalomaniacs’ (just like ‘Australians abhor liars, narcissists and megalomaniacs’) is a broad generalisation about tendencies. It doesn’t mean ‘all people [or ‘all Australians’] abhor all liars, narcissists and megalomaniacs all the time, and this abhorrence always overrides all other considerations’.

    If you seriously want to suggest that there is, as a general rule, substantially less abhorrence of liars, narcissists and megalomaniacs in the UK (or in England, or in London) than in Australia, you are going to need more than a couple of examples to make your case. Are you prepared to affirm that liars, narcissists and megalomaniacs never get elected to important political positions in Australia?

  28. John Chapman
    July 22nd, 2014 at 18:02 | #28


    Can you please explain to us exactly how you got from 18.5 or 18.66 %, down to 11-12 ?

    Is this based on mathematical / statistical / political theory or practice ?

    Or have your guts come into play ? 🙂

  29. J-D
    July 22nd, 2014 at 18:28 | #29


    I would not be in the least surprised to discover a wide individual variation in people’s attitudes to liars, narcissists, and megalomaniacs, but I would be surprised to discover a systematic variation between the attitudes typical of Australians and the attitudes typical of people of other countries.

  30. Graham
    July 23rd, 2014 at 07:07 | #30

    @John Chapman
    mostly guts

    its a little optimistic given this (or pessimistic depending on your political stripe)

    also check out the graphs on the right hand side. A couple of observations

    1. challengers usually get about a 4-5 point poll bounce 12 months out from the next election (roughly). Labour is probably at their high water mark here

    2. The lowest point before the last 12 months of government is a very good indicator of the final result for the government

    I think newman will loose his seat but i doubt labour will win from here

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