I've been following this stuff since 1983, when I was 14. Queensland is easily the most interesting state when it comes to elections, having given us the Joh, 3-cornered wins of '83 & '86, the Goss Landslide of '89, the shock of '95, the One Nation spectacular in '98 and the Beattie landslide last time. Unfortunately, in comparison, this time looks pretty tame.
As an amateur strategist myself, I'd like to offer some predictions... Not often that you find someone to read this kind of stuff…I’ll send the Poll Bludger a copy too.
In Summary…The ALP will romp it in, I believe they'll hold just about all of their existing seats and will even pick up couple.
Experience shows that sitting members in marginal seats generally do better than their party generally, unless there is large overall movement. In this election, there seems to be little movement, if any, away from the ALP.
An extension of this point is that when sitting members are unseated or retire, the incumbent party loses some of their personal support.
This means that the ALP candidates who won for the first time last time, will now have both their own, newly acquired incumbency, plus the loss of the previous members personal support, working in their favour.
This was particularly in evidence in the recent NSW election where the ALP result was status quo overall, but greatly improved in seats such as Georges River, Miranda & Menai..seats with 1st term members seeking re-election. Of course, superior campaigning skills may have had something to do with it, but this is not an isolated example.
In addition to the general benefits of incumbency, there are added bonuses for rural members.
They enjoy much greater local media exposure, magnifying the advantages of incumbency enjoyed by metropolitan members. They can also claim kudos for local projects to a greater extent than city members, who, more often than not, have to share the glory.
New ALP members in rural seats not traditionally represented by the ALP will have the added bonus of putting a face to a demon. Perhaps some more conservative locals, without experience of ALP representation will find that their ALP member does not have horns after all, and may even be swayed by his or her charms.
On this basis, assuming a status quo result overall, I would expect a swing towards the government in most of its marginal seats…unbelievable that this may seem, given some of the amazing results achieved last time.
Just a few weeks ago, I would not have thought this possible – though likely Beattie and his strategists did.
However a status quo result is just what is being indicated by, as far as I know, every poll, whether public or private, state-wide or local.
The question of the benefit to the coalition of a more unified conservative vote this time round has been much discussed, at least in certain somewhat rarefied circles!
I do not expect this to make much difference overall, though it may help in a couple of seats My reasons:
Firstly, three cornered contests (ie both National & Liberal vs ALP) occurred in only a handful of seats last time and did not alter the result in any.
Secondly, I agree the One Nation vote will dramatically decline, though it will be patchy and they will still be a presence in a number of the country coastal and northern areas. Interestingly, I believe One Nation to be a "least worst option" for many voters. In seats where there is an independent running, I see a spectacular fall, perhaps to just 3-4%..in those where they are up against just the main parties and perhaps the Greens, their fall will be cushioned somewhat and they should get into double-digits.
Contrary to what seems to be the generally accepted wisdom, I don't believe the disappearance of One Nation will necessarily advantage the conservatives. Examples may be found where ON stood in 1998 and not in 2001, where the apparent beneficiary of this withdrawal was in fact the ALP. Compare the 1998 & 2001 primary results in Bundaberg, Burnett & Broadwater.
Thirdly, In a number of important regional electorates, the non-Labor vote will be just as, if not more splintered than last time.
Some of these, seem hopelessly split, and pundits, let alone non-Labor voters, have no way of knowing which candidate is the most credible against labor. In a virtual first-past-the-post election, this could have disastrous, and some very unexpected consequences.
Non-Labor has no hope of winning Burdekin, even apart for the reasons I outlined earlier, as this vote will be hopelessly split, three ways…National, One Nation and Katter supported independent.
Other ALP gains from 2001, in this category are Hervey Bay, Whitsunday and Thuringowa. However, I believe this to be largely irrelevant, as the ALP will win its marginals even in a two horse race – if the other horse is from the coalition. A two horse race vs an Independent would be a different matter as per Maryborough, which would be above the 10% mark if it were ALP vs Coalition…I guess this allows for just a tad of cynicism over the withdrawal of the NP candidate.
Aside from the ALP marginals, there are a couple of non-labor seats which the split vote may deliver to the ALP.
Take the example of Gympie. Won in 2001 by One Nation newcomer, and total unknown, Elisha Roberts, aged 30. According to her maiden speech she had moved there from Sydney only three years earlier.
There were four candidates…ALP (33.4%), ON (25.7%), NP (24.7%), City Country Alliance (16.2). Enough preferences from the CCA kept Roberts ahead of the National and in turn, enough of the National preferences pushed her past the ALP – but not by much.
It would have been a very different result if the NP & ON figures had reversed. If National had finished ahead of One Nation, the seat would almost certainly have gone to Labor.
Forward to 2004 and there is a very real prospect that that will be the outcome this time.
Roberts resigned from One Nation in 2003 and is recontesting as an independent. National is also running a concerted campaign and crucially, One Nation, perhaps out of spite, have also nominated.
I see the scenario working out like this….The ALP will improve its vote by a few points, up to 35 –37%..presumably head office have realised their opportunity and are providing more resources this time. I’d expect the One Nation candidate to take up to 10%, with Roberts taking the remainder of her vote from last time (16%), plus those voters who voted for the CCA, to give her a base of just over 30%. Depending on how well she’s performed as a local member, she may take something from the National vote and perhaps reduce One Nation lower than 10%….she will need to as the National Party will not be directing preferences.
Lockyer, also won by One Nation in 2001, is another seat that just may see the ALP to an even more unlikely victory, with three credible non-labor candidates running, none of whom are exchanging preferences.
SO MY PREDICTIONS…
Region by Region…Seat by Seat.
Best Guess: ALP 68, NP 11, Lib 3, Ind 6, ON 1.
Labor…65 – 68 Seats.
Most vulnerable seats..Burnett, Kawana. Others to watch..Toowoomba Nth, Clayfield, Thuringowa (Ind)
Gains…Keppel. Possible..(in order of chance) Gympie, Beaudesert, Lockyer, Caloundra, Gladstone, Mirani
Lose.. Keppel. Vulnerable.. Hinchinbrook (Ind), Beaudesert (ALP)
Gains Possible…Burnett, Lockyer, Toowomba Nth
Liberal… No Change…perhaps could gain Kawana or could lose Caloundra.
One Nation…Hold Tablelands. Lockyer completely unpredictable. No Gains.
Independents…Returned: Pratt, Wellington, Bell, Foley
Probable: Cunningham, Roberts
New: Lancini (Hinchinbrook)
Gold Goast…From the polls that have been bandied about, it seems clear that the ALP will have no trouble on the Gold Coast and I expect they’ll hold all seven of their seats there. The most vulnerable is Broadwater, which was once the blue ribbon end of the old Albert electorate, pre-1986, and was a completely unexpected ALP gain last time. An outside possibility is Robina, held by Liberal Leader Bob Quinn (4%). Given the desultory Liberal campaign and the swings recorded n 2001, almost anything seems possible.
Brisbane…Back in the 80’s Mt Gravatt & Greenslopes were safe conservative seats and Sherwood (Mt Ommaney) was bluest of the blue…These have now fallen time and again and still the pendulum has not swung back. There is no reason to believe it will this time. Labor’s only vulnerable seats in Brisbane this time are Indooroopilly and Clayfield. I think they will be held.
Sunshine Coast…Haven’t seen much polling but my feeling is that Kate Molloy has built up a local following and will hold Noosa. Kawana is more suburban with no focal centre so less chance for the member to build a following. If there is any swing at all it would have to be the first to fall, but I’m tipping the ALP to hold.
South East Hinterland…I would strongly tip the ALP to hold Toowoomba Nth but remember being very surprised when they lost it in 1992 after only one term, so whilst I think they’ll hold it comfortably, I won’t be betting on it.
Beaudesert, an increasingly urban/ lifestyle seat, just south of Brisbane should eventually come within range of the ALP. I’m tipping they’ll get there this time. One Nation received almost 30% last time so it will be interesting to see what impact the collapse in their vote will have. I’m tipping it will favour Labor.
Lockyer is genuinely unpredictable. If Bill Flynn is seen as a good local member he may romp in. On the other hand, if he’s been a complete fumbler, people may turn back to the Nats in droves and push them past Labor. If he’s somewhere in the middle, the vote could split right there and just perhaps allow Labor to sneak through with around 30% of the primary vote. I’d say 30% chance each for Flynn & Rickuss (Nat) & 40% for an ALP shocker.
Gympie, as outlined earlier, despite National Party pretensions, will turn between Roberts (Ind) and the ALP. I’m backing Roberts..just. If the Nats do happen to beat Roberts into third place, the ALP should take it, so I can’t see much chance of a National win.
Burnett. This seat, much more so than Charters Towers or Burdekin, (which have usually been marginal), is rusted on National Party, small acreage dairy and cane farming heartland. Its loss was the equivalent of the ALP losing the NSW Bass Hill byelection in 1986. I think it will be close, but it’s the only Labor seat that I’m tipping to fall.
Mirani, has been a marginal National party seat since the Joh days. Will probably stay that way, but where will the One Nation votes go?
Burdekin. Due to the three way split, am certain of a Labor win, though the ALP should get over 40% of primaries this time, to make even a disciplined preference allocation academic. Main challenger will be Jeff Knuff, the former One Nation MP turned CCA, turned Katter Independent.
Thuringowa. If the Nats finish behind the Katter Independent Moyle and preference him, this could just prove a wild card. Like elsewhere, Labor will be laughing if the Nats finish in second place.
Charters Towers. This is being treated as a marginal seat in most quarters but I’d expect the ALP to finish with a margin of 8-10%. Since 1989, this seat has always been a struggle for the Nats and now that it is gone, they won’t get it back in a hurry.
Hinchinbrook. Could be some genuine excitement here on Saturday night.. Represents the best chance for a new independent. A real wild card, with a very outside chance for the ALP also. One of the few seats where first past the post could actually work in the Nats favour.
Tablelands. If there is a One Nation heartland then this is it. Despite the resignation of their previous sitting member to stand as an independent, One Nation’s Rosa Lee Long, then a virtual unknown, obtained 36% of the primary vote in 2001. Word has it that she’s worked hard and built up a strong local profile. Could get close to 50% on primaries this time.