Queensland Votes 2017 – Issue 1
29 October 2017
The guessing game is over, with Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, today calling an election for Saturday 25 November 2017, allowing for a 28 day campaign.
After a number of very turbulent years in Queensland politics, the 2017 election will be the point where voters decide between relative stability or yet more change.
Opinion polling has delivered largely mixed results about who will be able to form government after the next election. The most recently published Newspoll shows that, on a two-party-preferred basis, Labor leads 52 per cent to the Liberal National Party’s (LNP) 48 per cent; whereas the latest ReachTEL poll reverses that result.
There is also an unprecedented level of uncertainty due to a range of changes and developments, including:
- Expansion of the size of the Parliament from 89 to 93 seats
- A consequent re-distribution which has substantially redrawn the political map across the state
- A change in the voting system so that electors must now ‘number all the boxes’, potentially advantaging the LNP
- A newly invigorated One Nation party spurred by the rise of right and far-right political movements globally.
One Nation’s re-emergence as a political force in Queensland State politics has also seen a substantial drop in the primary vote of the LNP, from around 41 to 34 per cent since the last State election in January 2015, according to Newspoll. Under Queensland’s previous voting rules this would likely have caused something of an existential threat to the LNP, potentially seeing it lose seats to both Labor and One Nation. However with the re-introduction of a compulsory preferential voting system, most primary votes for One Nation are expected to return to the LNP, rather than simply ‘exhaust’. This means that the outcome of the next election will largely be determined by the strength of the One Nation vote in regional Queensland seats and how many of these votes favour the LNP on preferences.
The Major Parties
- Premier – Hon Annastacia Palaszczuk MP
- Deputy Premier – Hon Jackie Trad MP
The Government’s biggest challenge has been in the area of public transport with train driver shortages and cancellations damaging the Government’s service delivery credentials. It is not yet clear the extent to which these issues will impact the Government’s standing at the upcoming poll. It has however featured in the LNP’s pre-election digital advertising and first attack ad.
Liberal National Party
- Opposition Leader – Mr Tim Nicholls MP
- Deputy Opposition Leader – Ms Deb Frecklington MP
In May 2016 following a leadership challenge, Tim Nicholls was elected, along with Deputy Leader Deb Frecklington. The team covers both the Liberal and National sides of the party, with Nicholls hailing from Brisbane’s Clayfield electorate, while Frecklington is from the South Burnett electorate of Nanango – home to former Premier, Joh Bjelke-Petersen.
An important political decision for the Opposition was to distance itself from the large privatisation program of the Newman Government, and indeed to pledge against assets sales, mirroring the Labor Government’s position.
The Minor Parties
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation
- State Leader – Mr Steve Dickson MP
- Deputy Leader – Mr Sam Cox
Public opinion polling has consistently indicated the party is attracting above 15 per cent of first preference votes from Queenslanders.
Political advisor to Pauline Hanson and former Federal coalition adviser, James Ashby, has said that one option under consideration is for the party to direct preferences against all sitting members. This would be a significant disadvantage for LNP incumbents who in some cases will rely on One Nation preferences to see them elected. Despite the preferencing decisions of the party’s leadership, it is more likely, in any case, that a One Nation voter, who normally votes LNP, would support that party ahead of Labor.
In 1998 One Nation secured 11 seats across the State with a statewide vote at just under 23 per cent and Peter Beattie was still able to form a minority Government. It remains to be seen as to how many seats One Nation can secure, however it is clear nonetheless that seats currently held by the major parties will be under threat from their advance. This is particularly the case in the Queensland regions of North, Far North, Central, South West Queensland, and Wide Bay.
One Nations’ ability to influence the outcome of the poll will depend on the Party’s leaders avoiding the errors and controversies of the last WA election campaign as well as the selection of candidates, among them the newly ousted federal Senator Malcolm Roberts who will run for the State seat of Ipswich. As a home grown phenomenon, One Nation’s impact could well overcome any such unforced errors in any case.
Katter’s Australian Party (KAP)
- State Leader – Mr Robbie Katter MP
- Deputy Leader – Mr Shane Knuth MP
KAP has remained a strong regional voice, with minor parliamentary wins such as the passage of a Bill, with the support of the LNP, to give canegrowers power over sugar marketing arrangements.
Robbie Katter is likely to continue to enjoy support in the newly named seat of Traeger, much of which he shares with his father, Federal Member for Kennedy, Bob Katter. The situation for the other KAP MP, Shane Knuth is less certain; he will nominate for the seat of Hill which has markedly changed from his former seat of Dalrymple. The new seat is comprised of parts of three previous seats, his own, one Labor held and one LNP held. While One Nation has said it will not contest the seat, it will be a three way contest between KAP and the major parties.
KAP has announced that if it is in a balance of power position following the poll, its first item of business will be a push for secession, and the establishment of a State of North Queensland.
In the event that One Nation has some success, KAP’s support is likely to be courted to form government.
Key issues: Regions versus the South East
The key issues likely to determine the electoral map following the election will be heavily focussed on the economic divide between the cities and the regions.
While overall Queensland has experienced ongoing economic growth and lower unemployment, regional centres do not appear to have prospered in the same way. Following strong economic activity and results over the previous decade, Central Queensland (Bundaberg, Gladstone, Mackay and Rockhampton) and North Queensland (Townsville) have suffered an economic downturn, particularly since the conclusion of the mining booms.
Issues such as jobs, economic security and law and order will feature prominently and are likely to have an impact on voting intentions in the regions.
Why preferences are important
Recent changes to the Electoral Act mean that in order for a vote to be valid, the elector must number every square on the ballot paper in their preferred order (as is the case in federal House of Representative ballots). At previous state elections in Queensland, voters could simply place the number “1” in support of a single candidate, ‘exhausting’ their vote if the candidate did not receive sufficient support to stay in the count. In the past, this has meant that large numbers of votes for the Greens and other minor parties would have minimal impact on the election outcome
At the 2017 election, compulsory preferencing is likely to benefit the LNP, with One Nation voters more likely to preference the LNP before Labor. Meanwhile, Labor has indicated it will preference One Nation last in every seat which means that a significant number of Labor votes could flow to the LNP ahead of One Nation, in some cases seeing the LNP candidate elected, effectively with Labor’s assistance.