Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Upcoming Queensland Election

Queensland, the North-East state of Australia, is holding it's state-level election. The two main parties are the Labor party, and the Liberal National Party, a coalition of the two parties in Australia's Coalition. The difference between the LNP and other Liberal and National parties is an official merger between the two within the state. There is a long history in Queensland, which I will go in to shortly, but the most important thing to keep in mind at this time is to note what happened in the most recent election.

Of the 89 seats, the LNP took 78. Labor was reduced from 51 to 7. This is the worst defeat at the state level of a sitting government in Australian history, only coming close to the defeat in the last New South Wales election - something we'll be covering before their state elections in a few months. Labor, clearly, is expected to gain seats.

Australian elections are held under the preferential ballot. Voters rank the parties 1, 2, 3, and so forth. As a result, in Australia, beyond asking voters who their first preference are, also ask who they are preferencing higher, Labor, or the LNP/Coalition. This is called the 2PP, or Two Party Prefered. 2PP polls are averaging about 51.5% for the LNP and 48.5% for Labor. This would suggest a very very narrow majority for the LNP.

I will look in to the history of Queensland.

Queensland is normally thought of as the most right-wing state in Australia. While there is some evidence to suggest it, in fact, has a underlying base of support from Labor (something I will address further in later posts) the recent history has been right-wing.

In 1957, due to a split within the Labor party, The Liberal-National coalition was able to win a majority government. While the Liberals won 20,000 more votes, the Nationals (then called the Country Party) won 6 more seats. This trend, of the Nationals winning more seats but the Liberals winning more votes would continue for some time. It was only in 1977 that the National Party was able to win more votes than the Liberals, but with the two remaining in coalition government this entire time. This continued until 1983.

In that year, a number of Liberals voted against the government and for a motion to create a committee to review spending. This resulted in a split in the coalition between the two parties. In the election that followed, the National party greatly increased it's popular vote, coming nearly neck and neck with Labor, while the Liberals dropped nearly half of their vote. The Nationals won exactly 50% of the seats, and with the defection of two Liberals to the National party shortly after the election, was able to govern with a majority. This would be the first time the National Party, alone, would win a majority government in Australian history. Normally the smaller partner of the coalition, and normally the more right-wing and more conservative party, the Nationals had established themselves as the more dominant of the two parties in the former Coalition.

The government would be re-elected in 1986, until finally falling in the 1989 election, after the retirement of (very) long-time premier, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, who first took that office back in 1968. He would later be remembered for corruption in his government, and it was those kinds of accusations that lead to the Labor victory in that year. Labor managed a majority not only of seats but of first-preference votes. After being re-elected in 1992, the National and Liberal oppositions decided their best chance of winning was to re-create the coalition. They did very well, winning the 2PP, but lost out very narrowly on government. This was due, in part, to some of the very large majorities the Nationals were able to win in seats on the edge of the Brisbane commutershed; comparable to places like Barrie Ontario, Granby Quebec, or Chilliwack BC.

Many expected the coalition to win in 1998, but their chances were spoiled by One Nation, a rather right-wing and anti-immigration party. They managed to win a whopping 22.7% of the vote, the largest share of any non-main party (IE not Labor or the Coalition) in Australian history. This would only further cement the idea that Queensland is right-wing.  Labor would win the following election in 2001 by a huge majority, taking 66 of the 89 seats. Two further failures to defeat Labor would finally lead, in 2008, to the creation of the Liberal National Party, an official merger between the two Coalition partners. Officially, the LNP is considered a state branch of the National Party of Australia, but in practise, it serves as a model for a possible future merger between the two parties nationwide.

The Coalition had last won an election in 1989; though they did manage a short government in 1996-1998 due to Labor's loss of seats. The 2009 election was a real attempt to win for them, but they came up short, if only just. The party was simply unable to break in to the Brisbane area. This changed when the LNP elected Campbell Newman as their leader, a former Mayor of Brisbane. This would prove successful as Newman managed a near sweep of Brisbane, and took 78 of the 89 seats.

That brings us to this election.

Sadly, my knowledge on the specific issues in this campaign is next to none. What I do know, however, is two things. First, Campbell Newman has won more support than ever before from Urban areas in South East Queensland and Brisbane. Secondly, the stronger opposition to the LNP (IE the most dis-satisfaction) comes not from the urban corner of the state, but from the regional 'rural' and 'outback' areas. The LNP could become a more urban party, for the first time in it's history, while Labor ends up with a majority of it's caucus hailing from Rural areas.

I have prepared a crude map showing possible results.

I am not making a prediction, due to my limited time following this election with the other elections going on, but do have a gut feeling the LNP will retain it's majority, but the Premier will lose his seat.

Unlike Canada, there is no tradition of a fellow party member standing aside if the Premier were to lose their seat, thus the LNP will have to elect a new Premier. Worst case scenario is a 2-way race between Lawrence Springborg, the former National leader, and Jean Paul Langbroek, the former Liberal leader; especially if it gets nasty. However, these two have already served as LNP leader for various lengths of time and were unappealing to voters, suggesting a new face would take over. One possibility, is Jeff Seeney, who served as Parliamentary leader of the party until Newman won a seat at election. This could all be moot, however, if Labor wins, and would be one of the greatest comebacks in Australian history.

Queensland has a population very similar to British Columbia, and a number of seats also similar to British Columbia. This may help you understand better the size of each electoral division. The election occurs this Saturday (Australian time) meaning we should get results coming in around suppertime on Friday in Canada.

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