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Mar 22, 2009

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Firstly, I have a confession to make – I called a few seats wrong. To wit: Whitsunday, Mirani, Barron River, Pumicestone, Springwood, Redcliffe and Townsville. That’s actually no worse than my effort at the 2006 Victorian election, but it looks worse because they all ran in the same direction. It also doesn’t factor in the four seats still in doubt: Chatsworth, Cleveland, Gaven and Redlands (Mirani probably also belongs on this list). Late counting generally tends to favour the conservatives, so my guess would be that all will go with the LNP, in which case you will be able to add Redlands as the one seat I wrongly called for Labor (UPDATE: I wasn’t thinking straight here – I’m using Antony’s figures, and they account for this by going off the size of the polling booth swings. However, if it’s true there was a late swing to Labor, as the polls suggests, the LNP might be expected to have done relatively better out of pre-polls).

It can be inferred that this was the most surprising election result since I got into this caper in 2004. The surprisingly slim pickings for the LNP were Hervey Bay, Coomera, Mudgeeraba, Indooroopilly and Aspley, along with the notional gains of Burdekin and Clayfield. All four independents retained their seats, but One Nation’s Rosa Lee Long was defeated by the LNP’s Shane Knuth after the redistribution put them head-to-head in the new seat of Dalrymple. Notwithstanding Pauline Hanson’s solid 21.7 per cent in Beaudesert, the election thus marked the final nail in the coffin of the political phenomenon she ignited when elected to federal parliament in 1996.

The following table breaks the result down into digestible regional chunks.

Southern Brisbane (20) 50.6% -4.1% 36.1% +4.3% 9.9% -0.5% 3.4% +0.3%
Northern Brisbane (11) 43.2% -5.9% 40.4% +5.3% 12.0% -0.5% 4.3% +1.1%
Outer North Metro (6) 47.7% -5.5% 37.1% +1.5% 7.6% -1.7% 7.6% +5.7%
Ipswich (3) 58.4% -4.4% 30.3% +3.9% 7.3% -0.4% 4.0% +0.9%
Gold Coast (10) 40.8% -7.5% 45.7% +3.2% 6.8% -1.4% 6.8% +5.7%
Sunshine Coast (6) 28.9% -2.2% 49.3% +6.2% 10.2% +0.3% 11.7% -4.3%
Hinterland (6) 33.1% -2.6% 45.4% +1.5% 7.7% +1.3% 13.8% -0.2%
Central Coast (11) 42.7% -1.0% 38.8% +3.8% 5.7% +2.3% 12.8% -5.1%
Northern Coast (9) 44.5% -6.5% 42.0% +5.1% 7.6% +0.7% 5.8% +0.7%
Interior (7) 26.5% -4.6% 51.9% -5.5% 3.5% +2.7% 18.1% +7.4%
TOTAL (89) 42.7% -4.2% 41.1% +3.2% 8.2% +0.2% 8.0% +0.8%

Southern Brisbane. Labor went into the election holding all 20 seats in this region, and will emerge with between 17 and 19 (Redlands and Chatsworth being in doubt). If you remove Indooroopilly, where Labor shed votes to Ronan Lee (and which is a doubtful inclusion in this region in any case), Labor’s vote was down only 3.6 per cent. The biggest swings were in Bulimba (8.9 per cent), where sitting member Pat Purcell retired, and Algester (8.7 per cent). The smallest was 0.0 per cent in the already lineball seat of Chatsworth. On the one hand, this might be put down to the fact that it was defended by an LNP sitting member in Michael Caltabiano in 2006 (his wife Andrea was the candidate this time); on the other, it should be noted that Labor’s Chris Bombolas was taking his personal vote into retirement after one term. Indooroopilly appears to have been won by LNP candidate Scott Emerson, but I can’t tell you anything substantial about that because we only have estimated preference distributions to go on. Labor and Ronan Lee and neck-and-neck in the race for second: whoever gets ahead will need about 70 per cent of the other’s preferences, which would be pretty extraordinary.

Northern Brisbane. The much-touted Royal Children’s Hospital backlash did make its presence felt in a number of seats, notably Aspley which fell with a 7.2 per cent swing, but nowhere did this reach the double-digit proportions that Labor was fearing. In particular, Kate Jones did remarkably well to limit the damage to 0.9 per cent in Ashgrove. Another good performer was Vicky Darling in Sandgate, whose swing was only 3.5 per cent. Everton swung heavily as expected, but not by quite enough (9.3 per cent against a margin of 10.6 per cent). Shadow Treasurer Tim Nicholls picked up the swing he needed to retain his seat of Clayfield, made notionally Labor by the redistribution. Interesting to note that Labor’s margin continues to diminish in Brisbane Central: where Peter Beattie won by 25.0 per cent in 2001, the margin is now 6.7 per cent after a 7.7 per cent swing. All told, the LNP now holds three of the region’s 11 seats after going into the election with one.

Outer Northern Metro. Labor held all six of these seats. Redcliffe and Pumicestone were must-wins where the LNP failed to perform, with swings staying below 1 per cent. Strongly performing independents in Redcliffe (former Labor man Peter Houston, 14.3 per cent) and Morayfield (Lynette Devereaux, 10.7 per cent) drove up the “others” result. A strong performance by Houston was supposed to be bad news for Labor (as was the oil spill), but both major parties were down on the primary vote in roughly equal proportions. One might speculate that the LNP’s Redcliffe rail shenanigans backfired badly. Changing members (Linda Lavarch out, Glass House refugee Carolyn Male in) fuelled an 8.5 per cent swing in Pine Rivers (successor to abolished Kurwongbah), but not enough to account for the 13.3 epr cent margin.

Ipswich. Three safe Labor seats that remain so.

Gold Coast. The LNP gained two of the 10 seats here, when they were really hoping for five. Those to go were Coomera, a new seat not defended by a sitting member (margin 8.3 per cent, swing 10.5 per cent swing), and Mudgeeraba, where Dianne Reilly was finally defeated in the seat she gained in 2001 (margin 3.9 per cent, swing 6.7 per cent). Crucially, the swings against Labor in Broadwater, Southport, Burleigh and Gaven were all below 5 per cent, preserving them in the first three and sending the last down to the wire. All told, Gold Coast seats swung in roughly the same proportions as Brisbane, perhaps arguing against the idea that the Carrara Stadium issue worked against them. On the other hand, Mermaid Beach LNP member Ray Stevens picked up a big 8.3 per cent swing, which might be seen as vindication of his strong criticism of Springborg’s policy. Another explanation might be that it was a correction after the 6.3 per cent swing to Labor in the predecessor seat of Robina in 2006 which followed the departure of sitting member Bob Quinn.

Sunshine Coast. No surprise that the six seats here stayed five LNP and one independent. Labor didn’t have much further to fall after the 2006 backlash over water issues; the overall LNP vote was boosted by a big increase in Noosa, where Cate Molloy was down from 23.7 per cent to 8.3 per cent.

Hinterland. This is more a collection of bits and pieces than a region. It includes Beaudesert, where any talk of independents Pauline Hanson (21.7 per cent) and Keith Gee (8.0 per cent) helping Labor was dispelled by a 13.6 per cent sag in their vote; Toowoomba South, where Mike Horan should have made way for Stuart Copeland and received one of the state’s only two pro-Labor swings for his trouble; Glass House, where the redistribution produced a 0.0 per cent margin and which was won quite comfortably by the LNP; Nanango, where John Bjelke-Petersen went backwards in his second attempt to unseat former One Nation independent Dolly Pratt; Toowoomba North, where Attorney-General Kerry Shine survived a 4.9 per cent swing to win by 2.7 per cent; and the traditional Nationals seat of Lockyer, where nothing untoward occurred.

Central Coast. The biggest surprise of the election was Labor’s excellent performance in the northern part of this region, away from the impact of the Traveston Crossing dam issue. I’m not aware of anyone who thought Jan Jarratt would hold Whitsunday for Labor, but she has with a 3.2 per cent swing. Mirani was also considered a lay-down misere for LNP member Ted Malone, who saw the seat edged into the Labor column by the redistribution, and who finished the evening 0.4 per cent behind. Labor suffered hardly any swing at all in and around Rockhampton, allowing them to easily retain Keppel. The one casualty here was Hervey Bay, where former mayor Ted Sorensen despatched front-bencher Andrew McNamara with an 8.0 per cent swing. Independent Chris Foley was predictably untroubled in Maryborough, and Labor failed to bring home the bacon in Gladstone, where independent Liz Cunningham picked up a 3.8 per cent swing against her Labor opponent.

Northern Coast. The swing to Labor in this region was inflated by Hinchinbrook, where voters took a predictably dim view of absentee candidate Mark Platt, Thuringowa, where they copped a harmless 8.2 per cent swing, and Mulgrave, where both parties shed votes to independent Damian Byrnes. Elsewhere Labor almost matched their very strong performance in 2006, doing extremely well to retain Barron River and generally retaining their lock on Cairns and Townsville. There was one notional LNP gain in Burdekin, where Rosemary Menkens picked up a 3.3 per cent swing after the redistribution left her facing a Labor margin of 0.9 per cent.

Interior. The LNP couldn’t even manage second place in Mount Isa, shedding votes to Bob Katter-backed independent Keith Douglas who finishes behind Labor member Betty Kiernan. Shane Knuth outpolled Rosa Lee Long 40.1 per cent to 34.3 per cent in Dalrymple; Stuart Copeland failed to come through in his bid to defeat former LNP colleague Ray Hopper in Condamine, who outpolled him 47.4 per cent to 26.4 per cent. The remaining seats are Nationals heartland and did not turn up any surprises.

The “whither the LNP” prognostications will have to wait for another time, but I will make this observation: they went into the election with nine MPs from Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast against 16 from the rest of the state, and have probably emerged with 17 and 15 respectively. That at least is a healthy development, even if it does result as much from their failures as their successes (such as they were).

William Bowe — Editor of The Poll Bludger

William Bowe

Editor of The Poll Bludger

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, is one of the most heavily trafficked forums for online discussion of Australian politics, and joined the Crikey stable in 2008.

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136 thoughts on “Whys and wherefores

  1. Andrew Bartlett

    Much as I’ve always been mildly aggravated by the “our best result ever!!!!!” spin the Greens seem to run with after virtually every election, I think Ben is being a trifle too harsh.

    I don’t see how the Greens could have done anything other than pull out all stops to retain their sitting MP, whatever the reasons as to why and how he became a Green. A 10 % swing to the Greens in Indooroopilly is not to be sneezed at, even if a large chunk of it was Lee’s personal vote.

    Mt Coot-tha has always been stronger for the Greens than Indooroopilly, but that wasn’t the seat Ronan was in or where he had built up the personal following. Nor was Mt Coot-tha well suited to the Greens’ need to get into second place above one of the major parties – as the result showed. In contrast, they probably will end up 2nd ahead of Labor in Indooroopilly, albeit too far back (given OPV) to win. AFAIK, the Greens have not managed that before in a Qld seat. I’ll be interested to see how close he does end up after all the votes are in.

    Of course, there’s no prizes for coming second.

    I don’t know whether they could have run a stronger campaign or had a better message – it was as hard as ever for them to get mainstream media attention, but that’s never going to change.

    And Ben is definitely right with his bigger point. The Greens basically stood still this election, despite the wide spread apathy to the major parties and no other serious minor party. (Family First went a long way backwards this time, given they stood in about the same number of seats). That would (or should) be disappointing for them. This included drops in high polling seats like Bris Central and Sth Brisbane.

    I’m sure they would say the prospect of a knife edge election may have scared some voters back to the majors – esp Labor – but unfortunately that’s just another ‘if only’. Minor parties are full of ‘if onlys’ as to why they didn’t win a particular seat or do better in general, but the only thing that counts is the number of votes.

    And Stewart, nice of you to think the Democrats in Australia might have a renaissance, but I seriously can’t see it.

  2. Mark Bahnisch

    Ben Raue:

    The final loser of the election campaign was Ronan Lee and the Greens. The Greens only gained a swing of 0.2%, despite the election demonstrated great levels of apathy and disappointment amongst supporters of both the ALP and LNP. The result has been spoken of as a success, but these stories neglect the fact that the Greens have never before run in all 89 seats. In 2006 the party only ran in 75, and you would find, once more comprehensive analysis is done, that the Greens vote in the seats contested in both elections would likely have gone backwards. This can be seen in William Bowe’s post at Pineapple Party Time, which demonstrates that, in Brisbane and the Gold Coast, the Greens vote clearly went backwards. It’s natural for a party to look for a positive spin on a result after working hard, but if I were a Queensland Green I would be disappointed both with the campaign’s strategy and result.

    When you consider that the Greens have managed major swings in recent elections in Western Australia and the ACT, the Mayo by-election and council elections in New South Wales and Victoria, you would have to question what went wrong with the Greens’ strategy.

    The Greens focused most of their energy, and expectations, on the seat of Indooroopilly in the person of Ronan Lee. I’m not commenting on the wisdom of Lee’s defection for either Lee or the Queensland Greens, but you would have to say that, looking at the numbers in Indooroopilly, the decision to focus resources on Indooroopilly was a major strategic blunder.

    Despite the benefits of incumbency and most of the party’s energy being focused on his seat, Lee managed a dismal 26%, while Larissa Waters managed almost 24% with much less profile and support in neighbouring Mount Coot-tha. You would have to think that the chances of winning Lee’s seat were always miniscule. All of the energy drawn into Indooroopilly to limit the swing against Lee to a large 14% has seen the party suffer swings against it in most seats in Brisbane.

    The party isn’t a complete loser though. As far as I could see, the statewide campaign was the most professional run by the party in Queensland, and the party’s effort in running a candidate in every seat has to be commended. The party should be in a strong position in 2012 to challenge an even-more-tired Labor government in seats like Mount Coot-tha.


  3. Stewart J

    re Green prefs – and I wonder how much damage a few elections worth of “Just vote 1” from the major parties did – the problem with OPV is that as a better democratic system (arguably) than CPV, it can deliver undemocratic results, especially if the electorate is so divided as not to wish to preference to anyone, and is given no such direction to.

    re Democrats as “upper class bogans” – have to agree with Andrew B on that one. I’m not even sure what such a thing is! Serious minded people with a focus on parliament, social liberals (with a small ‘l’) as I’ve seen them described, but not UCB’s (hey, a new acronym!).

    re lower house seats – Greens have won single member elections at the Council level in Vic & NSW, including Mayoral elections (think Byron Bay!!), and can certainly pull 40-50% across wards. Putting that together for state seats is the next step – and I’d watch the next NSW election for that – with federal seats some way off. The inner city seats seem the best (Mebourne, Sydney, Brisbane etc) but it might also be oher seats where the Coalition vote is depressed (Cunningham maybe?? Grayndler?) and so on. But its not enough to win a couple of lower house seats – the larger game is the influence on government, and that was a lesson the Democrats, to their credit, learnt long ago. I have to say I hope (unlike some Greens I know!) that the Democrats go through some sort of renaissance, such as the Free Democrats in Germany, but I suspect that is a hard road.

  4. Possum

    I completely agree NorthShorer (not Nature 5 as I originally said – oops, one too many reds) – conservative political cliches from the mouths of the Opposition needs to take a back seat in the broader scheme of the state – but at the local level like on the sunshine coast up through Gympie, out west and in FNQ, if that conservative voice and its message had a distinct presence different from the South East corner conservative leadership (and its accompanying political necessities of moderation), they could still throw the conservative bone in the local media and maintain a presence for their right wing base without alienating the metro Brisbane area.If they could do that well, there wouldnt be any rural independents.

    But under a merger party it’s almost impossible to achieve with any great level of success – as the electoral results continue to demonstrate.

    Also, margins are deceptive in Qld – they can change dramatically in any given election. Just look at what happened in 2001 with Beattie and even what happened in 2007 Federally with Rudd. Qld is remarkably volatile.

    Because the conservatives don’t have any issues which they dominate that can bridge the chasm between their urban and regional constituency (unlike Labor which uses government services, infrastructure and these days Laura Norder according to the polling), the conservatives are effectively forced to decentralise their message on other issues – so at the state level you get the usual rants against arbitrary things that are spun as political correctness to the regions, while in the city its basically little more than a complaint against Labor rather than any particular thing the conservatives are actually *for*. (at the Fed level, economic management and national security were Howards bridging issues – but Rudd eroded them enough to build a multi-demographic constituency which he now completely owns as an incumbent)

    But the problem with an LNP is that the messages thrown to the right wing regional base come back to haunt the urban constituency as a form of electoral poison.

    Two groups – different beliefs. A merged party can’t bridge the demographics unless they attack Labor on their intergenerational strengths. But to do that requires an extraordinary leader of the type that cant actually come up through the party ranks becuase of the dysfunction caused by the two competing consitutencies on the internal side.

    It’s all a sad joke.

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