Queensland has given the Senate its only ever One Nation member, and it allowed John Howard to secure his Senate majority after the 2004 election. This time there’s a strong chance of Katter’s Australian Party getting a look-in.
Queensland is the most right-leaning state electorally, having been the birthplace of One Nation and the only state ever to deliver four seats to the Coalition at a six-seat half-Senate election. It thus stands as a strong prospect for delivering a four right, two left result of the kind that might fundamentally alter the balance of power in the Senate. The state is correspondingly weak for the Greens, whose only success came in 2010 on the back of a surge in support as voters in Queensland deserted Labor after the dumping of Kevin Rudd. The Democrats performed rather better in winning a seat at every election from 1980 until their collapse in 2004, in part due to Labor’s tendency to deliver the Democrats their surplus after falling short of a third seat. At their high water mark election in 1998, One Nation overcame the punitive preference treatment that thwarted them every other time by scoring a quota off their own bat, their candidate Heather Hill winning a seat at the expense of Nationals incumbent Bill O’Chee. However, Hill’s election was overturned when the High Court ruled by a 4-3 majority that her dual British citizenship made her ineligible, and her seat went to One Nation’s number two candidate, Len Harris. Pauline Hanson meanwhile failed in her bid for the new lower house seat of Blair, being squeezed out on preferences after leading the primary vote.
In 2004 the Coalition achieved an unprecedented success in winning a fourth seat, which was the decisive factor in delivering the Howard government a Senate majority in its final term. This involved the election of three members off the Liberal ticket in addition to the leading Nationals candidate, newcomer Barnaby Joyce. The triumph belonged less to the Nationals, whose vote fell to 6.6% from 9.1% in 2001, than the Liberals, whose vote rose from 34.8% to 38.3%. The decisive point in the count came with the exclusion of Len Harris, who narrowly failed to overtake his former mentor Pauline Hanson who was running separately from One Nation. Had it been otherwise, the Fishing Party preferences that pushed Joyce clear of Hanson would have stayed locked up with One Nation and the seat would have gone to the Greens, owing to the Coalition parties having Hanson and One Nation last on their preference tickets. Joyce pulled ahead of the Liberals at the last count to take the fifth rather than sixth seat, a result decided by a large number of Hanson’s below-the-line votes going against the ticket.
The Coalition ran a joint ticket at the 2007 election for the first time since 1997, with the Nationals taking third position, and went one better with the Liberal National Party merger in 2010, with Barnaby Joyce second on the ticket. The swing to Labor in 2007 squeezed out minor candidates for the second election running, the six seats this time dividing evenly between the major parties. Three years later the Labor vote plunged 9.8%, as the 5.6% two-party swing in the lower house was compounded by a flight from Labor to the Greens. That left Labor barely clear of two quotas with a Senate vote of just 29.4%, while the Greens vote surged 5.4% to 12.8%. Such was the meagreness of the Labor surplus that the Greens needed further preferences from smaller parties to get the 1.5% over their base vote needed to reach a quota. The substantial right surplus was absorbed by the Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party, which had 0.83 quotas at the final count, and was thus about 2.4% short of winning a fourth seat for the right at the expense of the Greens.
Labor’s ticket will be headed by Chris Ketter, the state secretary of the Right faction Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association, who replaces the retiring John Hogg, a former official with the union. Hogg had been in the Senate since 1996, and became its president in the middle of 2008. The second and third positions remain unchanged from the 2007 election, with Claire Moore in second position and Mark Furner in third. Claire Moore is a member of the Left and first entered the Senate at the 2001 election, securing preselection at the expense of incumbent Brenda Gibbs who fell foul of a complicated factional quarrel over the ultimately worthless prize of the Petrie preselection. This will be her third successive election in the number two position on the ticket. Mark Furner is a former state vice-president of the National Union of Workers who was elected from number three in 2007, being the beneficiary of Labor’s strong performance in Queensland at that election to become Labor’s only successful number three candidate in Queensland six six-seat half-Senate elections commenced in 1990. His prospects for a second term can accordingly be considered as rather gloomy. Moore and Furner both lined up with Kevin Rudd over the course of his successive leadership challenges during the current term, Moore being rated a particularly stalwart supporter.
Two of the three Senators elected from the Liberal National Party ticket at the 2007 election, Sue Boyce and Ron Boswell, will be bowing out at the end of their current terms. Boswell’s retirement at the age of 70 offered no grounds for surprise, but Boyce’s decision to spend more time with her family occurred against an acknowledged backdrop of threats to her preselection from forces in the party who perceived her as too moderate. The one ongoing Senator is Ian Macdonald, who entered the Senate from the top of the Liberal ticket at the 1990 election and retained it in 1996, 2001 and 2007. McDonald served as minister in portfolios including local government, fisheries, forestry and conservation from after the 1998 election until his demotion in June 2006, and has been a shadow parliamentary secretary since Tony Abbott assumed the leadership in December 2009.
The second position on the ticket is James McGrath, who made a name for himself as an up-and-comer as the director of the party’s spectacularly successful 2012 state election campaign. Less happily, he had also been compelled to resign from a position as political adviser to London lord mayor Boris Johnson for telling an interviewer that Caribbean migrants could “go if they don’t like it here”. McGrath was long thought to have the succession to Alex Somlyay in the lower house Sunshine Coast seat of Fairfax lined up, but then set the cat among the pigeons by instead nominating for an unsuccessful tilt in the neighbouring seat of Fisher, which Mal Brough had long been cultivating ahead of a move against Peter Slipper. McGrath promised Fisher preselectors that he would not use Fairfax as a fallback option if he was unsuccessful, and accordingly set his sights on a Senate berth instead.
The third position has gone to Matt Canavan, a staffer to Barnaby Joyce, with fourth place going to former Queensland Chamber of Commerce and Industry president David Goodwin, whom Ron Boswell backed as his successor. Among a large field of other contenders was party treasurer Barry O’Sullivan, who will instead be accommodated in Barnaby Joyce’s vacancy and thus serve out a term that will continue until 2017.
The Greens’ lead candidate is Adam Stone, who ran in Mount Coot-tha at the state election and was touted during the campaign as the party’s “senior candidate”. Stone has ”worked in policy roles within the State and Commonwealth public services and as an advisor in the Federal Parliament”. Other candidates for the preselection were Libby Connors, a history lecturer at the University of Southern Queensland, and Jim McDonald, a former union official and industrial relations lecturer, who respectively ran in Yeerongpilly and Noosa at the state election.
Another strong prospect for a Senate seat is Katter’s Australian Party, which has recruited a high-profile candidate in the person of country singer James Blundell, whose first brush with politics came when he provided the official song for the “no” campaign during the 1999 republic referendum. Blundell sold over 400,000 records in his musical career, but was compelled to file for bankruptcy in 2010 amid declining career fortunes and an unsuccessful investment in a recording studio. Katter’s enlistment of Bludell, who had not previously been a member of the party, displeased some who presumably had their own ideas about the Senate nomination, with vice-president Kevin Brown resigning his position and describing Blundell’s endorsement as “a slap in the face to every loyal member”. Blundell also put noses out of joint by voicing support for gay marriage, albeit in equivocal terms. However, his electoral prospects have received a considerable boost from a preference deal with Labor that will see the party placed second on their Senate preference order in Queensland, in contrast to every other state where the Greens are second.