Queensland four-year terms referendum and council elections
A primer on tomorrow's electoral events in Queensland: a referendum to introduce fixed four-year terms for the state parliament, and council elections that include the big prize of the Brisbane lord mayoralty.
The referendum has passed with a modest majority, having recorded a 53.3% yes vote with 46.0% of enrolled voters counted. The yes vote tended to be higher and the city and lower in the country, but the range was fairly narrow, from 44.9% in rural Dalrymple to 64.7% in Surfers Paradise. The other big news is Labor’s surprisingly poor show in Brisbane, where LNP lord mayoral incumbent Graham Quirk ended the night with a raw 58.7% after preferences with 62.6% of enrolled voters counted. While this represents a swing against him of nearly 10%, it’s nonetheless a heavy defeat for Labor – and also a bad show for pollsters who had the LNP two-party vote 6% to 7% lower. The news gets even worse for Labor in the wards, where they actually look to have gone backwards from their disastrous 2012 result. The LNP appears to have retained its share of 18 out or 26 seats, and further looks to have nabbed Northgate with the retirement of Labor’s Kim Flesser. Furthermore, the Greens are leading in the Labor-held ward of The Gabba, with 33.0% of the vote to Labor’s 30.8%, and preferences certain to decide the result for one or the other ahead of the LNP candidate on 34.0%. Independent Nicole Johnston has been easily returned in Tennyson. The likely result is LNP 19, Labor five, independent one and Greens one, with the Greens’ win in The Gabba probably being the most doubtful.
Preview (posted Friday)
Queensland has some big electoral action in store tomorrow, with a statewide referendum on fixed four-year parliamentary terms, and council elections offering the big partisan prize of the Brisbane lord mayoralty. If the referendum gets up, Queensland will lose its distinction as the only state still hanging on to three-year terms, with elections henceforth set for the last Saturday in October, starting at the end of the current term. Should the term run to its natural conclusion in early 2018, the new system would kick in with the next election behing held in October 2021. Queensland-based electoral law authority Graeme Orr explains what’s wrong with this in Crikey – specifically, the weakening of electoral accountability in a state with no upper house, and the government’s failure to prepare voters for it through an adequate education campaign. A Galaxy poll of 540 voters in the City of Brisbane found respondents breaking 48-35 in favour, but there are views abroad that voters in the regions will be less keen, and that late deciders will break in favour of no.
In the City of Brisbane, whose million-strong population accounts for just under half the overall population of the metropolitan area, voters will decide whether to extend the Liberal National Party’s 12-year grip on the lord mayoralty, which began with Campbell Newman’s first victory in 2004. The current incumbent, Graham Quirk, assumed the role when Newman quit in April 2011 to make his run for the premiership at the next year’s state election, having first been elected to council at the age of 27 in 1985. Quirk won election to the lord mayoralty in his own right in April 2012, a month after Labor’s decimation at the state election, with 61.9% of the primary vote, translating to a 68.3-31.7 win over his Labor opponent after preferences.
The two published polls suggest it will be a great deal closer than that this time, with the aforementioned Galaxy survey of a fortnight ago giving Quirk a lead of 53-47 over Labor candidate Rod Harding, and a ReachTEL automated phone poll of 1116 conducted for the Sunday Mail last Thursday having it at 52-48. The big news of the late campaign has been the LNP cutting loose Tennyson ward candidate Ashley Higgins, over accusations he had sent sexually explicit images to a teenage boy from a Catholic school at which he served as a minister. Observers of the campaign also tend towards the view that the LNP has been outcampaigned by Labor.
Councillors will also be elected to Brisbane’s 26 wards, which also tend to produce rigid two-party contests. The 2012 landslide delivered the Liberal National Party 18 seats, with a former LNP independent winning the aforementioned Tennyson ward, and Labor managing only seven. Antony Green has a pendulum and accompanying ward profiles here. Elsewhere, the Sunday Mail’s ReachTEL poll indicated that incumbent mayors are set to be returned in the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, Ipswich and Toowoomba.
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.