… I don’t like to use the term “hegemony” because my hope is that under Anna Bligh, the first woman elected as a Premier in Australia from a supposedly conservative state, we’ll finally collectively wake up to the fact that the Smart State is at the forefront of a diverse and exciting country that’s in the process of emerging. And living with heterogeneity is a much better prospect than assimilation into the hivemind of The Borg. I’m still thinking that whoever came up with the bright idea of applying that moniker to Lawrence perhaps wasn’t that big a Trekkie.
No doubt there will be much ink spilled over this rather stunning result – the re-election of the Queensland Labor government to a fifth term – and no doubt I’ll be spilling some myself. But it’s worth, perhaps, recording some instant reactions.
First, it’s worth pointing out that Possum correctly interpreted the Auspoll exit poll numbers here before any vote figures were available as suggesting a comfortable Labor majority. He might have been a tad conservative about when the result would be clear – Antony Green basically called it about a half hour into the ABC broadcast, and Anna Bligh, asked after her victory speech when she knew the election was won, must have been erring on the conservative side when she modified her initial answer of 6.30pm to 7.20pm.
What we had expected would be a long night was over in a flash.
So were the polls wrong? No. Labor were gone for all money at the start of the week, and the tracking polls leaked were genuine. A swing back to the ALP started on Wednesday night, and accentuated on Thursday and then gathered momentum. Newspoll, which showed a closer result than Galaxy from a significantly larger sample, was taken on Wednesday and Thursday.
The ALP, as we noted here and documented at Pineapple Party Time, poured enormous resources into the seats in play towards the end of the week, with messages targeted finely towards issues swinging votes in each electorate. This flew under the MSM radar. And, after a campaign characterised by apathy and a disposition to vote against an eleven year old government, voters only really focused on the choice incredibly late in the game. There’s tons of evidence around that beneath the repetitive drumbeat of the polls there was a lot of volatility, as I’ve been arguing over the last few days.
The campaign was also taken out of the hands of the apparatchiks who were steering the ship of state towards the shoals, and the whole weight of the federal ALP was placed behind the state effort – not just the rhetorical intervention of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, but also organisationally, driven by Wayne Swan’s personal intervention, backed by the PM. The Bligh 30 seat marathon signalled the turn to the realisation that the way to win was to “Let Anna Be Anna!”…
In the final analysis, Lawrence Springborg sunk his own ship, and Anna Bligh, having finally escaped the cold dead hand of the ALP apparat, won the thing on the basis of her own personal qualities. Her victory as the first elected female Premier in Australia is thoroughly well deserved, and she will enjoy a much enhanced authority in the party and over the government.
It’s Bligh’s victory. And she now has the chance to stake out a new direction for Labor and Queensland.
There’ll be time enough to discuss the implications for the opposition and for the federal scene. But, make no mistake, this victory was one pulled out of the fire. Forget Lawrence Springborg’s complaints about a 3% swing somehow supposedly translating into a change of government. The fact is that the ALP won over the majority of Queensland voters, with a clear lead on primaries as well as in the two party preferred vote. Springborg has to wear that – he, and the LNP, weren’t rejected because of any bias in the electoral system, but because more voters supported the ALP.
Contrary to all predictions, no seats but the low hanging fruit changed hands, and the LNP still goes largely unrepresented in Brisbane, and the ALP did surprisingly well on the Gold Coast, in Central Queensland and in North and Far North Queensland. The result is a total repudiation of the “united conservative force”.
The Greens also failed to make an impact, with a statewide vote that was basically static, despite running in all 89 seats for the first time. Their single MP, the former Labor Member for Indooroopilly, Ronan Lee, has lost his seat to the LNP.
As Andrew Fraser observed, “it’s very hard for a government to win after eleven years – just ask John Howard”. Yet Labor won a comfortable majority – 17, according to the latest ABC projection.
And Labor swung that majority – from the jaws of a certain defeat earlier this week – almost solely because when voters focused on the choice, they chose to put their trust in Anna Bligh personally, and to support an activist government in a time of great uncertainty.