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Queensland Politics

Jul 18, 2014

Stafford by-election: July 19

Months after its shellacking at the Redcliffe by-election, Campbell Newman's government faces another unwelcome test of its flagging popularity.

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Update: July 18

Bumping this post to the top of the batting order ahead of the big day tomorrow. Developments:

• The main news story to emerge from the campaign has been the Courier-Mail’s revelation last Thursday that Labor candidate Anthony Lynham owed money to Queensland Health after it overpaid him amid a troubled rollout of its new payroll system. This led to Labor claims that the government had leaked private information against him, resulting in a fiery exchange between Campbell Newman and Annastacia Palaszczuk at en estimates committee hearing earlier this week.

• Tuesday’s estimates committee hearings also heard from acting Electoral Commissioner Yvette Zischke about the progress of the new voter identification regime at pre-polling. Zischke reported that few if any of the roughly 1200 voters who had cast pre-poll votes had failed to meet the requirement, remembering that any who do may still cast a declaration vote to be admitted to the count if the Electoral Commission deems the voter to be eligible.

• I had a paywalled article in Crikey yesterday reviewing the by-election, with a particular focus on its implications for Campbell Newman in his neighbouring electorate of Ashgrove.

• The normally reticent Antony Green told ABC Radio in Brisbane last week that he anticipated a decisive double-digit swing to Labor.

• Tune into Poll Bludger after 6pm tomorrow for live coverage of the results, and subscribe to Crikey for my post-match review on Monday.

Update: July 4

Palmer United has indeed declined a field of candidate, leaving a refreshingly straightforward field of four encompassing, in ballot paper order, Bob Andersen (Liberal National), Sally-Anne Vincent (Family First), Anne Boccabella (Greens) and Anthony Lynham (Labor). A ReachTEL automated phone poll of 632 respondents in the electorate, conducted on Tuesday night for the union-affiliated Workcover Protection Coalition, found strongly negative results for the government with respect to the Crime and Misconduct Commission, the appointment of Tim Carmody as the new Chief Justice and the performance of Jarrod Bleijie as Attorney-General, but unfortunately did not gauge voting intention.

Overview

With the final year of his term well under way, Campbell Newman’s Liberal National Party government faces a by-election in the inner northern suburbs seat of Stafford on July 19, now just under three weeks away. The election is of particular interest for two reasons – it will be the first test of the new voter identification laws that appear likely to be followed similar measures from the federal government, as I discussed in a paywalled article in Crikey yesterday; and it takes place in an electorate neighbouring Campbell Newman’s seat of Ashgrove, which I’ll have more to say about over the coming weeks. This is second by-election the government has faced this year, the first having been held on February 22 in the outer northern Brisbane seat of Redcliffe. This served the government with the unhappy precedent of a 17.2% swing to Labor and victory for its candidate Yvette D’Ath, who had herself been unseated as the member for the corresponding federal seat of Petrie the previous September.

Numbers indicate 2012 state election booth locations and the Liberal National Party two-party preferred vote. Map boundaries courtesy of Ben Raue at The Tally Room.

The electorate of Stafford covers suburbs in Brisbane’s inner north about six kilometres from the city, from Alderley and Grange north to Chermside and Stafford Heights. It existed in name between 1972 and 1992 and again after 2001, having been renamed Kedron in the interim. The two seats between them were held by Labor from 1989 to 2012 on margins of between 7.3% in 2009 and 22.4% in 2001, before a 14.4% swing delivered it to Liberal National Party candidate Chris Davis in 2012. Davis was sacked as Assistant Health Minister in May after he sided with doctors in a pay dispute, and polled his constituents on the government’s contentious changes to the Crime and Misconduct Commission (the results of which can be viewed on the ReachTEL website, together with a further poll he commissioned after his resignation which showed him to be viewed a lot more favourably than Campbell Newman). After a further falling out with the party over the government’s move to lift the disclosure threshold on political donations, Davis announced his resignation from parliament on May 25.

Labor’s candidate at the by-election is Anthony Lynham, a maxillofacial surgeon who was preselected two months before Davis’s resignation. Lynham had emerged as a critic of the government in his capacity as a spokesperson for Queensland Coalition for Action on Alcohol, accusing it of being unduly influenced by the hotel industry. The LNP has endorsed Bob Andersen, a senior psychologist with Queensland Health. Andersen became a bit of a hit on social media after failing to look duly pleased when Newman introduced him as the party’s candidate. The Greens candidate is Anne Boccabella, who has run a number of times in neighbouring Brisbane Central. The Palmer United Party has been prevaricating over whether it will run a candidate – all will be revealed when nominations close on Thursday.

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