I ceased updating my Queensland election count thread on Saturday, partly due to distractions from Canberra, but mostly because incoming votes had reduced to a trickle. With the dealine for receipt of postal votes passed at 6pm this evening, we can expect the final tallies and preference counts to be conducted over the next two or at most three days. No late count surprises transpired, so it is beyond doubt that 44 seats will be declared for Labor, 42 for the Liberal National Party, two for Katter’s Australian Party and one independent, Nicklin MP Peter Wellington, who has thrown his lot in with Labor while the Katter members continue to haggle for terms. To summarise the last four seats I had left on my watch list:

Ferny Grove. There have been 193 new votes added here since Saturday, and the Labor lead of 414 is now at 408.

Mount Ommaney. Another 109 votes added, and the LNP lead is up from 170 to 187.

Whitsunday. A further 249 votes have been counted. Here there is a complication, explained thus by Antony Green: “The votes have been counted but they haven’t been isolated by count centre and so haven’t been entered into the computer system. I’ve had a discussion with the ECQ who are seeing what they can do, but it may be that the count in Whitsunday won’t include all the votes until the actual distribution of preferences is reported this evening or tomorrow. There are no votes missing and everything adds up except the website.”. It matters little – my projection had the LNP lead at 351 on Saturday, and 352 now.

Lockyer. Ian Rickuss never looked comfortable in his tussle with Pauline Hanson, but his lead is now at 194, compared with 183 on Saturday.

Today I wrote an account for Crikey concerning the constitutional situation given the apparent conviction of the Liberal National Party that it can remain in power until any uncertainty surrounding Ferny Grove is resolved. By the time of publication, this had been overtaken somewhat by two events. The first was Campbell Newman’s visit to the Governor to tender his resignation, “pending the appointment of a new Premier” – so not actually a resignation at all then, as far as I can see (UPDATE: J-D in comments reasonably argues in comments that this is overreach, but I remain curious about the timing). Ordinarily when a Premier tenders their resignation, they concurrently advise the Governor to call upon somebody else to form a government. I am left to surmise that the true purpose of the visit was to get in before Annastacia Palaszczuk with legal advice he had sought yesterday, which in the words of The Australian included “a plan for the Queensland Governor to delay commissioning a new government until after a possible by-election in a Brisbane seat that could be months away”.

The second of today’s two events was an announcement by the Governor, Paul de Jersey, which suggested Newman’s visit might not have gone entirely according to plan. Taking to Twitter, de Jersey announced he would “commission new Premier following #qldvotes polls declaration”.Since there is no question that Ferny Grove will be declared for Labor, that doesn’t leave much room for doubt that he will commission Palaszczuk. Certainly the result in Ferny Grove will not be undeclared by virtue of being referred to the Court of Disputed Returns, which will require a substantial amount of time to consider the various legal arguments. This will involve establishing that Palmer United candidate Mark Taverner was indeed disqualified by virtue of bankruptcy; that precedents at federal elections finding against nullification of elections on the basis of candidate disqualification do not apply under optional preferential voting, since those who cast a one-only vote for Taverner were deprived of a valid vote; and that the number of such votes was potentially great enough to affect the result, which would require further scrutiny of ballot papers. There would then follow an automatic right of appeal.

To push the envelope for the sake of argument, the Governor might accept that, for the sake of continuity pending a final resolution, he should install Lawrence Springborg in some manner of ongoing caretaker capacity. However, this would require holding off summoning a parliament in which Mark Furner would be entitled to sit until the Court of Disputed Returns ruled otherwise. To put it mildly, keeping the parliament in suspension for the deliberate purpose of maintaining in office a Premier who lacks its confidence does not seem in accordance with responsible government. If the LNP believes it will attain Ferny Grove in due course, there doesn’t seem any reason why it shouldn’t sit it out in opposition until that occurs – other than the purely political consideration that it would be less likely to win the by-election from opposition, which is no concern of the Governor’s. Furthermore, Graeme Orr observes that the caretaker conventions under which Springborg would presumably be obliged to govern are expressly designed from the period between the dissolution of parliament and the declaration of the result.

If a new election is indeed required for Ferny Grove, which is far from being the foregone conclusion that the LNP and friendly elements of the media are suggesting, the ECQ says the earliest possible date is April 11. However, that is surely based on untestable assumptions as to how long the legal process will take unfold. A notable wrinkle in the situation is the role of the Chief Justice, Tim Carmody, an enormously contentious Newman government appointment to replace Paul de Jersey on his appointment as Governor. As Fairfax’s Amy Remeikis describes it, “the Chief Justice may elect to be the single judge, or appoint another Supreme Court judge to act in his place”. However, Graeme Orr (who you might well think I should just pass this post over to) refuted this notion in an interview on 4BC today, saying there was “a roster of judges that are picked at random in advance”.

UPDATE: I should also have noted the following from Graeme Orr: “The killer argument is simpler. Let disqualified losing candidates upset a close election, and in future every marginal seat will be seeded with a dummy candidate whose disqualification is obscure, but ready to be leaked to upset the result if it doesn’t go the way the dummy’s masters want.”

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