The Poll Bludger
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. This has been reflected in Senate results, in that the state has only once elected a Greens Senator, and produced “four right, two left” results twice in the period of six-seat elections from 1990 to 2013. The more recent of these occasions was in 2013, when Glenn Lazarus was elected for the Palmer United Party with a fraction under 10% of the vote. The Democrats won seats at each 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. One Nation won a seat at their high water mark election in 1998, at which Queensland was the only state in which they performed strongly enough to overcome the punitive preference treatment that thwarted them every other time by scoring a quota off their own bat.
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.
The Greens’ only victory came at the 2010 election, as the state’s reaction against Kevin Rudd’s dumping by Julia Gillard caused the Labor vote to slump from 39.2% to 29.4%, and the Greens to soar from 7.3% to 12.8%. Labor’s vote failed to recover on Rudd’s return in 2013, but the Greens vote fell by over half to 6.0% as Palmer United dominated a crowded field of micro-parties. It had long been anticipated that the micro-party wave would be ridden by Katter’s Australian Party, whose candidate was coutry singer James Blundell, but its support evaporated amid Palmer’s late-campaign onslaught of advertising. Palmer United finished with 9.9% to 6.0% for the Greens and 2.9% for the KAP, with the distribution of micro-party preferences comfortably putting Palmer United over the line for a quota.
All six of the Coalition’s incumbents are seeking re-election, with Nationals taking second and fifth positions on the ticket and Liberals the remainder. In first place is George Brandis, a former barrister who entered the Senate upon filling a casual vacancy in May 2000, then won re-election from second place on the Liberal ticket in 2004, and first place on the Liberal National Party ticket in 2010. Brandis served in the outer ministry in the final year of the Howard government and became Shadow Attorney-General in June 2008, and has retained the portfolio in government. He is generally identified as a moderate, and supported Malcolm Turnbull during his September 2015 leadership challenge.
Second place goes to Nationals member Matthew Canavan, a former KPMG executive, Productivity Commission economist and staffer to Barnaby Joyce who won election from third position on the ticket in 2013. In February he won promotion to the outer ministry as Minister for Northern Australia.
In third position is James McGrath, who was elected from second position in 2013. McGrath made a name for himself as an up-and-comer as the director of the party’s spectacularly successful 2012 state election campaign, and had earlier been an adviser to the then Lord Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, before being forced to resign in 2008 after telling an interviewer that Caribbean migrants could “go if they don’t like it here”. McGrath was long expected to succeed Alex Somlyay in the lower house Sunshine Coast seat of Fairfax at the 2013 election, but he 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. He supported Malcolm Turnbull in the September 2015 leadership vote, together with most of his Queensland colleagues, then won promotion to parliamentary secretary status as Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, further gaining the title of Assistant Minister for Immigration in February.
Fourth place goes to the longest serving of the Queensland Coalition Senators, 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 in the outer ministry in the Howard government from 1998 until his demotion in 2006, then held shadow parliamentary secretary status after Tony Abbott’s ascension to the Liberal leadership in December 2009, but returned to the back bench after the 2013 election victory.
The second of the two positions reserved to the Nationals goes to fifth-placed Barry O’Sullivan, a former Liberal National Party treasurer who had variously been a detective, grazier, property developer. O’Sullivan filled Barnaby Joyce’s vacancy when he moved to the lower house seat of New England at the September 2013 election.
The precarious sixth position goes to Joanna Lindgren, a former school teacher who filled a vacancy in May 2015 created when Brett Mason was appointed ambassador to the Netherlands. She prevailed in the preselection ballot over seven rival candidates, despite backing from Tony Abbott, John Howard and Julie Bishop for Bill Glasson, an opthamologist, former Australian Medical Association president and twice-unsuccessful candidate for Griffith. Lindgren is the great-niece of Australia’s first indigenous parliamentarian, former Liberal Senator Neville Bonner.
Two of Labor’s four Senators will retire when their terms end in mid-2017, and their places at the top of the ballot paper are taken by two newcomers, one from the Left and one from the Right. Murray Watt was the state member for Everton from 2009 until 2012, when he was swept out in the landslide that deposed Anna Bligh’s government, and has since been a lawyer with Maurice Blackburn. Watt defeated incumbent Jan McLucas in a Left faction ballot last year to secure the faction’s claim on top position on the half-Senate ticket, reflecting its newly acquired ascendancy within the Queensland Labor organisation. His position was confirmed when the double dissolution ticket was determined by the party’s national executive at the start of the campaign.
The second-placed candidate is Anthony Chisholm, who was the party’s state secretary from 2008 until 2014, when the Left’s ascendancy caused the position to pass on to Evan Moorhead. He was then given the short-term role as director of the 2015 state election campaign. Chisholm won endorsement to fill a position vacated by the retirement of Joe Ludwig, which was reserved to the AWU/Labor Forum faction of the Right. A potential rival contender was Chisholm’s predecessor as state secretary, Cameron Milner, but AWU support consolidated behind Chisholm in part because he had the backing of Wayne Swan, which reportedly led to a falling out between Swan and Milner.
The higher placed of the two incumbents is Claire Moore, who was first elected from second position on the ticket in 2001, which she retained in 2007 and 2013. 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. Since the 2013 election defeat she has held the outer shadow ministry portfolios of women, carers and communities. In fourth place is Chris Ketter, a former state secretary of the Right faction Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association, who was first elected from top of the ticket in 2013. Fifth on the ticket is newcomer Jane Casey, who lives in Mackay and works for the Department of Natural Resources and Mines.
The Greens ticket is headed by its incumbent, Larissa Waters, who successively held legal positions with the Queensland Land and Resources Tribunal, Freehills and the Environmental Defenders Office. Waters first ran as the Greens Senate candidate at the 2007 election, at which she brought the state party’s vote to a new high of 7.3%, but Labor’s strong performance on that occasion was such that it polled a clean three quotas on its own right and had a negligible surplus to pass on to the Greens as preferences. That changed dramatically on her second attempt in 2010, when the Greens vote rose 5.5% and Labor’s fell by 9.8%. Waters has a high profile running mate in Andrew Bartlett, an Australian Democrats Senator from 1997 to 2008 and the party’s parliamentary leader during its terminal phase from 2002 to 2004. Bartlett has run for the Greens in the lower house seat of Brisbane at the 2010 election, at which he polled 21.3%, and for the Brisbane lord mayoralty in 2012, when he polled 10.7%.
Glenn Lazarus is seeking re-election under the banner of the Glenn Lazarus Team, after winning election as the candidate of the Palmer United Party in 2013. Lazarus gained fame through a rugby league career lasting from 1987 to 1999, his imposing build earning him the nickname “the brick with eyes”. Lazarus was elected from a 9.9% vote for Palmer United but resigned from the party in March 2015 after his wife, Tess Saunders-Lazarus, was sacked from a party position that had her effectively placed in Lazarus’s office. Saunders-Lazarus went on to accuse Palmer of “bullying behaviour” and “foul language”.
Pauline Hanson has made seven unsuccessful bids for election since 1998, when she failed in her bid for re-election in the new lower house seat of Blair after stunning the nation with her victory in Oxley in 1996. Her Senate in 2001 attracted 10.0% of the vote, but with all major and large minor parties directing preferences against her, this proved insufficient. Shortly after her release from prison in 2013, Hanson ran for a seat in the New South Wales Legislative Council, but by now she was estranged from her One Nation party, and the vote split between her own independent ticket, on 1.9%, and the One Nation ticket, on 1.5%. She again ran for the Senate in Queensland in 2004, and was again left marooned on preferences after respectively recording 4.5% and 1.9% of the vote; polled 21.2% to finish third as a state candidate for Beaudesert in 2009; and polled 1.2% after reuniting with One Nation and running as its Senate candidate in 2013. Her two most recent attempts came to the brink of success, after she polled 2.4% in the New South Wales Legislative Council in 2011, and fell 114 votes of unseating Liberal National Party member Ian Rickuss in the state seat of Lockyer in 2014.