An election in the Australian state of Queensland will be held on March 21, 2009. The last election was held in September 2006, and Queensland’s Legislative Assembly has a 3-year term (unlike all other Australian states). Labor Premier Peter Beattie, in office since 1998 and re-elected with a large majority in 2006 resigned in 2007 and was replaced by Anna Bligh. Queensland uses the Alternative Vote form of IRV to elect 89 MPs in 89 single-member electorates. However, preferential voting is optional in Queensland, unlike in most other Australian states. It used the FPTP system 1860 to 1892. Until 1942 it used an unusual form of preferential voting called the ‘contingent vote’ . In 1942 the FPTP system was reintroduced until it was replaced in 1962 by the ‘full preferential’ form of AV. In 1992 this was changed to the current optional preferential AV-IRV system.
Queensland has had a unique political history, and has unique political traditions. Firstly, Queensland is quite pro-incumbent and constituencies re-elect their “one time wonders” or “oncers” even if they’re politically opposite to the constituency itself (for example, a wealthy traditionally Liberal constituency re-electing a Labor MP). In 1899, Queensland had the first ever socialist government under Labor premier Anderson Dawson. In 1922, Queensland’s Labor government abolished its upper house by stacking it with pro-dissolution members who voted to dissolve themselves. From 1968 to 1987, Queensland politics were dominated by Sir Joh Bjelke-Peterson, or Sir Joh for short, the leader of the Country/National Party, a right-wing agrarian farmers’ party. For most of the post-war era Queensland was severly malapportioned, firstly at the benefit of Labor and then at the benefit of Sir Joh’s Nats. Labor, and later National, created electorates that had huge differences in size: in 1956 (Labor era) the largest seat has 26k voters and the smallest one had just 4k voters. Rural seats dominated by miners, powerful trade unions, and farm workers voted Labor; and since there were a lot more rural seats than there were urban (more right-wing) seats, Labor won most elections. However, demographic and socio-economic changes under Sir Joh shifted this malapportionment (or Bjelkemander) to the advantage of the rural Nationals. As Labor’s vote generally became more and more urban, the Nationals dominated the countryside. The Bjelkemander allowed the Nationals to win the most seats even if Labor far outpolled them (in 1972, the National Party won just 20% of the votes but the most seats and the Nats became the senior coalition partner in a Liberal-National coalition). The Bjelkemander, while weakening Labor, also worked against the Liberals (even though they were Sir Joh’s shaky coalition partners), also concentrated in urban areas. Labor returned to power in 1989 and gradually ended the Bjelkemander. However, there remains, to this day, a disparity between % votes and % seats. In 1995, Labor won a majority with 45 seats against 43 for the Coalition (Liberal and National) and one Independent. However, following a by-election loss for the ALP in 1996, the Indie supported a National-Liberal coalition. This government was defeated in 1998 and replaced by a Labor minority (later majority) government. However, 1998 was marked by the far-right One Nation Party led by Pauline Hanson winning 22.7% (second place) and 11 seats. Labor won a landslide in 2001, 2004, and 2006. Here are the 2006 results:
Labor 46.92% (-0.59%) winning 59 seats (-1)
Liberal 20.10% (+1.60%) winning 8 seats (+1)
National 17.82% (+0.86%) winning 17 seats (+1)
The Greens 7.99% (+1.23%) winning 0 seats (±0)
Family First 1.89% (new) winning 0 seats (new)
One Nation 0.60% (-4.28%) winning 1 seat (±0)
Other 4.68% (-1.15%) winning 4 seats (-1)
Here is the estimated 2PP result.
Liberal-National Coalition 45.1%
In 2008, the Queensland Liberals and Nationals merged to create the Liberal National Party, under the leadership of former National leader Lawrence Springborg. The LNP is the first such merger in Australia (not counting the Country Liberals in NT), although mergers between state (and federal) Liberals and Nationals have often been discussed as both are quasi-perpetual coalition partners “The Coalition”. The LNP has tried to put on the Liberal garb, to appease Liberal voters in urban centres such as Brisbane who might have been reluctant to endorse a merger between urban Liberals and rural Nationals.
There has been a redistricting since the last election, giving this map of notional figures. This map is based of the Tally Room’s downloadable Google Earth map of the 2009 election. Do note that Ronan Lee in Indooroopilly crossed the floor from the ALP to the Greens in 2008. He his shown as a Green on this map, although he was elected as ALP in 2006. You’ll notice that the LNP is particularly weak in Brisbane, where they hold one seat on notionals (Moggill) and have 2 MPs in Brisbane proper (Moggill and Clayfield, a notional ALP seat). They are also weak on the Gold Coast (you know, the place with high rise and surf), where they hold only 3 of the 10 seats. The LNP probably has a majority of seats in all other regions. The four Indies include 2 conservatives (1 of them, Liz Cunningham in Gladstone backed the Nat-Lib coalition from 1996 to 1998 but the other back Labor from 1998 to 1999). One is a former One Nation MP now an Indie, and I can’t make heads or tails of Chris Foley in Maryborough.
Current polling indicates a very close race: the last poll gives a 2PP result of 51-49 for the Liberal Nationals (and a primary vote of LNP 43, ALP 41, Green 8, Other 8, Family First <0.5%). However, they seem to indicate a large swing in Brisbane, where LNP gains are primordial for the LNP to win this election.
However, ABC’s election-swing calculator indicates that the LNP needs atleast 52.7% of the 2PP vote to get a hung parliament, and 53.2% for an outright majority. Below 52.7% 2PP LNP, the swing calculator sez the ALP rules supreme. However, this is a statewide swing and doesn’t take into account regional swings or other local factors.
Below is my attempt at a prediction. Remember to be kind, since this is my first stint at predicting Australian elections.I based these on my rough knowledge, ABC’s electorate profiles, Tally Room’s prediction, and another prediction I read online. Obviously, there are some electorates I’m really not sure about, but did my best to figure something out.
This map gives Lab 43, LNP 42, Ind 4. If I can count correctly, which isn’t a given.
A few notes now: Beaudesert could fall to the ALP on the back of a fight between former One Nation leader Pauline Hanson and the LNP. Pauline Hanson could do well, and end up giving the seat to Labor. In Condamine, I’ve had a bit of a toughie deciding between former Independent now LNP MP Ray Hopper and former LNP now Independent MP Stuart Copeland. I’ll say Hopper wins, but Copeland could very well win too, especially since Labor is calling on their voters to second preference him. Finally, a toughie in Dalrymple which is notionally LNP but has 2 MPs: 1 LNP and 1 One Nation following redistribution. I predict LNP here, but I have no clue how Rosa Lee-Long (ONP incumbent) will hold up. Interesting to watch.
On the note of preferences, Labor is apparently worried that less Green voters will second pref Labor, and this could hurt Labor a lot in some cases, some MPs counting on a flow of Green>ALP votes to win. Remember that preferencing is optional in Queensland. However, the Greens and Labor have signed a preference deal in some electorates. The Greenies will receive preferences from Labor in Indooroopilly for former Labor MP Ronan Lee, while the ALP will receive Greenie preferences in fourteen seats: Ashgrove, Aspley, Barron River, Broadwater, Cleveland, Everton, Gaven, Greenslopes, Mansfield, Pumicestone, Redcliffe, Redlands, Southport and Whitsunday. Most of these are marginal Labor seats.
This will be a close one for sure. I might blog once more before Saturday if there’s more stuff. In the meantime, toy around with ABC’s election calculator.