Election time in Qld

Brisbane:While many Queenslanders will probably recall that September 2006 was the occasion of Steve Irwin’s death, on September 9th the Queenland ALP was returned to office with another massive majority. Labor Party fortunes have not been so buoyant here since the early 1950s.

This success -- which represents a continuing nationwide preference for Labor state governments -- is all the more extraordinary given the series of disastrous administrative crisis -- in health, water and electricity delivery --that have plagued the government of state premier, Peter Beattie. Nonetheless from Day One of the election campaign it was evident that the ALP would be returned to office and would not be wearing a voter backlash.

Despite the 33 years the Labor Party spent in opposition in this state up until 1989 , and despite what had been written about the succession of National Party led coalition governments during that period -- at no time did the ALP out poll the combined forces of the Liberals and the National Party. Today, Labor’s ascendency is riding on the collapse of the Liberal and National Party vote.

Even One Nation which garnered eleven seats in the 1998 state election, is no longer a player in Queensland politics having been pegged back to one seat at this poll(down from three at the last election).

While 'Team Beattie '-- as the ALP prefers to call itself -- secured an easy win, the real success evident from the results, is the support for the Queensland Greens. With a vote of just under 8% across the state -- most of the alternative vote went to them. In two Brisbane seats the Greens recorded first preference support of over 20 percent. With no upper house in the Queensland parliament, there is no easy road for the Greens to turn that general support into parliamentary office.An indication of where electoral politics are heading in Queensland is that the Greens vote is rising and is already approximately 40 % of that for the Liberals, whose vote, in contrast, registers continuing collapse.

While the Queensland election result is representative of a more general preference for Labor in all states, Queensland electoral politics, especially in the regions, can be mercurial as the massive swing to One Nation eight years ago indicated. The electorate’s problem is that if Team Beattie doesn’t deliver on the promised commitment to public utilities and health reform, where is its electoral support to go? Here was a government in tail spin crisis, judged inept, arrogant and inaccessible while it continued to strip investment in infrastructure to service a succession of surplus state budgets about which it crowed as its crowning achievement. While the continuing high migration to the state fuels a housing boom and comparatively low unemployment figures, Labor’s fortunes are nonetheless dependent on this context so that it has fed complacency.

Despite the attempt to read the Queensland electoral result as a massive defeat for the Tories, such triumphalism is purchased at the price of offering Team Beattie the option of continuing to commit to as little reform as it always has.