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Want the inside gos on the Queensland election. You’ve come to the right place with Hillary Bray – that’s the prodigious and prolific Liberal insider who writes exclusively for Crikey.

Now, fortified by a quick trip out to Ipswich to Pauline’s fish and chippery, Hillary is perched comfortably on a pile of plain brown envelopes left over from the Bjelke-Peterson era bashing away at the laptop.

It’s delightful to have found such a congenial spot – as Hillary has the feeling political groupies will be back Queensland before too long.

The punditocracy have already made their calls. Malcolm Macboringoldfart says Labor will win in their own right. Antony Green says to get ready for a hung parliament. Hillary, always the peacemaker, agrees with them both – largely. Labor will win the most seats, but whether or not it can form a Government is an entirely different matter.

Queensland politics has been unstable since Wayne Goss blew the 1995 state election. He was returned with a majority of just one that fell early the next year when independent Liz Cuningham decided to back the Coalition after the Liberal win in the Mundingburra by-election ordered by the Court of Disputed Returns.

Borbidge and the boys settled in – and then came One Nation. At the start of the 98 poll, the Coalition awarded One Nation their preferences and spent the rest of the campaign trying to avoid even thinking about them – let alone answering questions on whether a minority Borbidge Government would accept One Nation votes in Parliament.

In the end, Pauline and her band of bigots polled 23 per cent and took 11 seats from the Coalition and Labor. Urban Liberal voters, disgusted by the preference deals, turned to Labor. The non-Labor vote disintegrated. Peter Beattie was left one seat short of a majority. Ol’ Redneck Rob got busy and just days after the poll said he would be prepared to accept independent and One Nation votes in a motion of confidence on the floor of the House. Beattie, however, was able to win the support of independent Peter Wellington and gain government in his own right when Labor won the seat of Mulgrave back from One Nation in a by-election.

Things are different now. That old saying that the parties of the lunar right split because everyone wants to be Fuhrer has once again proved true. Of the 11 One Nation MPs elected in 98, six sit as the City-Country Alliance, four as independents and one went mad and topped himself – and the last Newspoll had One Nation sitting on just three per cent.

Earlier this month, Borbidge did the tough guy act and announced that he would not accept One Nation or CCA votes. His message was clear. If voters wanted to toss Labor out, they would have to back the Coalition. Supporting One Nation or the CCA in the hopes that they would hold the balance of power was a risky waste of a vote.

There was, however, one vital – and little reported – qualification. Borbidge indicated a willingness to accept the votes of any former One Nation members turned independents returned at the poll.

This has lead to two fascinating questions – what is the difference between a former Hanson zealot turned independent and a former Hanson zealot turned CCA member and – perhaps more significantly – is Borbidge talking sh*t?

His announcement was met with scepticism from a range of groups that was repeated when the election was called on Tuesday.

And rightly so. The future of Borbidge and Beattie depends on the almost one-in-four Queenslanders who voted One Nation back in 98. Whether they like or not, both leaders need these votes.

Just to complicate matters further, Queensland has an optional preferential voting system. Banana Benders can either back just one candidate, give preferences to a couple of others or fill in the whole entire ballot paper. That means that B1 and B2 won’t necessarily benefit from any preference flow from the ratbag brigade.

Add this all up and it’s scarcely a recipe for majority government, let alone political stability.

So roll on the Pineapple Poll – an election which Hillary predicts will have a very rough end.

Peter Fray

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