Queensland’s often-warring non-Labor parties yesterday announced a new coalition agreement under which they will fight the next state election, due in 2007. Buoyed by their victory last month in two by-elections, the Queensland Liberals seem to have extracted the maximum possible advantage out of the negotiations. The question is, will it be enough for Queensland to elect its first ever Liberal government?

Key points for the Liberals are that their head office will run the next campaign, and that they have not conceded in advance on some of the Nationals’ wish list, notably a joint Senate ticket. But the critical thing is the seats each party will contest.

Assuming they hold their two by-election gains, the non-Labor parties need to win a further 18 seats to be able to govern (counting all but one of the independents on their side). That would require a uniform swing of 7.5%, and on the basis of which parties contested the seats in 2004 those 18 gains would be 11 Liberal and 7 National (see 2004 results here).

Under yesterday’s agreement, one of them (Burleigh) will move into the Liberal column, and another two (Hervey Bay and Broadwater) might do so – they are among the six seats in which the parties will conduct “joint preselections,” whatever that means. If they do, then a uniform swing would produce a total of 21 Liberals and 18 Nationals, and Liberal leader Bob Quinn would be premier.

That might seem a modest result for the Liberals, given that last week’s Newspoll has them outvoting the Nationals by 26% to 16%. Even so, there are a few too many “ifs” to make the scenario plausible. First, the coalition has to stay together for another year and a half; then the Liberals have to prevail in the joint preselections; then the coalition partners have to get a swing of more than seven per cent; finally the Liberals have to get the backing of a fractious group of independents, including current and former Hansonites. It’s not impossible, but it’s not likely.

Peter Fray

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