Hopes of a close election in Queensland have been dashed again, with today’s Newspoll showing further movement back to Labor. The Beattie government now leads the two-party-preferred vote 54% to 46%, an adverse swing of only 1.5% since the 2004 election.

Beattie never really looked likely to lose, but it had been thought that a much more substantial swing was possible. The opposition, however, has had a dreadful start to the campaign. The Newspoll results confirm those from a Galaxy poll in yesterday’s Courier-Mail, which gave Labor a 53-47 lead. So much for my idea that people would react against the early election.

Of this year’s four state elections, Queensland is by far the most important psephologically. The other three – Tasmania and South Australia last March, Victoria still to come in November – confirm what we already know, that first- and second-term Labor governments in this cycle are unbeatable. But Queensland is uncharted territory; none of the other state governments has reached the end of its third term.

Queensland and New South Wales (which votes next March) have both gone through a series of crises that were thought to have weakened their governments significantly. If Beattie can not only survive but prosper, then it will give hope to Morris Iemma and the others that a fourth and fifth term beckon for them.

The other interesting feature of Newspoll, especially in light of the Coalition confusion of the campaign’s first week, is what it says about the relative position of the Liberals and Nationals. Consistently with previous polls, the Libs are outvoting the Nats by two to one: 25% to 13%.

Because there are no three-cornered contests, that tells us almost nothing about what will happen in the election. But it confirms that the Coalition agreement is artificially propping up the National Party, and that in a fair contest between the two the Liberals would emerge as the main non-Labor party. That’s not going to help their internal relations, and that in turn is a further bonus for Peter Beattie.