Much of Labor’s electoral success outside Brisbane from 1998 was built on the back of exploiting conservative disunity through Queensland’s optional preferential voting system. With One Nation and other right wing parties and independents splitting the conservative vote, the Labor message of “Just Vote One” turned many regional and rural seats into effective first past the post contests. The fact that this strategy reinforced the theme of conservatives as a squabbling rabble was an added extra.

Because Queensland uses optional preferential, calculations of the vote based on a notional 2PP are misleading. Unfortunately the polling firms who have been surveying opinion have used very confused methodologies to measure preferences. In many seats it will be far more important whether voters direct preferences than to whom.

Surprisingly for an election in which voters are tiring of Beattie but the Opposition presents an unacceptable alternative, minor parties have struggled to attract either support or coverage for their campaigns. So both the Greens and Family First have made much of their preference announcements.

Bizarrely, the Coalition failed to respond to a request from FF for a meeting in August to discuss preferences. Labor courted them. FF are preferencing the ALP in five seats, the Coalition in seven and Independent Dolly Pratt in Nanango. FF will do more damage to the Coalition than Labor, as their preferences may aid the ALP in key seats, but are allocated to the Libs and Nats in largely safe Labor and Coalition seats. But realistically, the allocations are largely moot. The “Just Vote One” culture is now so entrenched in Queensland that the effect of a significant FF vote will be to dilute conservative strength.

Bizarrely, though in keeping with a campaign so far devoid of much political logic, the Nats will be contributing to their own electoral demise by discouraging the allocation of preferences.

While Greens voters are the most likely of any to preference, the Greens will not be able to repeat the leverage they gained over Labor in 1995 when their preference decisions contributed to Goss’s defeat. The Nats, desperate for funding, have signalled open slather for development, while water is an environmental issue that plays Labor’s way except in seats affected by controversial proposed new dams.

Like most other factors in this campaign, the combination of the voting system and minor parties’ inability to control their preferences will work in the ALP’s favour.