Queensland is different. No doubt about that; it had the world’s first Labor government in 1899, and its political development has varied from the other states in a number of ways since, most obviously in the (now waning) strength of its National Party. But the election and re-election of the Beattie government in recent years followed the pattern of the other states.
All elections have local factors, but most state elections in the last decade have been predictable simply by following the precedents of those coming before them in the cycle. Writing on Sunday on this topic at Mumble, Peter Brent was driven to say apologetically “I do repeat myself”, but the reason he keeps saying it is because it’s true.
Queensland is also different for being the only state left with three-year maximum terms. When it first elected the Beattie government in 1998, it was the second state (after NSW) to return Labor to power, but because of the shorter terms his became last Saturday the first of the Labor governments – now in every state – to seek a fourth term.
The question is whether his resounding success will now set a trend for the other states. If so, it is almost unimaginably bad news for the Coalition parties; Beattie’s majority is so large that Labor is almost guaranteed another term after this one. Five-term Labor governments across the country would mean it would be in power in South Australia, for example, until 2022.
Before the election, Brent suggested that the best comparison was with the 2003 election in New South Wales, both governments having been in power for eight years. My hunch is that longevity is better measured in terms than years, but Saturday’s result and Brent’s subsequent graphs of opinion polls are pretty strong evidence for his thesis.
If it’s years rather than terms that matter, then the big one to watch is next March in NSW. But on the evidence so far, Morris Iemma’s government won’t be seriously troubled either.