I thought Crikey readers might be interested to know that I have been doing a proper analysis of the Queensland state general election last month.
However, before I proceed I should make the factual point that three general elections (those of February 2001, February 2004 and September 2006) have been contested on the same electoral boundaries. A sensible comparison, therefore, is between the first and the third elections on these same boundaries. Let me begin with a statement of seats won, since that is what really matters.
The result in February 2001 was 66 for Labor, 12 for the Nationals and three for the Liberals. The remaining eight seats went to the others.
This year’s result was 59 for Labor, 17 for the Nationals and eight for the Liberals. The remaining five seats went to the others.
It has been argued that, as Labor goes down, the Liberals will gain on the Nationals. Whereas there were four times as many Nationals as Liberals in 2001 today there are only twice as many.
Yet there is an inconvenient truth here for the Liberal Party. From 2001 to 2006 each of the Coalition parties gained five seats. If the two parties go on gaining the same number of seats the Liberals will not overtake the Nationals.
Just when the Liberals will overtake the Nationals, if ever, remains the big guess for Queensland pundits.
So let me give my opinion. The Liberals will NEVER overtake the Nationals. So, when Labor next goes out of office in Queensland, the new Premier will be the then leader of the Nationals.
Apart from the information given above my conclusion is based upon the fact that I have done a proper analysis of the recent Queensland elections, including the construction of a post-election pendulum.
From that pendulum I have constructed a possible scenario whereby Labor might be defeated.
In 2006 the Nationals won three seats which had been won by Independents (or One Nation) in 2001. The seats are Darling Downs, Gympie and Lockyer. Consequently it is quite easy to imagine the Nationals some day winning Maryborough, Nanango and Tablelands, seats they presently do not hold. That would bring their number up to 20.
Now suppose there were to be a uniform swing against Labor of eight per cent. That would bring the Nationals up to 26 seats. They would, in that event, win Hervey Bay (where they need a swing of 1.8%), Gaven (3.1%), Whitsunday (4.4%), Redlands (7%), Keppel (7.2%) and Glass House (7.7%).
In such a swing the Liberals would win their existing eight seats plus Cleveland (where they need a swing of 0.6%), Chatsworth (0.8%), Indooroopilly (2.5%), Mudgeeraba (3%), Aspley (4.7%), Barron River (5.2%), Springwood (5.2%), Broadwater (5.3%), Pumicestone (5.5%), Redcliffe (5.5%) and Mansfield (7.8%).
So the Nationals would have 26 seats and the Liberals 19, a total of 45 seats, a majority in a Legislative Assembly of 89 seats.
When I point these things out to people in the Liberal Party they reply that I have not taken into account the fact that there will be a redistribution of seats during the current term. Such redistribution, they aver, will hurt the Nationals and help the Liberals.
My answer is to point out that there was a federal redistribution is Queensland recently which created a new seat for the Nationals, to be known as Flynn. Since that was not predicted by anyone it would be most unwise for any one to predict that the state redistribution will hurt the Nationals where the federal one unexpectedly helped them.
I shall not go into all the arguments used by the Liberals beyond saying that most of them are flawed – and I have the statistics to prove my argument.
It seems to me that the state Liberals have been making fools of themselves in Queensland. Consequently they have been diminishing the Coalition’s chances of defeating Labor.
Their big problem is that they have convinced themselves (and many in the media) of the inevitability that the next non-Labor Queensland Premier must be the then leader of the Liberal Party.
For me I have never accepted that inevitability and I assert that the recent results strengthen my refusal.
I recall that it was once fashionable to assert the inevitability of an Australian republic. I never asserted it – but then my disposition is never to accept fashionable inevitabilities.
Malcolm Mackerras is Visiting Fellow in Political Science, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra.