Before I discuss why Queensland swung so strongly to the ALP, I’d like to immodestly dispose of bragging rights issues!
With the ABC currently projecting Labor to win 86 seats, I think William Bowe and I came closest to picking it – we were the two members of the Crikey commentariat tipping 87 to the ALP. And don’t forget you first read that Labor was in with a chance in Forde and Dawson in Crikey.
Now that’s out of the way, and while I wait for Centrebet to pay their dividends, let me indulge in some analysis. There are four basic reasons why Labor did so very well in the Sunshine state – one of which you probably won’t see mentioned elsewhere, but it’s an important one. That’s Peter Beattie’s excellent sense of timing and mastery of political tactics.
While the “media tart” seemingly won’t go away — popping up again and again during the campaign as a commentator — he could well be asserting some bragging rights too, if he wasn’t such a modest fellow. By stepping down as Queensland Premier, Beattie defused a whole host of issues and resentments which swirled around a long term Labor government, and allowed close Rudd ally, Anna Bligh, to take over just at the right time. Bligh’s popularity wouldn’t have harmed Labor’s chances in the slightest, whereas Beattie’s increasing unpopularity would have. Note that in some of the seats where it was predicted that the dreaded local council amalgamations would redound terribly on Kevin07 — like Flynn and Petrie — Labor in fact won comfortably. And in a fast growing state, infrastructure was a huge issue where the feds were missing in action, and “cooperative federalism” delivered real electoral dividends.
Secondly, Labor has a very sharp machine in Queensland and lots of experience at belting the hapless local Tories around electorally. Kevin Rudd’s victory speech echoed Wayne Goss’ tactics in 1989 and Peter Beattie’s in 2001 – with the promise to govern for all Australians and to be mindful of those who were voting Labor for the first time. There were a whole host of state issues and personalities which undermined the Coalition’s cause, and this wasn’t helped by the Collins St driven localism which put the focus where they probably wouldn’t want it. The shambolic and divided Queensland Liberals may now be a precursor of what lies in store for the federal party.
Thirdly, as I’ve argued throughout the campaign, the “fresh” faces of Kevin07 and the Labor team — and significantly also smart women like Gillard, Roxon and Wong — appeal to a modern cosmopolitanism in Queensland as in much of the rest of urban Australia. The “local boys made good” factor isn’t just about the traditional image of Queenslanders, as Rudd’s persona should make very clear anyway.
And lastly, in a state where outside the South East corner, wages are below average (except in mining, and that brings problems in its wake in terms of pressure on housing and other industries) and casual work is common, WorkChoices and interest rates were both killer issues for the Coalition. John Howard’s no doubt right that the conservatives won’t risk “workplace reform” of that sort again, and that’s something that will be very welcome news in the Sunshine State.