No doubt there will be much ink spilled over the re-election of the Queensland Labor government to a fifth term — and no doubt I’ll be spilling some myself. But it’s worth, perhaps, recording some instant reactions before we all get drowned in talk of the federal implications.
First, it’s worth pointing out that Possum correctly interpreted the Auspoll exit poll numbers as suggesting a comfortable Labor majority before any vote figures were available. He might have been a tad conservative about when the result would be clear — Antony Green called it about a half hour into the ABC broadcast, and Anna Bligh, asked after her victory speech when she knew the election was won, must have been erring on the conservative side when she modified her initial answer of 6.30pm to 7.20pm.
What we had expected would be a long night was over in a flash.
So were the polls wrong? No. Labor were gone for all money at the start of the week, and the tracking polls leaked were genuine. A swing back to the ALP started on Wednesday night, accentuated on Thursday and then gathered momentum. Newspoll, which showed a closer result than Galaxy from a significantly larger sample, was taken on Wednesday and Thursday. Some spinsters are rewriting history to make it sound as if the result was an inevitability, but the truth is that Labor was only confident of victory on Friday night.
The ALP, as we observed and documented at Pineapple Party Time, poured enormous resources into the seats in play towards the end of the week, with messages targeted finely towards issues swinging votes in each electorate. In particular, some largely positive material designed to contain the swing to the LNP on Brisbane’s Northside driven by the Borg’s Royal Children’s Hospital scare had an effect. After a campaign characterised by apathy and a disposition to vote against an 11-year-old government, voters only really focused on the choice incredibly late in the game. There’s tons of evidence around that beneath the repetitive drumbeat of the polls there was a lot of volatility and undecided voters broke heavily to Labor in the last day of the campaign.
Significant also was whole weight of the federal ALP being placed behind the state effort — not just the rhetorical intervention of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, but also organisationally, driven by Wayne Swan’s personal intervention and backed by the PM. The Bligh 30-seat marathon signalled the turn to the realisation that the way to win was to “Let Anna Be Anna!”
In the final analysis, Lawrence Springborg sunk his own ship and Anna Bligh, having finally escaped the cold dead hand of the ALP apparat, won the thing on the basis of her own personal qualities. Her victory as the first elected female Premier in Australia is thoroughly well deserved and she will enjoy a much enhanced authority in the party and over the government.
It’s Bligh’s victory. She now has the chance to stake out a new direction for Labor and Queensland. That she understands the seriousness of the task ahead is demonstrated by the allocation of the crucial Health portfolio yesterday to Deputy Premier Paul Lucas, one of the leading lights of the campaign along with Treasurer Andrew Fraser.
This victory was one pulled out of the fire. Forget Lawrence Springborg’s complaints about a 3% swing somehow supposedly translating into a change of government. The fact is that the ALP won over Queensland voters, with a clear plurality on primaries as well as a majority of the two party preferred vote. Springborg has to wear that he and the LNP weren’t rejected because of any bias in the electoral system, but because more voters supported the ALP.
Contrary to all predictions, few seats but the low hanging fruit changed hands, and the LNP still goes largely unrepresented in Brisbane, and the ALP did surprisingly well on the Gold Coast, in Central Queensland and in North and Far North Queensland. The result is a total repudiation of the “united conservative force”.
The Greens also failed to make an impact, with a statewide vote that was basically static, despite running in all 89 seats for the first time. Their single MP, the former Labor Member for Indooroopilly, Ronan Lee, has lost his seat to the LNP.
As Andrew Fraser observed, “it’s very hard for a government to win after 11 years — just ask John Howard.” Yet Labor won a comfortable majority — 17, according to the latest ABC projection.
Labor swung that majority — from the jaws of a certain defeat earlier last week — almost solely because when voters focused on the choice, they chose to put their trust in Anna Bligh personally, to support an activist government in a time of great uncertainty.