Last week in the Crikey email, I had a piece on some leaked UMR polling commissioned by six unions in Qld, on the political consequences of the Bligh government’s privatisation plans.

This is a much expanded version of that piece, which also looks at some additional results.

For those that missed it, the polling was undertaken by Labor’s pollster UMR using a sample of 1500 (MoE 2.5%), spread across five seats – with additional focus group work thrown into the mix. The five seats polled were:

  • Rockhampton, represented by Minister for Public Works and ICT Rob Schwarten
  • Greenslopes, represented by Attorney-General Cameron Dick
  • Mount Coot-tha, represented by Treasurer Andrew Fraser
  • Pine Rivers, represented by Parliamentary Secretary for Education Carolyn Male
  • Townsville, represented by Mandy Johnstone

Across all 5 seats, the two party preferred swing against the ALP was 7%, which, when looking at the demographic profiles of those seats, means it wouldn’t be too dissimilar what an ordinary state-wide poll would have found.

The seat by seat results – with an MoE that maxes out around the 5.5% mark for each electorate – came in like this:


The key finding in the research was that of the people that voted for Labor at the last state election but have since changed their vote, 43% of them have done so because of the Bligh government’s plan to sell or lease government assets.

For those non-Qlders reading, the assets include Queensland motorways, the Port of Brisbane, forestry operations, parts of Queensland Rail and the Abbott Point coal terminal.

A number of questions were asked where the breakdowns included not only these switched voters, but also “soft voters” – which are defined as those who are unsure of their voting intention or answered that they are likely to change their vote from what it is currently. This Soft Vote group made up 36% of all respondents.

The key, headline question asked was: If the state Labor government goes ahead with these sales would it make you more likely or less likely to vote for Labor in the next state election?


Not only is the privatisation program a major issue with ex-Labor voters, but with the much larger soft vote, a clear majority are less likely to vote Labor because of it. Interesting to note is the issue strength here, with “a lot less” being much higher than “a little less”.

The Bligh government has known since the program was first announced that it was facing a major political backlash over it. As a response to the backlash, the government changed the nature of its plan last November from one of outright sales of these assets, to one where the assets still remain in government ownership but where they are leased for 99 years (except for parts of Qld rail, which are still planned to be sold outright)

As a piece of political lubrication – the change of plan failed.

When asked: Did this change from outright sale to 99 year leases make you more or less likely to support the program of asset sales and leases, or has it made no difference?

The results came in as:


The ‘more vs less’ responses pretty much cancel each other out leading to a no difference result in net terms. That is, except for ex-Labor voters, where the change to 99 year leases has made them less likely to vote for Labor.

The next question is a bit of a nasty one – almost resembling those message testing questions you often see in the lead up to election campaigns. After explaining to respondents that the Qld State government has said that the asset sales should generate around $15 billion in revenue – the following was asked:

After paying back debt associated with these assets, the net proceeds will be $1.5 billion. Does knowing this make you more or less likely to support the asset sales and leases, or does it make no difference?


Not only is the plan a negative for the Bligh government, but even more troubling for them is the way a large proportion of the electorate now see them as being effectively dishonest. The Bligh government has always denied that it had planned these asset sales before the last election, however, when the public was asked:

Do you personally believe that the government had a plan to sell the assets before the election, or do you believe they did not?


A majority of every demographic here effectively think the government lied!


Finally, the federal implications were also looked at. UMR explained to respondents that the asset sale plan was a Bligh state government program and asked if the Bligh government goes ahead with the leases and sales, whether it would make respondents more or less likely to vote for Labor at the coming federal election.


Around a quarter of all respondents answered that the state based asset sales will make them less likely to vote for Labor at the federal level, with that being more likely to occur in regional seats than metro seats. Those north Qld seats were already looking shaky for Rudd – this would not be helping federal Labor at all up in the far north.