It's been a long time since an Australian election offered so many diverting novelties as the one now officially under way in Queensland: an unofficial opposition leader attempting to seize the premiership from outside parliament, an effective eight-week campaign, and another minor party insurgency in the regions.
However, two polls over the weekend help remind us of the ball we should not be taking our eye off -- the state’s urban south-east, where the LNP appears to be harnessing a swing of such order as to render all other considerations irrelevant.
The polls come from Newspoll and Galaxy, using the same methodology (phone polling) from respective samples of 1227 and 800, and with results that fall comfortably within each other's margins of error: 58-42 on two-party preferred from Newspoll, and 60-40 from Galaxy.
It can thus be said with a fair degree of confidence that Labor goes into the campaign staring down the barrel of a 10% swing.
While both pollsters have disappointed in failing to provide urban/regional breakdowns, it is clear enough that metropolitan Brisbane will do more than its share to power the overall swing. With Labor continuing to hold 35 of the area’s 40 seats even after the correction of 2009, it is here that electoral gravity awaits to be felt with the greatest force.
The LNP can also expect to reap dividends for presenting Brisbane voters with a credible Brisbane-based conservative candidate for premier for the first time in most voters' lives.
Worst of all for Labor, it is here that there exists the greatest concentration of marginal seats -- no fewer than 20 of which would fall to the LNP on the back of a uniform swing of the kind indicated for the state at large by the weekend polls.
Such an outcome would mean a comprehensive success for the LNP's "decapitation strategy" of eliminating much of Labor's top tier parliamentary talent: Andrew Fraser in Mount Coot-tha (5.3%), Cameron Dick in Greenslopes (6.9%) and Stirling Hinchliffe in Stafford (7.3%), along with Kate Jones in all-important Ashgrove (7.1%). It would also give an incoming LNP government an absolute majority of the size currently enjoyed by Anna Bligh even before accounting for the gains that clearly await them beyond Brisbane.
Labor holds only 16 of the 50 seats in the remainder of Queensland, but on present indications will be doing well to retain half of them.
Despite delivering the LNP two seats in 2009 and a fairly solid overall swing, the Gold Coast was another area where Labor continued to over-perform last time. They retained four of the region's 11 seats on margins of between 2% and 6.5%, despite all the corresponding federal divisions having double-digit LNP margins, and it would be a brave punter who backed them to retain any of them.
A strong performance by Labor on the central and northern coast last time suggests this as another area with a lot of elastic waiting to snap back to the LNP.
Whitsunday's margin of 3.2% does not look defendable for Labor, and nearby Keppel looks another a tall order despite an historically anomalous Labor margin of 7.6% (the seat was in conservative hands as recently as 2004).
The Cairns and Townsville areas each provide Labor with three seats, all of which are on single-digit margins.
The seat of Cairns (margin 4.7%) threatens to leave the Labor fold for the first time since 1904, despite the LNP’s heavily publicised candidate trouble. Going against Labor are the retirement of a long-serving sitting member and demographic change, which is seeing retirees move in to replace the sugar and mining workers of old.
The vast remainder of Queensland contains three Labor seats: Toowoomba North (3.2%), where Kerry Shine faces an uphill struggle; Mount Isa (5.7%), where Labor’s Betty Kiernan has the challenge of Bob Katter's son, Robbie Katter, seeking to extend the family dynasty, and the opportunity of conservative vote-splitting; and the top end seat of Cook (2.2%), which combines conservative sugar-growing areas with Labor-voting indigenous communities and tends to move to its own rhythms.