From the moment the Queensland poll results began to hint at the record 15.7% swing to the LNP on Saturday night, tired LNP party workers were smiling.
At the North Toowoomba bowls club, weary campaigners and booth workers gathered, smiling with joy and relief that the result was decisive — they’d be spared the wait for the counting of preferences and postal votes.
While candidates and commentators were astounded at the size of the swing, the result was not such a surprise to grassroots LNP campaign workers such as Toowoomba retiree Glenis Batten who are new to the political scene.
Batten had never been involved in politics during her working life. But in retirement she saw the bitterly fought recycled water debate in Toowoomba and joined her local branch of the Liberal Party.
Within eight months she was branch secretary and with the 2012 election looming she took on the additional role of campaign secretary.
For at least a year running up to this election she volunteered to spend more than 40 hours a week reading political media and blogs and noting anything that could be useful to the campaign to oust long-time ALP member and former Queensland attorney-general Kerry Shine.
Shine’s 11-year stint as member for Toowoomba North lost its gloss shortly after the polls closed on Saturday night and by 7.30pm he phoned new LNP member Trevor Watts to concede defeat.
Glenis Batten had seen the shift coming months ago.
“People were incensed at what Labor is doing,” she said, as television screens showed minister after minister being unseated and their shocked expressions at the electoral routing.
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“Labor can’t believe what’s happening tonight. Look at their faces. They can’t believe it,” she said.
New Toowoomba North LNP member Trevor Watts also found his landslide defeat of Kerry Shine hard to believe, telling party workers he was still in shock but promising them he would not let them down.
Three terms ago, Watts did not even make preselection for his own party. But he tried again and gained preselection in 2009, losing the contest to Shine.
This time Watts been swept into the seat with 49.48% of the primary vote. Shine languished on 32.55% when all the primary votes were counted by 11.15 on election night.
Experienced Toowoomba LNP party members suspected that morning that the change of government would be decisive.
A party member who lives opposite a polling station in Toowoomba South realised a major change was likely when she heard car doors slamming as voters arrived by 8am when the polls opened.
“I’ve lived here for 46 years opposite the polling booth. If there’s not going to be a change of government they come in steadily all day. But today they were coming thick and fast from 8am. When I came home no one was around. I realised there was going to be a big change.”
Toowoomba South LNP candidate John McVeigh maintained the coalition’s strong hold on the seat after former LNP member Mike Horan retired this year after 20 years in parliament.
At the LNP gathering, Horan said the size of the landslide had made Australian political history.
No government, state or federal had achieved such a huge swing at one election.
Horan said there were three ingredients for success: first, the formation of the LNP from the Liberal and National Party coalition in July 2008; second, Anna Bligh’s broken promises on the petrol tax and the sale of assets; and third, the choice of Campbell Newman to be the party leader, he said.
“Campbell Newman’s stamina and courage, his pragmatic approach and his wealth of practical experience gave people confidence in his leadership,” he said.
However, Newman now faces the formidable task of paying off the $85 billion racked up by the ALP which is now costing $600,000 an hour in interest, he said.
“They went bust in a boom. Paying the debt is going to take generations.”
As election night results continued to roll in the Labor party looked like being reduced to a foursome.
Federal liberal member for Groom Ian Macfarlane corrected the television commentators who said Labor had been decimated.
“That’s not decimated, that’s annihilated,” he said.
Even Glenis Batten was surprised: “They’ve been trashed. I didn’t see this coming.”
By 11.15pm, with all the primary votes counted in Toowoomba South, John McVeigh received 70.61% of the primary vote trouncing ALP opponent Sam McFarlane who polled 29.39%.
Labor voters who have swapped to the LNP would give Campbell Newman three years, he said.
“They have given him a lot of electoral collateral.”
As the evening progressed and the size of the swing was confirmed, questions were already being asked about the effect the Queensland poll result would have for federal politics.
Federal Liberal shadow minister for energy and resources Ian Macfarlane said the lesson would be carried into the federal arena: “If you tell lies in an election campaign, voters won’t forget you at the next election.”
Despite Anna Bligh’s popularity as a leader during the floods crisis, Macfarlane said it didn’t save her from her government’s waste of money and mismanagement of the economy.
“I am seriously astounded. I have never seen a swing of this magnitude and I probably never will.”
Macfarlane is already focusing on the federal election in 18 months.