With four days left until Queenslanders go to the polls, the good money is backing a third term for Annastacia Palaszczuk and the ALP.
That would create a few lines in the history books. Palaszczuk would be on track to knock Peter Beattie off as Queensland’s longest-serving Labor premier since World War II. She would continue her reign as the longest-serving female premier in Australia. And 2020 would take its place in history as the state election won on a federal issue: closing the borders.
History would be created on the other side too. If the LNP loses on Saturday, Deb Frecklington will almost certainly lose her job and the jostling between Tim Mander and David Crisafulli will begin at a few minutes past midnight. The experiment of a conservative leader from outside the state’s south-east corner will have failed.
But like everything in this pandemic, uncertainty surrounds this poll, and it would be a brave person to rule out a possible Frecklington victory.
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That’s because of a handful of trends and vagaries that are popping up as the state counts down to its first ever fixed-term election. Here are some of those peculiarities:
- This election has seen the One Nation vote collapse. People have stopped talking about Pauline Hanson. She’s been invisible. And that’s because of the LNP’s decision to preference Labor last; that’s taken oxygen out of conversations about the role played by One Nation in a dozen or so seats.
- Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party might have put a wrecking ball through Bill Shorten’s election hopes, but despite big ugly billboards and mass texts, his scare campaign has fallen flat this time around.
- The rise of the Green vote in the heart of Brisbane will almost definitely knock off the former deputy premier Jackie Trad. The Greens already holds one other Brisbane seat.
- Palaszczuk’s tough border stance — with advertisements reminding us of how safe she’s kept us (compared to NSW and Victoria) — has been the number one issue, and has gifted the ALP a big early boost. Labor strategists are claiming it will secure the “grey vote” and was the reason behind more than 600,000 people already having lodged their ballots.
- Northern Queensland contains some big cards in this election, many of which are held by Labor on very slim margins. Across the nation, the LNP’s youth curfew policy has been ridiculed, but many voters in the home of the Cowboys see that policy differently. High youth crime rates might trump what the rest of us think.
- Labor has now promised to introduce a bill to parliament to allow euthanasia before the Law Reform Commission brings down its report next March. That could give the ALP a boost in a couple of crucial electorates, but its timing, especially, has angered Rob Katter and his KAP party. In the event of a minority government, he’ll be planning to have it taken off the agenda.
Rob Katter is the third generation of a political dynasty that has had north Queensland tied up for six decades. Katter doesn’t have the quirkiness of his father Bob, but he’s a sage and strategic player and north Queenslanders know he’s on their side.
Both major party leaders have been courting KAP voters, knowing they won’t win any of the three seats the party holds. But they also know Rob Katter, if either party is trying to form government, is likely to be the queen-maker.
Despite that, there was little support yesterday for Katter’s idea for a referendum to split north Queensland into its own state within six months of a new parliament.
Most election campaigns disappoint voters, and this one is no exception. Voters deserve more from both sides than the tit-for-tat populist campaign that has played out each day for the past month. The contest has been about being seen as the team of underdogs, not the team of big ideas; to be the small target, not the brave one.
Queenslanders know Annastacia Palaszczuk. She’s cautious and doesn’t like to scare voters with big policy moves. She’s safe. With only a few days to go, it seems Queenslanders are thinking it’s better to back the devil you know than the one you don’t.
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