Annastacia Palaszczuk’s victory on Saturday, complete with a 4.8% swing to Labor, is about a lot more than the power of incumbency at a time of crisis.
Palaszczuk wasn’t just up against the Liberal National Party (LNP) in Queensland, plus the Greens attacking Labor from the left. She was also against the Morrison government (working in concert with her opponent), against the NSW government (admittedly, not a particularly potent force given how mired in sleaze and scandal it is), and against Clive Palmer’s anti-Labor advertising campaign centred around a lie about death taxes (which is estimated to have cost the mining millionaire $8 million in addition to the millions he gave to his party).
This is in addition to the usual campaigning by News Corp, with The Courier-Mail predicting a tight battle that wouldn’t produce a winner on the night — itself apparently an “indictment” of Palaszczuk — and calling for an LNP win.
Picking up a swing of that size for a two-term government is, given that context, a very impressive achievement.
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It also means that between 1989 and 2024, the LNP in its various forms will have been in office for less than six years in Queensland. It’s a richly deserved fate for the party of rank corruption in the Joh years; a party that has spent much of the last 20 years pandering to Pauline Hanson and One Nation — which suffered a halving of its vote.
That’s a remarkable turnaround in the space of 18 months. One Nation upped its vote to 9% in the House and 10% in the Senate in Queensland at the 2019 federal election. And Clive Palmer’s ego vehicle vanished without a trace after managing 3% in 2019 federally.
On the face of it, around two-thirds of that lost Hanson vote went to Labor, while the other third ended up with the LNP.
That suggests that a pandemic election is not so much about the alleged advantage of incumbency; it’s more about voters, faced with a major crisis that involves potentially widespread death and illness, losing interest in the politics of racism, resentment and hate that are the staple of Hanson and her ilk. Palmer’s Trumpesque cavorting is equally as uninteresting. Queenslanders looked to see who can govern most competently, which means returning to the major parties.
In Queensland that’s defaulted to the issue of border closures, with Palaszczuk’s hard line against reopening apparently embraced by the electorate. The Courier-Mail’s editorial demanding the removal of Palaszczuk specifically warned of baby boomer voters “swarming to Labor en masse”, presumably forgetting that baby boomers are pretty much the only people who read rags like The Courier-Mail anymore.
Others are dismissing the result as Palaszczuk successfully appealing to a “parochial” and “populist” electorate. The likes of The Australian Financial Review, of course, are always welcome to go and find a better electorate more amenable to its agenda, but until then neoliberal advocates for open borders, no lockdowns and letting the virus rip will find themselves on the wrong side of an electorate deeply unconvinced by the argument that lives must be risked in order to benefit the economy.
Throwing “parochial” and “populist” at voters won’t change their views about who the real beneficiaries of opening borders will be — not them, but corporations and business.
The result isn’t just some provincial eccentricity of Queenslanders. It reflects how voters view the workings of the economy at a time of crisis.
What does Annastacia Palaszczuk’s victory mean for the rest of Australia? Let us know your thoughts by writing to [email protected]. Please include your full name to be considered for publication in Crikey’s Your Say column.