Support for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation was decimated at the Queensland election, but it’s where those votes now sit that holds a clue for the federal campaigns of both Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese.
Morrison knows Queensland helped hand him victory last time round, in the same way Anthony Albanese knows he must win back a swag of seats in the north if he’s to take the treasury benches.
Just consider this: there is not one Labor seat north of the Brisbane River to the tip of Cape York. It’s a sea of Morrison blue. At the moment.
But what happened on October 31 was not just an historic third term victory for Annastacia Palaszczuk and her Labor team. It also showcased the waning influence of Pauline Hanson in the state that made her famous.
At its zenith, One Nation boasted 11 seats in the legislative assembly, and recorded 23% of the vote.
Despite running 90 candidates this time around, it boasts only one MP, holding onto the seat of Mirani. More crucially, it copped a 7% swing against it across the state, raising real doubts about whether it can play any substantial party political role going forward.
But here’s the thing: while it’s readily labelled a right-wing party, that only tells half the story. One Nation supporters have shown no real monogamy in terms of voting allegiance. Some of its members want the conservatives to be more conservative, but just as many others believe big government — Labor and Liberal — has lost its way and One Nation has been the noisy chihuahua to nip at its heels.
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Once upon a time, the party’s preferences favoured the conservative side of politics, but there are just as many examples — perhaps more — of that not being the case. And on October 31, Palaszczuk’s strong border stance brought One Nation voters back to the Labor fold.
That now means those votes are up for grabs federally, in a move that will almost certainly set the tone, some of the policies, and a chunk of the campaign strategy, for both federal parties.
Just consider these results. The electorate of Pumicestone (previously Caboolture) was owned by One Nation in 1998, but went into last month’s election with a marginal LNP buffer. When the dust settled, support for One Nation had plummeted more than 15%, with Labor picking up 10.6% on its way to victory.
Not far up the road, in Hervey Bay, where borders were just as significant an issue, One Nation voters came back to Labor too, helping to deliver a 10.5% bounce in the vote.
Meanwhile in Caloundra, the swing against One Nation was more than 16%, with Labor increasing it’s vote by 12.6%.
But this doesn’t mean things are rosy for Albanese. In north Queensland, and the seat of Hinchinbrook, the story was very different. The first preference swing against One Nation was almost 15%, but the big beneficiary was Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) MP Nick Dametto, whose vote jumped almost 21.6%.
The takeaway? One Nation voters will go home with the person they think will love them the most; the party that makes them feel “safe”. And despite Annastacia Palaszczuk securing their support this time around, there’s no guarantee they’ll be an easy dance partner at the federal level.
Hanson was quick to blame the media for her woeful Queensland showing — and the demise of local newspapers in Queensland has probably played a role. It’s been harder for candidates of all parties to build their profiles, and incumbency has perhaps held a bigger advantage.
But mainly that’s a ruse. One Nation’s vote collapsed, as it has in the past, because its voters found a more comfortable home elsewhere. Over different elections, that’s been the LNP, Labor and KAP.
Where they move federally is entirely in the hands of Morrison and Albanese.
Can Anthony Albanese win over One Nation voters? 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.