Queensland’s recent local government elections, combined with two state by-elections, provide a window into what might happen at the next state election, due on October 31 this year. State-wide polling is rarely done in Queensland, and when it is, generally misses the regional nuances. But on March 28 this year, at the height of the COVID-19 panic, Queenslanders went to the polls all over the state at least once, and in the case of voters in the state seats of Bundamba and Currumbin, twice.
While most councils are not contested by the major parties, often candidates have known loyalties allowing some party-based analysis.
This has to be done carefully.
Take the Brisbane City Council area for instance, where the ALP, LNP and Greens field candidates. The LNP safely controls the council with 19 seats out of 26. Yet out of the 24 state seats in the same area it is reversed with the ALP controlling 19 and the LNP four. In each case the Greens have one seat.
Voting habits do not appear to translate directly between local and state governments.
But there is some valuable intelligence we can draw from the recent elections that will bear on the next state election.
From the council elections we might draw the conclusion that there was little appetite for change.
Take Brisbane City Council. The council had been in power for 16 years and its current Lord Mayor, Adrian Schrinner, was relatively unknown, having been in office for less than a year.
The ALP mounted an expensive campaign, spending $2,154,110.32 to the LNP’s $1,529,628.60. They “owned” TV and radio, bombarding the electorate with a relentlessly negative message based on the slogan “Rates, not rorts”, and their candidate was a relatively well-known former TV journalist.
Despite this there was only a 3.19% swing on a two-party preferred basis towards Labor. On first preferences there was actually a 1.02% swing against Labor. All their negative campaigning boosted the Greens’ first preference vote by just under 5%, 80% of which came back to Labor after distribution of preferences.
So maybe Labor’s negative campaigning style no longer works.
Another way of looking at it is that there is no enthusiasm for either of the major parties, with a 5% protest vote going to the Greens. That suggests in a state election, rather than choosing stability, voters may be prepared to give their votes to minor parties.
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