Liberal National Party sources are quietly confident they will hold all their Queensland seats, apart from Flynn, and maybe pick up Herbert in North Queensland. Labor sources are quoted as confirming they are in trouble in some seats where they were ahead earlier on.
Seems to me that we’ve been here before.
Before the “Super Saturday” byelections in 2018, the Liberals were confident of winning two or three of them including Longman in Queensland, a dormitory suburb north of Brisbane.
The Libs were cock-a-hoop and complacent. This would confirm Malcolm Turnbull’s value and Bill Shorten would succumb to a palace revolution led by Anthony Albanese.
Then the ALP campaign hit its straps. The LNP was financially out-muscled by a union-funded campaign, with union and GetUp workers joining ALP ones on the ground and on the telephones. In Longman the conversation had changed from immigration and border security to the local hospital and the Liberals being for the “Big End of Town”. The expected Liberal win evaporated.
It was a failure of resources and leadership. The Liberals had no money, little resources, took only 29.6 per cent of the vote and few preferences. Turnbull was a large part of the problem, leading to the leadership coup.
The LNP should have learnt from this result, which means both sides are gearing up for a torrid last week and a half. It certainly should have more resources and Morrison reads reasonably well in the burbs and barnyards.
Queensland is a key state. Five Liberal seats, Capricornia, Forde, Flynn, Petrie and Dickson, have margins of less than 2 per cent, while for Labor it is Herbert, Longman and Griffith.
Majority government for both is potentially sitting just there.
Climate change might be a big national issue, but Griffith in inner Brisbane is the only one on the list likely to be affected, and as a result likely won’t change hands. Capricornia, Flynn and Herbert are central and north Queensland seats, and the rest fringe urban.
In all of them cost of living issues will be paramount, as well as underlying cultural issues. They are full of nationalists, not cosmopolitans, and they believe in hard work and thrift and having a go.
They will be suspicious of Labor’s aspirational program promising lots, but with a large tax bill, and an elusive cost. And cynical about a steady-as-she-goes pitch based on a budget surplus, tax breaks, modest spending increases and a promise that finally the government has its act together.
They’d be more attracted to the competent, but daggy and gray, cabinet minister who accidentally fell into the role of PM than the former trade union hack who has plotted and planned for this moment for most of his life.
They’re being asked to choose opportunity or certainty, but both must look pretty risky from the margins.
Added to that in the north you have Adani. North Queensland is primary industry country. They mine and farm for a living, and are violently pro-Adani.
They also like big personalities. So while George Christensen in Dawson ought to be in trouble he seems set to survive, as should Michelle Landry in Capricornia. But Ken O’Dowd in Flynn, a sprawling electorate anchored to Gladstone on the coast, loses in the personality stakes to Zac Beers, a union organiser running for the second time.
This loss is likely to be balanced by Herbert.
Here the Liberal Party is running Phil Thompson, last year’s Queensland Young Australian of the Year, a former soldier, injured in Afghanistan, who works for a charity focused on mental well-being and suicide prevention.
In a garrison town, he would seem to be the ideal candidate.
One big scalp this election could be Peter Dutton. His seat of Dickson sits on a 1.7 per cent knife edge. The issues for him are likely to be the same as for Petrie, a neighbouring seat, and Forde, on the southern outskirts of Brisbane.
Dutton will be staying home this election so that could help him, although he couldn’t afford too many more gaffes as when he referred to Labor’s Ali France’s physical disability. GetUp might help him. Hate can be counterproductive.
Luke Howarth in more marginal Petrie seems safer than Dutton. He has 1000 volunteers on-board, making him unique among Liberal campaigns. Labor’s Corinne Mulholland is a better debater, but this does not necessarily win seats.
Forde, in Brisbane’s south, is the second most marginal. It’s been held against the odds by Bert van Mannen since defeating Peter Beattie in a byelection in 2010. But Labor’s Des Hardman is a local radiographer, and looks a quality candidate.
One important factor this election will be flow of second preferences. The Liberal deal with Clive Palmer is a key. Last election Palmer United and One Nation preferences both flowed against the Coalition in a number of these seats. That is not the case this time.
It could prove decisive, particularly if the change of leader can lift the Coalition first preference vote. But yet, the ALP advertising spend hasn’t started, and “Fighting for fair” might still cut through better than “The Bill you can’t afford”.
After six years most Australians don’t believe they are better off, so what have they got to lose, apart from Adani?