Redcliffe by-election: February 22

A week out from polling day, a Galaxy poll finds Queensland Labor all but certain to secure an eighth seat at next week’s by-election to replace former LNP member Scott Driscoll.

Saturday, February 22

Today’s the day, so I’m bumping this back to the top of the page. For a perspective on the campaign from someone who’s been following it more closely than I have, try Amy Remeikis of the Brisbane Times.

Friday, February 14

GhostWhoVotes reports that a Galaxy poll has Labor with a commanding 57-43 two-party lead from primary votes of 48% for Labor, 35% for the LNP, 6% for the Greens and 8% for “independents”, of which there are five. This is very likely an automated phone poll with a sample of about 500.

Wednesday, February 5

Time to bump this thread back to the top of the page for those wishing to discuss the campaign. The only particularly notable new information I have to provide is Antony Green‘s observation that the by-election timetable offers “the shortest period for postal and pre-poll voting that I have ever seen”, which is unlikely to have wholesome motivations.

Wednesday, January 15

Full results from the Lonergan poll: Yvette D’Ath (Labor) 53%; Kerri-Anne Dooley (LNP) 29%; John Marshall (Greens) 7%; Len Thomas (Independent) 5%; Gabriel Buckley (Independent) 3%; Talosaga McMahon (Independent) 2%.

Tuesday, January 14

The Guardian reports an automated phone poll of 891 respondents conducted from January 9-12 by Lonergan Research has Labor’s Yvette D’Ath headed for an easy victory with 53% of the primary vote. The only other detail provided in the report relates to questions concerning the most important issue, but I’ll hopefully be able to chase up the rest of the voting intention numbers tomorrow.

Monday, January 13

Antony Green on Twitter relates that February 22 has been set as the date for the by-election.

Thursday, December 19

I’m bumping this post up the batting order to bring news that a union-commissioned ReachTEL poll of 774 respondents conducted on Friday and Saturday had Labor on a handy lead of 42.1% to 35.3% on the primary vote, with the Palmer United Party on 8.6% and the Greens on 5.1%. That pans out to 54-46 to Labor based on the preference distribution from the 2012 election. This comes as the Liberal National Party announces its candidate will be Kerri-Anne Dooley, who was Family First’s candidate for the seat in 2012.

Thursday, November 28

Tony Moore of Fairfax reports that February 1 is looming as the likely date of both the Redcliffe state and Griffith federal by-elections, with Campbell Newman saying the election should be held after the Australia Day long weekend of January 26. Yvette D’Ath has confirmed she will run for Labor, while Jamie-Leigh Mason of the Redcliffe & Bayside Herald reports a number of names have been mentioned as possible Liberal National Party candidates, including Martin Hall, Hornibrook Bus Lines general manager and Redcliffe City Chamber of Commerce president; Michael Connolly, “organiser of a community rally for better government representation”; and Dean Teasdale, a property services company manager who run in Petrie at the 2010 federal election.

Wednesday, November 20

Hot on the heels of Kevin Rudd’s retirement announcement, Queensland voters are set to enjoy more by-election action courtesy of yesterday’s resignation from state parliament by Scott Driscoll, who won the northern Brisbane seat of Redcliffe for the Liberal National Party as part of the electoral landslide of March 24, 2012. Driscoll cited health reasons for his decision to resign, but it was obviously no coincidence that this followed immediately after a parliamentary ethics committee found him guilty of 42 counts of contempt of parliament, with the recommendation that he be expelled and fined $90,000. The charges relate to Driscoll’s failure to declare income received through his and his wife’s involvement in local retailers’ and community associations, and his claim in parliament to have ended his role as voluntary president of the retailers’ association, which the committee found “on the balance of probabilities” to be untrue.

The prospect of Driscoll’s expulsion, which Campbell Newman had called upon the committee to recommend in September, raises interesting questions about the right of a parliamentary majority to reverse decisions made by voters, particularly in circumstances where no criminal charges are pending. Expulsion of members is an ancient prerogative of the British parliament which its two houses retain to this day, but which our own federal parliament saw fit to deny itself through legislation passed in 1987. The only time the federal parliament had exercised such power was in 1920 after Labor MP Hugh Mahon made “seditious and disloyal utterances” in relation to British policy in Ireland. Mahon was nonetheless able to contest the ensuing by-election for his seat of Kalgoorlie, but was narrowly unsuccessful (which to this day remains the only occasion of a government winning a seat from the opposition at a federal by-election).

Numbers indicate 2012 state election booth locations and the size of the Liberal National Party two-party preferred vote. Map boundaries courtesy of Ben Raue at The Tally Room.

Today’s Courier-Mail reports that the only precedent for expulsion from the Queensland parliament goes all the way back to 1869, and even that would seem to belong in the separate category of disqualification. This occurred after voters in the central Queensland district of Kennedy, who were still new to the practice of democracy, saw fit to honour the renowned English radical parliamentarian John Bright by electing him at a by-election by a margin of 79 votes to 78. The Queensland parliamentary website relates that Bright’s election had been championed by advocates of a separate colony for central and northern Queensland, who hoped he might pursue their cause in the House of Commons. Bright never visited Australia and was naturally unable to assume his seat, and indeed “probably was unaware of his connection with the Queensland parliament”.

More concrete examples of expulsion emerged from the New South Wales and Victorian parliaments resulting from bribery, electoral fraud and “seditious libel”, though none occurred more recently than 1901. However, a modern precedent with parallels to the present situation emerged in New South Wales in 2003, when Malcolm Jones of the Outdoor Recreation Party — who had foreshadowed the result of the recent Senate election by preference-harvesting his way to a seat with 0.2% of the vote — was found by the Independent Commission Against Corruption to have engaged in corrupt conduct relating to parliamentary entitlements. The chamber commenced proceedings to follow up on ICAC’s recommendation that it consider expelling Jones, who like Driscoll solved the problem by resigning. But whereas Jones’s position was filled by another member of his own party as a casual vacancy, Driscoll’s departure will entail the expense and inconvenience of a by-election.

Redcliffe booth results map from the seat of Petrie at the 2013 federal election. Teal and red numbers respectively indicate booths with two-party majorities for the LNP and Labor. Map boundaries courtesy of Ben Raue at The Tally Room.

This will be the first by-election held in Queensland since the election of the Newman government, and while the existing LNP margin in the seat of Redcliffe is 10.1%, Labor will be more than encouraged by the recent example of the Miranda by-election in New South Wales, at which Labor candidate Barry Collier swept to victory with a stunning 26.1% swing. Working in Labor’s favour will be the circumstances that brought the by-election about, and perhaps also a perception of an unhealthy imbalance in the parties’ parliamentary representation, with 74 government members facing seven from the opposition. The amount of slack awaiting to be taken up by Labor is indicated by the federal election result, at which Labor’s two-party preferred vote was about 11.5% higher in the relevant booths than it had been at the state election.

However, a complication might emerge in the shape of the Palmer United Party, whose principal could well give vent to its hostility against Campbell Newman by bankrolling another high-profile campaign. While by-elections generally present propitious circumstances for parties who thrive on protest votes, the bar for a PUP candidate would be raised under the state electoral system of optional preferential voting, which would have deprived the party of many of the Labor preferences that Clive Palmer relied upon to defeat the LNP in Fairfax. So far, the only potential candidate to be discussed in media reportage is Labor’s Yvette D’Ath, who was narrowly defeated in the corresponding seat of Petrie at the federal election after two terms as member.

The by-election could theoretically be held as early as December 21, but as in Griffith it will presumably be delayed until after the school holidays. What follows is an updated version of the entry for Redcliffe from my 2012 election guide:

Redcliffe occupies the peninsula 25 kilometres north of central Brisbane which bears its name, along with Moreton Island. The LNP is strong at the peninsula’s northern tip around Scarborough, while the remainder leans to Labor. The electorate was created in 1960 and held for its first 19 years by Jim Houghton, first as a Liberal and later with the National/Country Party. The Liberals did not take his defection lying down, and the electorate became a battleground between the two parties throughout the 1970s. Only with Houghton’s mid-term retirement in 1979 did the seat return to the Liberal fold, the ensuing by-election being won by Terry White. White became leader of the party in August 1983 at the head of the disastrous anti-Joh rebellion which cost most of his colleagues their seats at the election held two months later. He eventually lost the seat when it fell to Labor in 1989, and now lends his name to a national chain of pharmacies.

The incoming Labor member, Ray Hollis, retained the seat on uncomfortable margins in 1995 and 1998 before picking up a 13.7 per cent swing with the 2001 landslide, but he was nearly brought back to earth in 2004 when Liberal candidate Terry Rogers picked up a 10.5 per cent swing. Rogers was rewarded for his performance with an uncontested preselection when Hollis retired mid-term in July 2005, which along with Terry Mackenroth’s departure initiated the twin by-elections of Redcliffe and Chatsworth the following month. Both were won by the Liberals, with Rogers securing a 1.2 per cent margin after an 8.3 per cent two-party swing. As with Michael Caltabiano in Chatsworth, Rogers’ parliamentary career did not survive beyond the end of the term: Labor’s defeated by-election candidate, Lillian van Litsenburg, prevailed on her second attempt at the September 2006 election with a 5.4 per cent margin that represented a 6.6 per cent swing to Labor compared with the by-election, and a 1.7 per cent swing to the Liberals compared with the 2004 election.

Van Litsenburg was a former school teacher and Redcliffe councillor associated with the Labor Forum faction. Scott Driscoll, a former national president of the United Retail Foundation, defeated van Litsenburg at the 2012 election with a 15.7% swing, slightly above the statewide result of 13.7%.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

66 comments on “Redcliffe by-election: February 22”

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  1. If there is a large swing against the LNP it will send a shock wave through the backbenchers on small margins (or Premiers on small margins) realising that they will likely lose their seats in a few months.

    I wonder how many Clive will pick up as defections?

  2. [If there is a large swing against the LNP it will send a shock wave through the backbenchers on small margins (or Premiers on small margins) realising that they will likely lose their seats in a few months.]

    If any LNP backbenchers on small margins (say, under 5%) ever believed they would get a second term, they’ve been deluding themselves. All those seats will revert to Labor even if Newman is comfortably re-elected.

  3. Its a bit rough Newman complaining about people from outside of Redcliffe manning booths today.

    His candidate is from outside Redcliffe and was told by AEC staff to stay out of the polling booth.

  4. [Not Campbell Newman ‏@Can_do_Campbell 6m
    Ok. Lets be clear, the loss in Redcliffe is the fault of known Bikie and union official Scott Driscoll who strongly supported the Carbon Tax]

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