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. Surely this is winnable for Labor with a good local candidate? The selection of Driscoll by the LNP was a slap in the face to the electors of Redcliffe.

  2. The LNP seem to have done a good job in distancing themselves from Driscoll here so the ALP’s best hopes of coming back from the drubbing in the last poll will be the usual by-election swing away from the Gov & a slight drift back from the anti ALP mood of the last state poll. A good candidate will be essential but this will not be easy for the ALP.

  3. It will be an interesting pointer to just how much skin Newman has lost since the election although there will no doubt be anger in the Redcliffe Electorate about Driscoll and his antics. It may be difficult to separate the factors in play. Realistically Labor should win this by-election with a decent sort of swing.

    In the unlikely event the LNP retains the seat it would be a very good result for Newman.

  4. Just checked PUP got 10% of the primary vote in Petrie the federal seat that takes in Redcliffe so it wouldn’t surprise if they polled better given the circumstances surrounding this by-election.

  5. My local informant tells me:

    * Voters are pissed off with Newman but not ready to return to Labor.
    * Labor does not in any case have a decent local candidate.
    * Yvette d’Ath is not interested, but might change her mind if the party twists her arm.
    * A good local PUP candidate or independent would win easily.

  6. As a Redcliffe local my read of the mood is similar to your informant’s Psephos, but I’not convinced they are ready for the PUP route yet. Newman’s & the LNPs’s actions to disown rather than to try to defend Driscoll ( barring a brief backing early in the affair) has limited the fallout to the LNP. Local issues, besides Driscoll himself , seem to be low key at the moment so a big enough swing back to the ALP seems doubtful to me but I live in hope. Good or bad candidates might make some difference.

    I wonder how much resources the parties are prepared to ‘waste’ on this poll. Local media is nearly non existant, just the local Murdoch advertising freebie , The Redcliffe Herald, which is not widely read. So effective advertising would need to be with Brisbane TV, radio & print media, which is of course expensive and not well targeted plus doorknocking & letterbox drops.

  7. It shouldn’t be forgotten that this by-election will be held under the OPV system. This will have some effect on the outcome unless there is a concerted campaign to encourage voters to cast a preference.

    My own State MP lost his seat in 2012 due to Greens preferences exhausting.

    At the recent Federal Election in Griffith at the booth I scrutineered, Labor received 90% of PUP’s preferences. Ditto the Greens.

  8. If Newman’s distancing from Driscoll really has distanced the LNP from any fallout, then it is a salutory lesson to Labor on what should have been done in NSW over several individuals, rather than try to defend the indefensible and sinking the whole ship.

  9. Socrates, Newman has such a big majority he can afford to throw away MP’s without a care. Good for discipline too I suppose. The ALP hasn’t always had that luxury.

    Only time, and maybe this poll, will tell if I’m right about the fallout. It’s only the impression get talking to the politically disengaged people I know in the neighbourhood and down at the local. Labor will of course seek to remind voters of who foisted Driscoll on to them in the first place and will I’m sure find some sound bites from Newman praising Driscoll as a candidate but whether that will bite we’ll see.

  10. The difference was that Driscoll’s misbehaviour was all his own work, whereas the corruption of Obeid, Macdonald etc was entrenched in a large part of the NSW ALP. It was easy for Newman to give Driscoll the flick, but successive NSW Premiers found it impossible to cut out the cancer of corruption around Obeid.

  11. [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.]

    this speaks volumes about how far tea party right the LNP continue to drift.

  12. Preferences probably won’t flow quite like the 2012 election with the PUP Fed election overlays. At least according to our research

    The exhaustion rates are also an issue to working out an accurate TPP at the moment.

    The most accurate assessment is that the TPP is somewhere between about 53.5% and 57% to the ALP. It’s quite a spread leading into a by-election.

    Health popped up as one of the major issues in voting determination – so here’s the additional questions from the poll, including partisan ID cross-tabs and undecided voters

  13. Answering my own question.

    [The Palmer United Party will not contest the by-election.]

    8.6% of the Primary up for grabs. ALP workin’ the shopping centres while Newman snoozes. 🙂

  14. I was part of this ReachTEL survey. I’m starting to think I’m on a ReachTEL panel as I keep getting surveyed. Does it matter much for accuracy if they keep ringing the same people?

  15. Palmer must be mad (well OK we already knew that). Two by-elections in his home state should be an absolute gift for him to build momentum. Queenslanders being what they are, he might even have won.

  16. 21

    He is focusing on the Tasmanian ans WA Senate rerun. For a minor party to focus on PR elections over single member elections is usually not a bad idea but I agree Palmer is stupid for not running in these by-elections. At the very least he should have run his candidate from September in Griffith and got his candidate from the equivalent Commonwealth seat to run in Redcliffe.

  17. Palmer had a full colour bright yellow cover and back, with his Christmas letter on page 2 and a photo of his whole family excluding the new baby on page 3. The Commonwealth crest was at the top of the letter.

    Interestingly only if it is sent to his constituents would he be able to claim the printing under entitlements. Redcliffe is nowhere near Fairfax. Would have cost a fortune to print and distribute.

  18. Redcliffe is my in-law’s stomping ground. I’d be very surprised if Labor did not win this. Though socio-economically it’s more mixed than in the past, Labor’s vote has always had a pensioner and battler base. My in-laws report the seething about Driscoll wasn’t just about Driscoll, but regret that a decent local MP was sacrificed in the tide to remove the Bligh government.

    I’m not sure why Palmer would have a chance here. It’s vaguely contiguous with, but a much more settled, less development fixated and urban if not urbane community than the real coast.

    If Labor can’t win such natural territory, in a by-election no less, it should be euthanased.

  19. Graeme, Lillian van Litsenburg might have been a decent member but she was invisible to most of the electorate. I doubt if 95% would even remember who she was if you said her name and told them she was their previous member, so I doubt if many are rueing her “sacrifice”. Luckily Yvette has a higher profile.

  20. Of course Campbell Newman is not a power mad despot, and the closeness between he and his loyal subjects is touching. It must break his heart not to be able to be close to them all the time. No doubt the police insisted on these measures despite Campbell’s protests, because those nefarious bikies are angry at him for no reason at all.
    [Taxpayers have footed the bill for almost $40,000 worth of security upgrades at Premier Campbell Newman’s family home in the wake of the state government’s crackdown on criminal motorcycle gangs.
    Fairfax Media can reveal improvements to Mr Newman’s inner-city Windsor home, including upgrades to security screens, CCTV, external lighting, alarms, locksmith work and intercoms, have cost $38,925.]

  21. I’m not sure I see why Labor “desperately needs” an eighth seat. Is an eight-seat opposition vastly more effective than a seven-seat opposition? Yvette d’Ath would be an asset to any parliamentary party, but she won’t transform the parliamentary situation. Winning a by-election is always a boost for an opposition, but hardly decisive, as we saw when the Libs won the last Redcliffe by-election but then failed to win the following election, or to hold Redcliffe.

  22. No they already have that status.

    Sean, we’ve already had a poll showing Labor winning. By-elections are usually about giving a whack to the government. Newman will get a whack. We saw what happened in NSW. Labor is still seriously on the nose there, but got a huge swing to win Miranda. I think most of Qld Labor’s disaster was due to Bligh breaking her promise on asset sales. With Bligh gone, Labor seems to be recovering quite well, with a lot of help from Newman.

    “A new Lonergan Research poll of 891 voters found Labor’s Redcliffe candidate Yvette D’Ath – who lost the federal seat in the same area at last year’s election – on a huge 53% of the primary vote, well ahead of the LNP candidate and former Family First candidate Kerri-Anne Dooley.
    More than half (59%) said they thought Campbell Newman’s LNP government had made the state’s health system worse – including 10% of those who said they would vote for the LNP. Only 23% thought the LNP government, elected in a landslide victory in 2012, had made the health system better.”

  24. This is slanted to help the LNP as a large number of voters will be postal as Labor has been running a strong PV campaign. Many of the postal voters won’t get their ballot in time let alone getting them back postmarked before the 22nd. Also only 5 days of pre-poll, this will disadvantage shift workers esp Qld Health employees. Very cunning is Campbell Newman.

  25. MsAdventure @36

    Campbell’s days of cunningness is running out. I belive he will call an election for late this year instead of next year. He is in a pickle as the statewide swing to Labor will no doubt be greater than 5% and that means he is in a position to likely lose his own seat.

    It was so dumb of him to go into Ashgrove. He will pay for his stupidity.

  26. Unless Labor starts really gaining in the polls, I can’t imagine it being too difficult for Newman to find a safer seat to be parachuted into. He is the premier, after all.

    And if it does start to look likely that the government will lose the election (which is the only situation would, IMO, see Newman recontesting Ashgrove instead of another seat), Newman may well already have been rolled and have resigned from the seat.

  27. Took part in a Galaxy automated phone poll tonight.
    Substantive questions were voting intention in Redcliffe poll, affect of Driscoll on vote, whether health services in area had got worse, same or better,and regardless of current or recent voting which party was closer to my outlook.

    Probably trying to quantify the Driscoll effect.

  28. Even ignoring the polling, Labor really should expect to get this one. They should all give up and join the Katter Party if they don’t.

    Re reverse donkeys: I think I mentioned this on another thread, but I believe drawing last on the ballot hurts you more in terms of lack of proximity to preference sources and not getting the semi-donkeys down the paper, than you gain from those who donkey from bottom up. I think the rate of bottom-up donkeying would be only a fraction of a percent.

  29. I agree with events since christmas this has moved from winnable to likely for Labor. A good local grassroots campaign should see it over the line.

  30. Link to Galaxy results

    [According to Galaxy, the LNP’s primary vote has fallen from 49.2 per cent to 35 per cent while Labor’s vote leapt by more than 17 points to 48 per cent.
    Independent Len Thomas snared 8 per cent, more than the Greens’ 6 per cent. On a two-party preferred basis, Labor leads 57 per cent to the LNP’s 43 per cent.
    Such a result would see Labor’s Yvette D’Ath enjoy a margin slightly higher than Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk’s 6.9 per cent.
    The poll revealed 42 per cent of Redcliffe residents were less likely to vote LNP because of Mr Driscoll, who regularly did not appear in Parliament and was caught failing to declare income from a community group.
    However, 45 per cent of respondents were not influenced by Mr Driscoll, including more than one in four Labor supporters.]

  31. [… However, 45 per cent of respondents were not influenced by Mr Driscoll, including more than one in four Labor supporters.]

    People like me who because I was going to vote for Labor any way honestly answered that Driscoll had not affected my voting intention.

  32. [… However, 45 per cent of respondents were not influenced by Mr Driscoll, including more than one in four Labor supporters.]
    The Driscoll behaviour only has to influence one tenth of the previous LNP voters to give Labor a 5% swing. Labor should remind voters that the LNP was warned about Driscoll before picking him, but they ignored it.

  33. Robo-polled again by different mob. Voting intention, approve disapprove of Newman, Palaszczuk, D’Ath, Dooley, and vote last election. People are certainly spending money on polls for this by-election.

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