Queensland election minus two weeks

As the battle in Queensland begins in earnest, campaigns are launched, television is blitzed, stratagems are deployed, and poll trackers show up in blog sidebars.

The sidebar now comes with a poll tracker, which presently shows the Liberal National Party on track for a modest absolute majority. However, the recent emphasis on electorate-level polling means its most recent data points are from the first week of the campaign. Since this is a two-party model, the seat allocation for “others” simply assumes that the three relevant incumbents who won their seats as non-major party candidates in 2012, namely Mount Isa MP Rob Katter and Dalrymple MP Shane Knuth of Katter’s Australian Party and independent Nicklin MP Peter Wellington, will do so again this time, without being joined by anyone else. If any electorate-level polling emerges to disturb that apprehension, I will play it by ear if and when it occurs. The methodology is broadly similar to that for BludgerTrack (you can find an explanatory link for that somewhere on the sidebar), but with a few experimental tweaks to deal with optional preferential voting. Based on the way preferences in individual electorates behaved in 2012, I have derived the following models to determine the percentage share of the minor party and independent vote allocated to the two parties as preferences:

LNP: 0.295 – 0.089a – 0.095b
Labor: 0.047 + 0.208a + 0.341b

Where “a” equals Labor’s share of the major party vote, and “b” equals the Greens’ share of the non-major party vote. In other words, as either of these things increases, so does Labor’s share of preferences. Polling suggests the Greens vote to have been essentially static since 2012, so “b” isn’t much of a factor, but “a” of course has risen considerably. Even so, the effect of implementing the model is unspectacular: if 2012 preference flows (as best as I can determine them) were applied to the current primary vote numbers, the Liberal National Party would be up 0.4% on two-party preferred and two on the seat projection. The current split is roughly 30% Labor, 20% LNP and 50% exhausted. I should grant that modelling based on previous election preferences wouldn’t have worked that brilliantly at the last five elections due to the escalating rate of exhausted preferences, but presumably that trend has to level off eventually.

Random notes:

• Antony Green gets detailed on Campbell Newman’s “just vote one” strategy, the upshot of which is that the party that leads on the primary vote wants the exhausted preferences rate to be as high as possible. When Peter Beattie pioneered the strategy in 2001, the anti-Labor vote was splintering between Nationals, Liberal, One Nation and the One Nation breakaway City-Country Alliance. While the Palmer and Katter parties complicate the issue somewhat, the main issue today is the segment of the Left vote that goes missing as exhausted Greens preferences, which can only stand to be maximised if the Premier is out there reminding voters that they are not in fact obliged to number every box, as they would be at a federal election.

The Australian reports that the internal polling of both sides has the six LNP-held seats in northernmost Queensland “well within the ALP’s grasp”, namely the Cape York electorate of Cook, the Cairns electorates of Cairns and Barron River, and the Townsville seats of Townsville, Thuringowa and Mundingburra. However, it would seem Labor is better placed in Cairns and Thuringowa than in Barron River and Mundingburra.

• Sean Parnell of The Australian reports that “support is building” for Treasurer Tim Nicholls to take over if Campbell Newman doesn’t win Ashgrove, “although there is some support for former leader and Health Minister Lawrence Springborg”. Mark Ludlow of the Financial Review reports Nanango MP Deb Frecklington is “shaping as a possible deputy for Nicholls if he becomes premier” (see below for more on Frecklington’s status within the government).

• The LNP held its campaign launch yesterday at the Brisbane Convention Centre, which Steven Wardill of the Courier-Mail deemed “weird” even by the standards of the genre. From the limited material available to me, what stands out about the launch is the distinctly multicultural flavour of what Wardill describes as the “nodding heads placed strategically behind Newman”, one of which I take to be that of Yeerongpilly candidate Leila Abukar. The contrast with the Liberal Party’s federal campaign could not be more acute. Labor will hold its campaign launch tomorrow in Ipswich, presumably with an eye to the seats of Ipswich and Ipswich West, which the LNP holds on margins of 4.2% and 7.2% after titanic swings in 2012. The other Ipswich electorate, Bundamba, is held by one of Labor’s seven survivors from 2012, Jo-Ann Miller.

Steven Wardill of the Courier-Mail observes parallels between the looming election and Peter Beattie’s second landslide of 2004, starting with a February 7 election date that was barely less audacious than Campbell Newman’s, and continuing with a government on the front foot with respect to contentious areas of the policy debate. Following the lesson of history to its conclusion, he determines that Labor will find the going tough outside of a designated list of gimmes (Bulimba, Waterford, Lytton, Greenslopes, Sandgate, Nudgee, Ipswich and Logan). There may be quite a bit in this, but I would add the following qualifications. First, Peter Beattie took Labor into the 2004 campaign with its two-party poll rating in the high fifties, and the worst of its mid-term Newspoll results had been equivalent to 53-47. Both of which suggest he was doing four or five points better than Newman. Secondly, whereas the LNP has been savaged in two by-elections in the past year, Labor under Peter Beattie had performed quite creditably in its one by-election of the term, which was held in Maryborough nine months before the election. Thirdly, while the Beattie government’s federal counterparts were polling strongly under the new leadership of Mark Latham at the time of the 2004 election, Newman would be bracing for some heavy blowback against Tony Abbott.

• Certainly Wardill is on the money when he says that the LNP campaign is seeking to make a virtue of being “the agent of reform on the election’s key issue”. The party’s publicity material makes prominent use of imagery of Campbell Newman, Tim Nicholls, Jeff Seeney, Fiona Simpson and Deb Frecklington getting down to business, with Nicholls singled out for prominence in the television spot below as Newman spruiks “a plan we know we can pay for”. Interestingly, neither of the two women featured are actually part of the cabinet that looks like it’s being portrayed, the only female members of which are Tracy Davis and Jann Stuckey. Simpson is the Speaker, and presumably made the cut by virtue of her long-established public visibility. Frecklington holds a position in the outer ministry, but being the member for rural Nanango, rather than suburban Aspley or Currumbin on the Gold Coast, was presumably favoured over Davis and Stuckey in the interests of regional balance.


• The Courier-Mail reported on Saturday that both parties were to launch an advertising blitz over the weekend ahead of the start of pre-polling today, having spent the first half of the campaign relying on the internet. I can’t tell you if this is being reflected in what’s going to air, but the advertising on the parties’ YouTube channels is all positive in the LNP’s case, and all negative in Labor’s. The LNP may well be calculating that its interests are best served by keeping the opposition’s profile as low as possible. As for Labor, I was willing to cut its campaign team some slack for the poor quality of its 2012 ads, on the basis that 15 years of accumulating baggage in government gave it little left to work with, but this lot is making me wonder. The party’s channel essentially features three ads, the least underwhelming of which comes in 30-second and 15-second edits, with the longer version featured below.

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.

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