Queensland election endgame

An account of the electoral and constitutional situation in Queensland, most of it cribbed from Professor Graeme Orr.

I ceased updating my Queensland election count thread on Saturday, partly due to distractions from Canberra, but mostly because incoming votes had reduced to a trickle. With the dealine for receipt of postal votes passed at 6pm this evening, we can expect the final tallies and preference counts to be conducted over the next two or at most three days. No late count surprises transpired, so it is beyond doubt that 44 seats will be declared for Labor, 42 for the Liberal National Party, two for Katter’s Australian Party and one independent, Nicklin MP Peter Wellington, who has thrown his lot in with Labor while the Katter members continue to haggle for terms. To summarise the last four seats I had left on my watch list:

Ferny Grove. There have been 193 new votes added here since Saturday, and the Labor lead of 414 is now at 408.

Mount Ommaney. Another 109 votes added, and the LNP lead is up from 170 to 187.

Whitsunday. A further 249 votes have been counted. Here there is a complication, explained thus by Antony Green: “The votes have been counted but they haven’t been isolated by count centre and so haven’t been entered into the computer system. I’ve had a discussion with the ECQ who are seeing what they can do, but it may be that the count in Whitsunday won’t include all the votes until the actual distribution of preferences is reported this evening or tomorrow. There are no votes missing and everything adds up except the website.”. It matters little – my projection had the LNP lead at 351 on Saturday, and 352 now.

Lockyer. Ian Rickuss never looked comfortable in his tussle with Pauline Hanson, but his lead is now at 194, compared with 183 on Saturday.

Today I wrote an account for Crikey concerning the constitutional situation given the apparent conviction of the Liberal National Party that it can remain in power until any uncertainty surrounding Ferny Grove is resolved. By the time of publication, this had been overtaken somewhat by two events. The first was Campbell Newman’s visit to the Governor to tender his resignation, “pending the appointment of a new Premier” – so not actually a resignation at all then, as far as I can see (UPDATE: J-D in comments reasonably argues in comments that this is overreach, but I remain curious about the timing). Ordinarily when a Premier tenders their resignation, they concurrently advise the Governor to call upon somebody else to form a government. I am left to surmise that the true purpose of the visit was to get in before Annastacia Palaszczuk with legal advice he had sought yesterday, which in the words of The Australian included “a plan for the Queensland Governor to delay commissioning a new government until after a possible by-election in a Brisbane seat that could be months away”.

The second of today’s two events was an announcement by the Governor, Paul de Jersey, which suggested Newman’s visit might not have gone entirely according to plan. Taking to Twitter, de Jersey announced he would “commission new Premier following #qldvotes polls declaration”.Since there is no question that Ferny Grove will be declared for Labor, that doesn’t leave much room for doubt that he will commission Palaszczuk. Certainly the result in Ferny Grove will not be undeclared by virtue of being referred to the Court of Disputed Returns, which will require a substantial amount of time to consider the various legal arguments. This will involve establishing that Palmer United candidate Mark Taverner was indeed disqualified by virtue of bankruptcy; that precedents at federal elections finding against nullification of elections on the basis of candidate disqualification do not apply under optional preferential voting, since those who cast a one-only vote for Taverner were deprived of a valid vote; and that the number of such votes was potentially great enough to affect the result, which would require further scrutiny of ballot papers. There would then follow an automatic right of appeal.

To push the envelope for the sake of argument, the Governor might accept that, for the sake of continuity pending a final resolution, he should install Lawrence Springborg in some manner of ongoing caretaker capacity. However, this would require holding off summoning a parliament in which Mark Furner would be entitled to sit until the Court of Disputed Returns ruled otherwise. To put it mildly, keeping the parliament in suspension for the deliberate purpose of maintaining in office a Premier who lacks its confidence does not seem in accordance with responsible government. If the LNP believes it will attain Ferny Grove in due course, there doesn’t seem any reason why it shouldn’t sit it out in opposition until that occurs – other than the purely political consideration that it would be less likely to win the by-election from opposition, which is no concern of the Governor’s. Furthermore, Graeme Orr observes that the caretaker conventions under which Springborg would presumably be obliged to govern are expressly designed from the period between the dissolution of parliament and the declaration of the result.

If a new election is indeed required for Ferny Grove, which is far from being the foregone conclusion that the LNP and friendly elements of the media are suggesting, the ECQ says the earliest possible date is April 11. However, that is surely based on untestable assumptions as to how long the legal process will take unfold. A notable wrinkle in the situation is the role of the Chief Justice, Tim Carmody, an enormously contentious Newman government appointment to replace Paul de Jersey on his appointment as Governor. As Fairfax’s Amy Remeikis describes it, “the Chief Justice may elect to be the single judge, or appoint another Supreme Court judge to act in his place”. However, Graeme Orr (who you might well think I should just pass this post over to) refuted this notion in an interview on 4BC today, saying there was “a roster of judges that are picked at random in advance”.

UPDATE: I should also have noted the following from Graeme Orr: “The killer argument is simpler. Let disqualified losing candidates upset a close election, and in future every marginal seat will be seeded with a dummy candidate whose disqualification is obscure, but ready to be leaked to upset the result if it doesn’t go the way the dummy’s masters want.”

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.

179 comments on “Queensland election endgame”

  1. 150

    That would be a PAP introduced measure. Certainly there to discourage disloyalty by government MPs (who make up almost all of the Parliament).

  2. Ahhh, Singapora. Beautiful one day, a rotten dictatorship the next. If any MP or citizen steps out of line, they’ll be sued into bankruptcy and penury. Naturally, most of the senior PAP MPs are partners in one or other of the major law firms, who never lose a case. So, the establishment is guaranteed to win twice. Oh, and as for the story about the accountable ballot papers ……. At least we, the people, can claim we evicted Lee Kwan Newman before he turned into another tyrant, but we await the response of our establishment.

  3. Well done Premier Anna Palaszczuk! An amazing win. It will be amusing to see how the Courier Mail and others try to explain away all those articles about hung parliaments, by-elections and caretaker premies. Not so much reporting an outcome, as hoping for it.

    The bitter recriminations should start soon in the LNP, after a quite nasty campaign, during which they went backwards by a good 2% 2PP.

  4. The Gov of QLand has invited the Labor leader to form a Labor Govt,and she is now at Govt House
    watch the news tonight to see her after becoming Premier designate…
    a new cabinet probably by Monday

  5. It looks like 50.9%, but if you make different assumptions to me on the non-2PP contests you get a different result.

    No ECQ appeal on Ferny Grove. I’m feeling positively delphic compared to some of the newspaper coverage of the last week.

  6. Funny, Country Life don’t seem to have accepted my comment suggesting that the editor was already beginning the LNP’s campaign for Dalrymple and Mount Isa for the 2018 election.

  7. Thanks to Antony Green. So Labor wins more seats and the 2PP. I guess no-one can complain about who’s got the gig? (Looking at you Pyne et al)

  8. So the ECQ changes its mind AFTER the government changes. How long before the Courier Mail and/or Queensland Country Life dreams up a
    conspiracy?

  9. [How long before the Courier Mail and/or Queensland Country Life dreams up a conspiracy?]

    I think they’ve discredited themselves enough already.

  10. I’m not sure you really want to be compared to the Delphic Oracle, Antony. She was famous for the unintelligibility and ambiguity of her forecasts – but you’re definitely a guru!

  11. [“The bitter recriminations should start soon in the LNP”]

    The recriminations have started:

    [ANGER is brewing within the LNP over the party’s election campaign, with insiders and ousted MPs slamming a strategy they say was too soft on Labor and featured Campbell Newman too prominently.

    Accusations of an overly “presidential”-style campaign distracted by attacks on minor parties and a heavy reliance on “feelgood” ads have also been levelled by former and current MPs within state and federal LNP ranks.]

    http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland-state-election-2015/ousted-lnp-mps-angry-at-strong-plan-that-was-too-soft-during-queensland-state-election-campaign/story-fnr8vuu5-1227217816597?sv=de9141f600a849c1dd9742d5f315cc80

  12. Ross@152

    Ahhh, Singapora. Beautiful one day, a rotten dictatorship the next. If any MP or citizen steps out of line, they’ll be sued into bankruptcy and penury. Naturally, most of the senior PAP MPs are partners in one or other of the major law firms, who never lose a case. So, the establishment is guaranteed to win twice. Oh, and as for the story about the accountable ballot papers ……. At least we, the people, can claim we evicted Lee Kwan Newman before he turned into another tyrant, but we await the response of our establishment.

    This was the parallels I saw at the last election between Queensland and Singapore. Lack of upper house, nearly same number of seats and single newspaper. It ends there though. The funny thing was that the last election’s result was a record for the opposition parties. A whopping 7 or 8 seats! Whereas this was a disaster in Queensland.

  13. 165

    Singapore is more like the ACT than Queensland in its electoral uniformity. Queensland is a very varied jurisdiction with lots of different local factors and different local news sources. Singapore is all the same city with a uniform media, like the ACT. The ACT has proportional representation, at territory level, to deal with this, but Singapore has first past the post and consequently a very lopsided Parliament all the time. The previous Queensland Parliament was very lopsided (although not quite as lopsided as Singapore) and, like several other Queensland Parliaments past, shows that Queensland also really needs PR because otherwise there can be too little opposition.

  14. Well done William (and Antony) for your accurate coverage.

    Well done to Premier Palaszczuk and the Queensland campaigners. For a below the radar campaign it sure had plenty of clout.

    And well done LNP for a deserved stint back in opposition.

    Bad lucj to pollsters – change needed.

  15. [ I’m feeling positively delphic compared to some of the newspaper coverage of the last week.]
    That’s damning oneself with very faint praise, Antony. The News reporting(?) has been mostly wishful thinking and not so subtle pressure on ECQ to refer to the Court.

  16. Congratulations and thanks William for your efforts. This is one of the few places to provide high quality, accurate and sensible information and comment on this extraordinary election.

  17. Tom @166

    At a risk of derailing this thread with a completely unrelated topic, I have to concur. Like the ACT, Singapore has a combined local government / state government body. However, at least in the ACT, a government minister handles all municipal matters.

    In Singapore, this is handled by the MPs elected to each electorate. Unfortunately, currently one of the biggest issues is the government deriding the opposition MPs handling of municipal matters, which I believe is currently unfair as the ruling party has the economies of scale with contracts and has not allowed the opposition parties access to the same contracts. After the last election, the newly elected opposition MPs actually had to start their own municipal departments and contracts from scratch, causing some teething issues (which was only natural). They are also finding it hard to hire staff as there is a mistaken belief that one who worked with the opposition parties will later find it hard to gain employment elsewhere in the event that they are sacked when these MPs lose office.

    Singapore would do much better with PR, IMO, and I’m saying as someone who spent the first quarter century of my life there.

  18. It seems there’s a tinge of Gough Whitlam in the new Palaszczuk ministry.

    Currently all ministerial portfolios are only occupied by Anna Palaszczuk, Jackie Trad and Curtis Pitt.

  19. docantk@155

    Any news on the final 2PP? I believe Antony Green may publish one. Maybe Kevin Bonham will?

    I think I’m just going to accept Antony’s unless someone makes a strong case for a different one. ECQ data deficiencies make calculating it a pain in the bloody neck.

  20. I must admit, I just don’t see how a KAPpie can look at the discredited LNP, fresh off going to an election promising to gut the civil service and privatise everything in sight, and think that they’re closer to the KAP’s declared interests than Labor are.

    It boggles the mind…

  21. http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/queensland-labor-premier-annastacia-palaszczuk-announces-new-cabinet-20150215-13fbt8.html
    [Queensland Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announces new Cabinet
    February 15, 2015 – 4:47PM
    Kristian Silva

    Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the state’s new cabinet at a press conference on Sunday afternoon.]
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-15/new-queensland-labor-government-new-cabinet-line-up/6106042
    [Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announces new 14-person ministry
    By Patrick Williams, Melinda Howells and staff
    Updated 15 minutes ago

    Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced a “mix of experience and fresh faces” in her 14-person ministry following the party’s first Caucus meeting.

    At a press conference on Sunday afternoon, Ms Palaszcuk announced her cabinet would feature eight women, including Indigenous MP Leeanne Enoch.

    All 44 Labor MPs met at Parliament House to discuss the composition of the party’s newer, slimmer ministry.]

  22. The full Qld Ministry list is on Palaszczuk’s Twitter, if not reported elsewhere yet:

    Jackie Trad – Deputy Premier, Transport, Infrastructure, Local Government, Planning, Trade
    Curtis Pitt – Treasurer, Employment and Industrial Relations, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships
    Cameron Dick – Health
    Kate Jones – Education, Tourism and Events, Small Business, Commonwealth Games
    Anthony Lynham – State Development, Natural Resources and Mines
    Yvette D’Ath – Attorney General, Training and Skills
    JoAnn Miller – Police, Fire and Emergency Services
    Bill Byrne – Agriculture and Fisheries, Sport and Racing
    Mark Bailey – Roads, Ports, Energy and Water
    Leanne Enoch – Housing and Public Works, Science and Innovation
    Steven Miles – Energy, Heritage, National Parks, Great Barrier Reef (Must be a typo. There’s already a minister for Energy, so she meant Environment?)
    Coralee O’Rourke – Disability Services, Seniors, assisting for North Queensland
    Shannon Fentiman – Communities, Women and Youth, Child Safety, Multicultural Affairs
    and Stirling Hinchcliffe as Leader of the House, Minister assisting the Premier (Minister for handling the Katter Australian Party?)

  23. http://kevinbonham.blogspot.com.au/2015/02/queensland-final-results-and-poll.html

    Queensland: Final Results and Poll Accuracy

    I find that ReachTEL had the most accurate primary votes, beating Galaxy by a whisker. Morgan wins if 2PP is added to the mix though there are good reasons to hesistate to do that.

    I also find that the election again confirms the sophomore surge theory; the swing would have won Labor an easy majority had it been uniform.

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