In a remarkable development, Queensland’s parliament has legislated for the reintroduction of compulsory preferential voting, putting an end to an optional preferential voting regime that was introduced by Wayne Goss’s Labor government in 1992. This arises from a bill that was introduced to increase the size of parliament by four seats, which the Liberal National Party opposition pursued to win favour with the four cross-benchers who hold the balance of power. Each represents a seat in north Queensland – the two ex-Labor members, Billy Gordon (Cook) and Rob Pyne (Cairns), and the two Katter’s Australian Party members, Rob Katter (Mount Isa) and Shane Knuth (Dalrymple) – and supported the enlargement due to their concerns about regional representation. However, Labor has spectacularly turned the tables on the LNP by successfully moving an amendment to also revert to compulsory preferential voting. This leaves New South Wales as the only state with optional preferential, although it will also be introduced at the Northern Territory election in August. In the immediate future, this is sure to be a boon to Labor, who should now receive at least three-quarters of Greens preferences, as they do elsewhere. It will also make life a lot easier for opinion pollsters, who have faced the problem of how to convert primary votes to two-party preferred in a system where the option to exhaust has made voter behaviour highly volatile. Galaxy’s recent results have been based on an average of preference flows from the last three elections, which most recently produced a result of 51-49 to the LNP. However, that would probably have come out at 50-50 under the safer assumptions entailed by compulsory preferential voting.
A major tactical victory for the minority Labor government in Queensland, which has succeeded in tacking a return to compulsory preferential voting on to an Opposition-backed bill to increase the size of parliament.