Only a token effort today unfortunately, on the day in our history when the Liberals and Nationals both decided that they too wanted in on the just-vote-one action. Cut out of preference deals, minor parties and independents might as well follow suit, except in so far as they might preference each other. With talk of dummy independents in the news today, The Poll Bludger will take a very suspicious view of any independent recommending preferences to a major party. Labor has accused Darling Downs candidate Kathy Sankey, a long-serving staffer to federal National Party MP Bruce Scott, of running to absorb votes leaking from those displeased with incumbent Ray Hopper’s mid-term decision to join the National Party after being elected as an independent. Thuringowa Councillor and independent candidate David Moyle made similar claims last week against Labor – who ever could he have had in mind? The only other independent running in Thuringowa is one John Ryan, whose candidacy had wholly escaped the Poll Bludger’s attention until the Electoral Commission released its candidate list yesterday.
Following up from earlier postings, disendorsed Nationals candidate for Maryborough Michael Giles today added weight to the Poll Bludger’s view that the party is content for independent Chris Foley to retain the seat, while the Council for Civil Liberties weighed in with the possibility that Springborg’s public declaration of the cause of Giles’ troubles may have been illegal. Meanwhile in the case of Reynolds vs Millard, the Crime and Misconduct Commission today ruled that one side was saying one thing and the other side was saying another thing, and no-one could say for sure who was telling the truth.
Nominations for the Queensland election closed at noon today and those of you who enjoy a good read can peruse the fill list courtesy of our friends at the Electoral Commission of Queensland. It emerged today that National Party candidate for Maryborough Michael Giles would not be making the cut after all, with revelations he had failed to disclose "information that could embarrass the party", namely a domestic violence order that had once been taken out against him. Interestingly he is not on the ECQ list despite the fact that media reports of Giles’ problems did not emerge until early in the afternoon, shortly after the closure of nominations. The ABC report on the story describes the seat as "important" but the Nationals hadn’t been behaving as if it were. Giles, who has been battling cancer, told the Fraser Coast Chronicle on Friday that he had "a great deal of respect" for independent incumbent Chris Foley, whom he described as "a good mate of mine". Foley ran as an independent in a by-election last year after failing to win preselection for the National Party, who are presumably happy to have a seat held by Labor until 1998 in relatively friendly hands.
Blogging may be light on for the next day or two as the Poll Bludger marks today’s campaign milestone by reupholstering his Queensland election guide, which will soon feature definitive candidate lists and "campaign updates" appending electorates of interest. Watch this space.
In the wake of the Beattie’s promise to spend $150 million addressing land clearing yesterday, a lot of ink has been wasted over the issue of the Greens’ preference allocations, a subject the media has long had difficulty keeping in perspective. This Parliamentary Library research paper gives a good idea of just how little impact how-to-vote cards have on Greens voters, demonstrating that Labor enjoyed only a 3.5 per cent increase in their share of the Greens’ vote in seats where the party’s preferences were thus directed. In a compulsory preferential voting system that demands voters ultimately choose between Labor and the Coalition, at least 70 per cent of Greens voters will conclude that Labor is the lesser evil. Queensland of course has the complication of optional preferential voting, but as professional Democrats number-cruncher Senator John Cherry notes in this revealing exchange with Antony Green at Crikey, the 2001 result in the state seat of Indooroopilly saw a below-average number of exhausted Greens votes and an above-average flow of preferences to Labor, despite it being one of only two electorates where the Greens did not direct preferences.
Of more electoral significance is the fact that the Greens are running 72 candidates this time against 31 in 2001, as this will lead to wastage of preferences through exhausted votes in the same way that divided conservative votes damaged the Coalition last time. But the make-up of the Greens’ how-to-vote cards will have little bearing on this, as Beattie presumably well knows. The Poll Bludger imagines that Labor instead hopes to prevent these votes from being able to leak in the first place by encouraging the environmentally conscious to vote Labor rather than Green. Certainly Labor’s decision today to again run with the just-vote-one recommendation suggests that Greens preference deals are not hugely important to them. The question is, will the tactic work as well now that Labor are in as much danger from vote-splintering as a Coalition now relieved of three-cornered contests and facing a lesser threat from One Nation?
As for the Nats, it appears discipline is being maintained over the issue of One Nation preferences. Despite worrying noises in the lead-up to the campaign from candidate for Cook Graham Elmes, Springborg felt able to tell the Courier Mail yesterday that "we’ve got it all worked out – it hasn’t been an issue to date and it won’t be an issue". Despite state One Nation leader Bill Flynn’s bluster about his party being ready to assume opposition status, it seems that with Pauline now definitively out to pasture, One Nation no longer packs enough electoral punch to scare regional candidates into defying the party line.
The Poll Bludger flatters himself to imagine that his posting from Friday on the state of the Queensland Coalition sent shockwaves through the Liberal Party and set light bulbs off over the heads of party heavies, prompting this report from today’s Courier Mail. The article quotes Liberal sources displeased that the National Party should still be contesting seats on the Gold Coast in this day and age, a difficult judgement to contest. An article by Stephen Wiesenthal in the Financial Review on Thursday (subscriber only so no link) provides a thorough overview of demographic developments in the area, in which the nation’s most rapid rate of urbanisation has soaked up waves of affluent emigrants from the southern states in a region once dominated by dairy farms. Federally the Gold Coast electorate of McPherson went from Country to Liberal Party control way back in 1972 and is currently held with a margin of 12.2 per cent. The newer seat of Moncrieff has been Liberal since its creation in 1984, with a National Party challenger in 2001 polling only 6.3 per cent against Liberal Steven Ciobo on 50.9 per cent. At the state level however, where a vote for the Liberal Party is a vote for a National Party premier, newcomers wanting a mainstream urban-oriented government have only one option. The Poll Bludger will not be the only one keeping a very careful eye on the Nationals’ performance in the winnable Gold Coast seats of Broadwater and Burleigh (plus not-winnable Southport), relative to that of Liberal candidates running in the tougher Currumbin, Mudgeeraba and Gaven.
For some time now the conventional wisdom has been that Malcolm Turnbull had muffed his assault on the Liberal preselection in Wentworth, the wily incumbent Peter King having thwarted him by harnessing support from old biddies within the electorate still maintaining the rage over Turnbull’s campaign of treason against Queen and country. However an article in today’s Sydney Sun-Herald reports the Turnbull camp is confident of having the membership of many of King’s stackees declared invalid. The article also gets down to brass tacks in terms of where the numbers stand in the arcane process by which the Liberals decide such things – 112 electorate delegates reportedly split about 55-50 in King’s favour (with the Turnbull camp presumably hopeful of an improvement on this score), 12 evenly balanced state executive votes, and a wild card in the form of 30 preselectors to be "drawn by lot from the 600-member NSW state council". The report says the ballot is expected on the weekend of February 28 and 29.
If you haven’t yet taken a look at the Queensland election section at On Line Opinion then do so now, and not just because they’ve been kind enough to provide me with a link.
The site promises forthcoming commentary from contributors including persistent Labor power-broker Mike Kaiser and John Wanna of Griffith University, but so far the main point of interest is the Currumbin2Cook election blog conducted by site publisher Graham Young, a one-time Queensland Liberal Party vice-president who has recently run foul of the party’s dominant Santoro/Caltabiano faction. Young has been keeping a close eye on the media campaign and provides a detailed level of policy-picking-apart lacking from my own modest effort.