Queensland four-year terms referendum and council elections

A primer on tomorrow’s electoral events in Queensland: a referendum to introduce fixed four-year terms for the state parliament, and council elections that include the big prize of the Brisbane lord mayoralty.

Post-match report (posted late Saturday)

The referendum has passed with a modest majority, having recorded a 53.3% yes vote with 46.0% of enrolled voters counted. The yes vote tended to be higher and the city and lower in the country, but the range was fairly narrow, from 44.9% in rural Dalrymple to 64.7% in Surfers Paradise. The other big news is Labor’s surprisingly poor show in Brisbane, where LNP lord mayoral incumbent Graham Quirk ended the night with a raw 58.7% after preferences with 62.6% of enrolled voters counted. While this represents a swing against him of nearly 10%, it’s nonetheless a heavy defeat for Labor – and also a bad show for pollsters who had the LNP two-party vote 6% to 7% lower. The news gets even worse for Labor in the wards, where they actually look to have gone backwards from their disastrous 2012 result. The LNP appears to have retained its share of 18 out or 26 seats, and further looks to have nabbed Northgate with the retirement of Labor’s Kim Flesser. Furthermore, the Greens are leading in the Labor-held ward of The Gabba, with 33.0% of the vote to Labor’s 30.8%, and preferences certain to decide the result for one or the other ahead of the LNP candidate on 34.0%. Independent Nicole Johnston has been easily returned in Tennyson. The likely result is LNP 19, Labor five, independent one and Greens one, with the Greens’ win in The Gabba probably being the most doubtful.

Preview (posted Friday)

Queensland has some big electoral action in store tomorrow, with a statewide referendum on fixed four-year parliamentary terms, and council elections offering the big partisan prize of the Brisbane lord mayoralty. If the referendum gets up, Queensland will lose its distinction as the only state still hanging on to three-year terms, with elections henceforth set for the last Saturday in October, starting at the end of the current term. Should the term run to its natural conclusion in early 2018, the new system would kick in with the next election behing held in October 2021. Queensland-based electoral law authority Graeme Orr explains what’s wrong with this in Crikey – specifically, the weakening of electoral accountability in a state with no upper house, and the government’s failure to prepare voters for it through an adequate education campaign. A Galaxy poll of 540 voters in the City of Brisbane found respondents breaking 48-35 in favour, but there are views abroad that voters in the regions will be less keen, and that late deciders will break in favour of no.

In the City of Brisbane, whose million-strong population accounts for just under half the overall population of the metropolitan area, voters will decide whether to extend the Liberal National Party’s 12-year grip on the lord mayoralty, which began with Campbell Newman’s first victory in 2004. The current incumbent, Graham Quirk, assumed the role when Newman quit in April 2011 to make his run for the premiership at the next year’s state election, having first been elected to council at the age of 27 in 1985. Quirk won election to the lord mayoralty in his own right in April 2012, a month after Labor’s decimation at the state election, with 61.9% of the primary vote, translating to a 68.3-31.7 win over his Labor opponent after preferences.

The two published polls suggest it will be a great deal closer than that this time, with the aforementioned Galaxy survey of a fortnight ago giving Quirk a lead of 53-47 over Labor candidate Rod Harding, and a ReachTEL automated phone poll of 1116 conducted for the Sunday Mail last Thursday having it at 52-48. The big news of the late campaign has been the LNP cutting loose Tennyson ward candidate Ashley Higgins, over accusations he had sent sexually explicit images to a teenage boy from a Catholic school at which he served as a minister. Observers of the campaign also tend towards the view that the LNP has been outcampaigned by Labor.

Councillors will also be elected to Brisbane’s 26 wards, which also tend to produce rigid two-party contests. The 2012 landslide delivered the Liberal National Party 18 seats, with a former LNP independent winning the aforementioned Tennyson ward, and Labor managing only seven. Antony Green has a pendulum and accompanying ward profiles here. Elsewhere, the Sunday Mail’s ReachTEL poll indicated that incumbent mayors are set to be returned in the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, Ipswich and Toowoomba.

Queensland part two: April 28

UPDATE 2 (26/4): Another ReachTel poll, this time of a large sample of 1085, finds the lord mayoralty race set for a repeat of Campbell Newman’s landslide in 2008. Newman’s LNP successor, Graham Quirk, is on 58%, Labor’s Ray Smith on 25% and Andrew Bartlett of the Greens on 14%. Whereas sentiment in the South Brisbane poll (see below) was that the size of the LNP parliamentary majority was reason against voting for them again, nearly as many (31%) lord mayoralty poll respondents said the election result was more reason to vote LNP as less (35.5%).

UPDATE (24/4): ReachTel has published an automated phone poll for South Brisbane, and while the sample is small (300), the result is good news for Labor, putting their primary vote at 44% (up five on the election) with the LNP down three-and-a-half to 34.5% and the Greens up one to 19%. Tellingly, 56.5% say the size of the LNP’s majority makes them less likely to vote for them (against 19.5% more likely), with “size of the LNP’s majority” ranking second on a list of six issues rated as most important (less happily for Labor, cost of living ranks first). A ReachTel poll on the lord mayoralty will follow tomorrow.

Another trip to the polling booth for Queensland voters next week, this time to vote in local government elections and, for the lucky residents of the capital’s inner south, to choose a successor to Anna Bligh in South Brisbane, one of just seven seats in which Labor was spared defeat on March 24. Bligh survived a 10.3% swing to hold on by a margin of 4.7%, her primary vote down from 48.4% to 38.6% with the LNP up from 27.9% to 38.1% and the Greens up from 17.5% to 18.1%.

South Brisbane follows the southern bank of the Brisbane River from East Brisbane through South Bank, Woolloongabba and Dutton Park, also extending southwards to Stones Corner. Electorally speaking, it can be roughly divided into three parts: inner-city West End, where the Greens scored about a quarter of the vote, Labor about 40% and the LNP about 30%; the more conventionally working-class south-east of the electorate, where Labor and the LNP were slightly higher and the Greens vote was in the mid-teens; and East Brisbane, more affluent and less bohemian than West End, where the LNP vote was at around 50% compared with a little over 30% for Labor and a little over 10% for the Greens. It was the Labor heartland area of the south-east that swung most heavily at the election, and since these booths reported earliest, the ABC’s early swing projections made Bligh appear in more trouble than she was. The map below shows two-party preferred results by polling booth, with the size of the numbers varying according to number of votes cast (from below 500 to approaching 3000).

The by-election has attracted eight candidates, in ballot paper order: Jason McKenzie (who says his piece in comments), Penny Panorea (Daylight Saving Party), Penny McCreery (Family First), Jo-Anne Bragg (Greens), Clem Grehan (LNP), Liam Flenady (Independent), Jackie Trad (Labor) and Robert Wardrop (Katter’s Australian Party). Grehan, Bragg, Wardrop and Flenady were all candidates at the state election, respectively polling 39.2%, 18.1%, 3.4% and 1.9% to Bligh’s 38.6%. Jackie Trad is the party’s assistant state secretary and a former staffer to Anna Bligh, who reportedly had long groomed Trad as her successor. Trad won Labor preselection without opposition, after defeated ministers Andrew Fraser and Cameron Dick promptly declared their lack of interest in using the seat to return to parliament. Clem Grehan boasts that his “career has progressed from labourer and chainman to surveyor to lecturer to construction planner to project manager”. Jo-Anne Bragg is “director of a non-profit community legal centre that helps people with advice on planning, pollution, nature conservation, mining and gas”. Antony Green offers details on the other candidates, and much more besides.

Then there are the council elections, which are uniquely interesting in the case of Brisbane City Council owing to the municipality’s size, the extent of its powers and the partisanship of its electoral contests. They are also quite unlike elections at higher tiers of government in that voters separately elect an “executive” (the lord mayoralty) and a “legislature” (the council), as as the American custom, with victory in the former not ensuring control of the latter. Like the South Brisbane by-election, this election will also offer an interesting case study of voter psychology in the aftermath of an unprecedented electoral landslide. It’s worth remembering that Campbell Newman came to the lord mayoralty in a surprise win a few weeks after the Coalition parties were trounced at the 2004 state election (although conversely, the Nationals lost the state seat of Surfers Paradise to an independent at a by-election when Rob Borbidge quit parliament in the wake of the 2001 bloodbath).

The incument in the lord mayoralty is Graham Quirk, the former councillor for Macgregor ward who succeeded Campbell Newman in April 2011. Labor’s candidate is Ray Smith, chief executive of television production company Cutting Edge. Former Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett is running for the Greens, and the unregistered Australian Sex Party is behind the candidacy of independent Rory Killen. Labor goes into the election off a low base, Campbell Newman having been re-elected in 2008 with 60.1% of the primary vote compared with 29.0% for Labor’s Greg Rowell, following what had been a fairly desultory Labor campaign. At that time, Newman was famously the most senior Coalition politician in the country, with all federal, state and territory governments in Labor hands. The LNP won 16 of the 26 wards with the remaining 10 won by Labor, although one Liberal councillor, Nicole Johnston in Tennyson, has since quit the party to sit as an independent. The most interesting of the ward contests to lay observers is that for Labor’s most marginal ward, Central, which is being contested by Peter Beattie’s wife Heather. As for the others, the indefatigable Antony Green has come good with a ward-by-ward guide.

Armadale and Araluen and Walter Taylor

Time for a new thread. Politics watchers have had pretty big fish to fry recently, but as electoral minutiae are this site’s raison d’etre, here’s a review of looming events which might have escaped your notice. Feel free to discuss what you’d usually discuss in comments.

• Voters in the safe Labor WA state seat of Armadale go to the polls on Saturday to choose a successor to Alannah MacTiernan, following her unsuccessful stab at the federal seat of Canning. I’m wondering if the date might have been chosen so as not to clash with the AFL grand final, and whether events on that front might result in a very low turnout on Saturday. With the Liberals sitting the contest out and no significant minor challengers emerging, the only other point of interest is how the Labor primary vote holds up with talk building of a threat to Eric Ripper’s leadership. Labor’s candidate is Tony Buti, a law professor at the University of Western Australia. Buti heads a ballot paper filled out by Jamie van Burgel of the Christian Democratic Party, independent John D. Tucak (who had extremely limited success as an upper house candidate for Eastern Metropolitan at the 2007 state election) and Owen Davies of the Greens. More from Antony Green.

• On Saturday week, voters in the Alice Springs seat of Araluen will choose a successor to outgoing Country Liberal Party member (and former leader) Jodeen Carney, who on August 19 announced she was retiring for health reasons. A by-election in the Northern Territory offers interesting parallels with the federal situation, as the Labor government has been on a parliamentary knife edge since the 2008 election returned a result of 13 Labor, 11 Country Liberal Party and one independent. The government assumed minority status when its member for Macdonnell, Alison Anderson, quit to sit as an independent in July 2009 – prompting the existing independent, Gerry Wood of the normally conservative electorate of Nelson, to guarantee Labor on confidence and supply in the interests of “stable government” (there was also a brief period in which Arafura MP Marion Scrymgour was on the cross-benches). As a CLP seat, Araluen gives Labor the remote prospect of improving their position, although the 24.6 per cent margin leaves them with little cause for optimism (it should be noted that election results can be hugely variable in the Northern Territory, where bite-sized electorates make candidate factors crucially important). The CLP candidate is Alice Springs deputy mayor Robyn Lambley, described by Ben Langford of the Northern Territory News as a “mediator and dispute resolution expert”. Labor’s candidate is Adam Findlay, a chef with no background in politics to speak of.

• On October 23, a Brisbane City Council by-election will be held in the ward of Walter Taylor, which has been vacated by Jane Prentice, the newly elected LNP member for the federal seat of Ryan. The LNP have nominated a former policy officer for Prentice, Julian Simmonds, who seems unlikely to be troubled given the 21.0 per cent margin from the 2008 election. Labor’s candidate is Louise Foley, who according to Tony Moore of Fairfax has “worked in the Queensland public service during the Beattie Government as a ministerial advisor in local government, planning, transport, education, main roads and with the office of Premier and Cabinet”. Also in the field are Tim Dangerfield of the Greens and independent William Borbasi. Walter Taylor was one of 16 wards won by Liberal in 2008, with 10 being won by Labor. Lord mayor Campbell Newman of the LNP serves a fixed four-year term regardless of the numbers on council.

Brisbane City Council election live

Antony Green is live-blogging the Brisbane City Council election count (first results should come through in about 30 minutes), so rather than set up in competition with him, I think it’s best if we all head over there.

UPDATE: Feel free though to use this thread to discuss the results if you’re finding Antony’s multiple posts problematic.

UPDATE 2: You can also feel free to discuss councils other than Brisbane.

UPDATE 3: Looks like I can’t help myself. Live blogging follows below:

7.30pm Brisbane time: ABC computer now predicting a huge win for Campbell Newman plus a Liberal majority on council, though Antony still expressing caution about the latter.

7.40pm: Although it seems Ross Vasta’s bid for Wynnum-Manly has failed with a vengeance.

8.05pm: The Liberals needed a notional gain of three seats to win the council. As I see it, they have won Marchant and Holland Park. Parkinson, Enoggera, Doboy, Central and Northgate are all in play (perhaps also Jamboree, where counting proceeds at a snail’s pace), but the Liberals only lead in the first two. I suspect Labor will pull further ahead in Central as more figures come in.

8.35pm: Further figures have moved Holland Park back to the doubtful column, but the Liberals are now home in Parkinson. So the Liberals still need to bag one more doubtful ward. Holland Park is the only one where they are ahead – they are slightly behind in Enoggera, Doboy and Northgate. Labor pulling further ahead in Central, but Greens preferences are a possible wild card here.

8.47pm: Antony Green says Jamboree is now in the Liberal gain column, but the ABC computer figures are lagging badly here. The ECQ shows a Liberal 54.25-45.75 lead on two-party preferred with 44 per cent counted, which sounds pretty convincing. So you could almost call it for a Liberal majority at this point.

8:54pm: More figures in at ABC, and the Liberals have recovered their earlier handsome lead in Holland Park, probably putting any doubts about their majority to rest.

9.04pm: Antony, who has more up to date figures, suggests the four Liberal gains are all holding firm and they are only slightly behind in Enoggera. Doboy still looks in doubt to me, but maybe Antony knows something I don’t.

Viva Brisvegas

Local government is where this website normally draws the line, but there is one exception: Brisbane City Council, an entity unique in Australia in that it covers most of the metropolitan area and controls services such as public transport and water. Most importantly, its elections are rigidly partisan affairs which a psephologist can make sense of even without a local’s understanding of the issues and personalities. The election to be held on Saturday is of special interest because, as is so often related, the Brisbane lord mayoralty is the highest office in the land still held by a Liberal. Campbell Newman came to the position at the 2004 election after defeating Labor incumbent Tim Quinn, who had succeeded 12-year veteran Jim Soorley upon his retirement a year earlier. Soorley was preceded in turn by Sallyanne Atkinson, the only Liberal lord mayor prior to Newman, whom Soorley defeated in 1991. Labor’s candidate this time is Greg Rowell, a Property Council of Australia policy adviser and former state cricketer who was not a member of the party when it head-hunted him last May.

Of equal interest is the election for 26 ward councillors, who continue to be elected through a single-member electorate system that freezes out minor parties and independents even more effectively than the federal and state lower houses. Remarkably, Labor was able to win 17 of these wards at the 2004 election despite losing the lord mayoralty, the remaining nine going to the Liberals. This was caused not by vote-splitting among tactically minded Brisbane voters, but by a natural gerrymander which leaves Liberal votes locked up in very safe wards in the west of the city. Labor in fact scored 48.4 per cent of the total two-party preferred ward vote, only slightly better than Tim Quinn’s 47.5 per cent for the lord mayoralty. The split outcome has produced a curious division of official roles, with Labor holding six of the eight positions on the “civic cabinet”. The two Liberals are the lord mayor and his deputy, Wishart ward councillor Graham Quirk. The title of Opposition Leader is held by a Liberal, Jane Prentice.

A poll conducted by Galaxy and published in the Courier-Mail the Sunday before last showed Campbell Newman set for a landslide re-election with a primary vote of 59 per cent to Rowell’s 30 per cent, translating into 63-37 on two-party preferred. However, a separate question on ward voting intention had the gap at a mere 52-48. I personally find a disparity of this size very hard to believe, and point to the fact that polls of Senate voting intention greatly exaggerate the level of split voting. I suspect the poll has picked up a real sentiment that Labor does not need to be given yet more power along with general satisfaction with Newman, and that this will translate into a strong Liberal performance on the wards as well as the mayoralty. UPDATE: A dissenting view from Brisbane local Mark Bahnisch at Larvatus Prodeo.

The Liberals have further been assisted in this regard by last year’s redistribution, which went some way to redressing the imbalance by abolishing five Labor-held wards (East Brisbane, Runcorn, Acacia Ridge, Grange and Dutton Park) and creating two notionally Liberal ones among the replacements. The only drawback for the Liberals is that formerly blue-ribbon Wishart has become greatly more marginal, though not to the extent it is likely to be in danger in this election. UPDATE: As Antony Green‘s post-redistribution calculations make clear, the same goes for Toowong. The map below shows both new and old boundaries, the latter colour-coded in shades of red and blue to indicate Labor and Liberal margins in 2004 – you can toggle between the two by clicking on it.

I have made rough calculations of post-redistribution ward margins where it seemed worth the effort. Reflecting this roughness, I have only provided post-redistribution margins rounded to the nearest 0.5 per cent. It’s possible that a glaring error or two was made in this process, so anyone who thinks my margin estimates don’t sound right is encouraged to let me know.


Tennyson (New ward: approx. Liberal 1.5%): The new ward of Tennyson has been formed from Walter Taylor’s territory south of the river, along with the south of abolished Dutton Park and parts of western Moorooka, eastern Jamboree and south-western East Brisbane. Liberal candidate Nicole Johnston faces Labor’s Stephen Gay, both of whom are newcomers.

Parkinson (New ward: approx. Labor 2.0%): The new ward of Parkinson has been formed from the the bulk of abolished Acacia Ridge, along with the south-east of Richlands. The Liberals have nominated Angela Owen-Taylor, a staffer for state MP Jann Stuckey who contested Acacia Ridge at the last three elections. Labor’s Acacia Ridge councillor, Kevin Bianchi, is retiring; their candidate for Parkinson is Linda Paton.

Karawatha (New ward: approx. Labor 2.5%): Karawatha has been created from roughly equal remnants of two abolished Labor wards, Runcorn (margin 2.2 per cent) in the north and Acacia Ridge (3.8 per cent) in the south. It will be contested for Labor by Runcorn councillor Gail McPherson, who won preselection over Left rival David Forde, a former staffer to Health Minister Stephen Robertson. The Liberal candidate is John Olive.

Marchant (Approx. Labor 2.5%): The redistribution has pushed this ward southwards, adding the northern part of abolished Grange (whose sitting Labor councillor Maureen Hayes is not contesting the election) along with a smaller area of McDowall to the west. In the north, Zillmere and eastern Aspley have been ceded to Bracken Ridge. The changes have slightly reduced Labor councillor Faith Hopkins’ 3.8 per cent margin to around 2.5 per cent. The Liberal candidate is real estate salesperson Fiona King.

Holland Park (Approx. Labor 3.0%): The redrawn ward of Holland Park takes in more voters from the abolished East Brisbane (the western remainder of which has gone to the new ward of The Gabba) than from pre-redistribution Holland Park. The exchange of strong Labor territory in the south for marginal East Brisbane has produced a margin of around 3.0 per cent compared with 5.6 per cent before the redistribution. Holland Park was held for Labor by Kerry Rea until October, when she resigned to successfully contest Bonner at the November 24 federal election. Rea’s short-term vacancy was filled by Robbie Williams, Brisbane’s first indigenous councillor, despite the fact he had been preselected for Wishart. Williams died from a heart attack on December 20, and the seat has since been left vacant. The Labor candidate was and remains Catherine Bermingham, currently councillor for East Brisbane, who settled for Holland Park after losing her preselection bid for The Gabba. The Liberals have again nominated their candidate from 2004, human resources manager Ian McKenzie.

Morningside (Approx. Labor 4.5%): Morningside has exchanged a small part of its south (to Holland Park) for a new area in the east (from Doboy), with little effect on the margin. Their incumbent councillor is Shayne Sutton, a Labor Unity player reportedly set to succeed disgraced former minister Pat Purcell in the safe seat of Bulimba at the next state election. The Liberals have nominated Melina Morgan, who ran for Greenslopes at the 2006 state election.

Doboy (Approx. Labor 5.0%): The only change to this ward has been the loss of a small area at Cannon Hill to Morningside. Incumbent John Campbell faces Liberal challenger Glen Ryan, who ran in Mansfield at the 2006 state election.

Wynnum-Manly (Labor 5.8%): Unchanged by the redistribution, Wynnum-Manly has been held for Labor since 1994 by Peter Cumming, who is again seeking re-election. Ross Vasta won the Liberal nomination ahead of rival Jeremy Knight at a preselection vote on December 12, three weeks after his defeat in Bonner at the November 24 federal election.

Northgate (Approx. Labor 6.5%): The redistribution has added a small area in the south-east of Marchant, boosting Labor’s margin by a little over 0.5 per cent by my reckoning (the Courier-Mail maintains that the margin is still 6 per cent). Incumbent Kim Flesser will contest the seat for Labor against Liberal candidate Kevin Parer. Flesser has had a few accidents in recent months: he was first exposed urging branch members to bombard Parer with phone calls about local issues to “use up his time”, and is currently the subject of a police investigation over allegations he stole Liberal election signs.

Moorooka (Approx. Labor 6.5%): Pushed south-eastwards by the creation of Tennyson and abolition of Acacia Ridge to the south, Moorooka absorbs the northern part of the latter along with a small part of western Holland Park and a tiny sliver of southern Dutton Park. The changes have had little effect on the margin. Incumbent Steve Griffiths will attempt to hold the seat for Labor from Liberal candidate Marie Jackson.

Jamboree (Approx. Labor 6.5%): Jamboree loses territory in the east to the new ward of Tennyson, along with a very small transfer to Richlands. The margin has been little changed. Incumbent Felicity Farmer will attempt to hold the seat from Liberal challenger Matthew Bourke, a butcher shop owner.


The Gabba (New ward): The new ward of The Gabba has been formed from the northern parts of abolished East Brisbane and Dutton Park. Preselection was contested between the Labor councillors for those wards, Helen Abrahams and Catherine Bermingham, with Abrahams prevailing. Bermingham will instead contest Holland Park, vacated by newly elected federal Bonner MP Kerry Rae. The Liberal candidate is Matthew Myers.

Enoggera (Labor 9.5% on old boundaries): Labor incumbent Ann Bennison suddenly announced her decision to retire in January. This led to an acrimonious preselection stoush between the Left and Labor Unity (Right) factions, the former reportedly reneging on an informal deal by throwing their weight behind Andrew McMicking. Labor Unity’s Michael Dart, an adviser to state Treasurer Andrew Fraser, won the day by just half a vote under a weighted preselection process.

Deagon (Labor 11.0% on old boundaries): Labor incumbent Victoria Newton faces Liberal candidate Tony Feagan, a former police officer and operator of a Sandgate consultancy business.

Central (Labor 12.0% on old boundaries): Held for Labor by deputy mayor David Hinchcliffe.

Richlands (Labor 15.8% on old boundaries): Outgoing councillor Les Bryant, 68, was dumped for preselection in favour of party state secretary Milton Dick.


Wishart (Approx. Liberal 6.0%): The redrawn Wishart consists in equal measure of the southern part of the old Holland Park, around Mount Gravatt and Mansfield, and the north of pre-redistribution Wishart, the south of which has gone to the new ward of Macgregor. This has dramatically cut the Liberal margin from over 15 per cent at the 2004 election, prompting deputy mayor Graham Quirk to take his business to Macgregor. The Liberal candidate for Wishart is Krista Adams, daughter of former Holland Park councillor Gail Chiconi. Adams was preselected ahead of teacher Andrea Caltabiano, wife of Michael. Labor originally preselected Robbie Williams, who became Brisbane’s first indigenous councillor when he filled the short-term vacancy created in Holland Park by Kerry Rea’s election to federal parliament, but he died of a heart attack on December 20. The nomination has now gone to his widow, Trish Williams, general manager of indigenous services association First Contact.

McDowall (Approx. Liberal 8.5%): The redistribution has boosted the Liberals out of the marginal zone in a ward they won by 4.0 per cent in 2004, adding the safe Liberal area of Bridgeman Downs from Bracken Ridge to the north. Incumbent Norm Wyndham will contest the seat for the Liberals; Labor’s candidate is Peter Eickenloff.

Macgregor (New ward: Approx. Liberal 9.0%): This new ward has been formed from the southern part of safe Liberal Wishart and the northern part of marginal Labor Runcorn. It will be contested for the Liberals by Wishart councillor Graham Quirk, the council Opposition Leader. Labor’s candidate is Jacques Develder, a manager at Westpac.

Toowong (Liberal 12.7% on old boundaries): Former lawyer Peter Matic replaced Judy Magub last May when she retired after 13 years. This occurred without a by-election under a rule allowing parties to nominate their own replacement if an election is due in less than a year. Mark Bahnisch in comments notes that the Greens like their chances here. UPDATE: Antony Green puts the post-redistribution margin at a mere 1.8 per cent, so I should probably have put this on the marginal list.

Hamilton (Liberal 16.3% on old boundaries): David McLachlan will attempt to hold the seat for the Liberals after retaining the ward for the Liberals at a 2006 by-election, polling 58.1 per cent to Labor’s 27.8 per cent and the Greens’ 14.1 per cent.

The Gap (Liberal 17.0% on old boundaries): Held for the Liberals by Geraldine Knapp.

Chandler (Liberal 17.9% on old boundaries): Won in 2004 by Michael Caltabiano, who resigned to successfully contest the Chatsworth state by-election in August 2005, only to lose the seat at the September 2006 election. The ensuing by-election for Chandler was a two-horse race between Liberal candidate Adrian Schrinner and Labor’s Dimitr Helios, which Schrinner won with 62.4 per cent of the vote.

Walter Taylor (Liberal 18.9% on old boundaries): Held for the Liberals by Jane Prentice, who became Opposition Leader when Carol Cashman retired in July last year.

Bracken Ridge (Liberal 19.2% on old boundaries): The Liberal incumbent is Amanda Cooper, who replaced the aforementioned Carol Cashman last June. The redistribution has moved the strong Liberal area of Bridgeman Downs to neighbouring McDowall.

Pullenvale (Liberal 29.0%): Unchanged by the redistribution. The Liberal councillor is former Opposition Leader Margaret de Wit.

UPDATE: Antony Green has a guide to the BCC election up and running.

More on the Brissiemander

What a fascinating post-election wash-up they are having up Brisbane way, with the Courier Mail leading today with talk of Lord Mayor Campbell Newman’s "plumbers" setting to work on election night "plugging leaks" in a potential scandal just begging to be dubbed "Brisbane Water-gate". All way more interesting than hair-splitting over council ward boundaries and preference distributions, but unfortunately such is the Poll Bludger’s brief that he shall have to leave the Woodward and Bernstein-type digging to the hard-heads at the Mail.

Further to earlier excited talk about a council ward "gerrymander", the Poll Bludger is pleased to have received correspondence regarding the matter from Griffith University senior law lecturer and electoral law enthusiast Graeme Orr. Bearing in mind that Orr adds the qualification that his comments are "quick and not fully researched", he has the following points to make:

"Rather than internal (ward) boundaries, the Liberals’ predicament may have more to do with the city’s definition – i.e. the external boundaries … The real problem seems to me to be the Liberals’ support over-concentrating in OUTER wards (by which I mean acreage towards the boundary of the city) – The Gap, Bracken Ridge, Pullenvale, McDowall, Wishart. They have only two concentrations in denser urban areas, ye-olde blue-ribbon Hamilton by the river and the Sylvan suburbs (Toowong and Walter Taylor) … The Liberals’ battle then is against the very definition of the City itself. Labor holds almost all of the traditional wards defining the City – i.e. areas more than sparsely settled until a generation or so ago. The Liberals’ uber-support blends into the Shires (Pine Rivers to the North, and the semi-rural shires to the west) – obvious conservative territory. Redefine the city north and west, and the Liberals then control the city. But one may as well say, redefine it to the south (which is more obvious expansion, in the sense of being a clear urban contiguity with Logan ‘city’) and the BCC is even safer for Labor.

"I doubt anyone supports redefining the city boundaries simply to achieve a more proportional democracy. For the boundaries reflect a sense of ‘Brisbaneness’, both historical, practical and imagined. Labor is in the majority across the major sweep of the city geographically and community-wise (especially south and east, but also the inner north, north east and – the Sylvan suburbs aside – heavier settled parts of the south-west). In a funny way, a significantly more proportional result for the Libs would have been even odder in one sense of representativeness.

"In saying this, I don’t mean to marginalise the well-off ‘fringe dwellers’! Nor do I think as you suggest that one can fault the Libs’ machine for not adopting a ‘marginal ward’ campaign – they outcampaigned the ALP all over, hence the swings across the region. They just don’t appeal enough at present to a majority of ‘city’ dwellers. If it came down to community of interest, the acreages and the older city may be so far apart (from transport to water/waste needs) that a community of interest definition of the city would see the BCC boundaries shrink, and the ALP unassailable. But over time the demographics will keep changing – whether in the Lib or Labor’s favour, who knows?

"Perhaps there is an analogue with the boundaries between states being used as boundaries in Federal elections? But I can’t think of one, as no significant population area but Albury-Wodonga lies close enough to state boundaries".

Brisbane Council gerrymander exposed

The Poll Bludger’s perception that the Liberal Party was stiffed in the Brisbane City Council ward elections has hardened upon closer analysis of the voting figures. Bearing in mind that there is still a quarter of the vote to be counted, Labor currently leads in 17 of the 26 wards despite the cumulative primary vote from the ward elections favouring the Liberals by 46.8 to 43.3 per cent. From these unpromising figures Labor achieved a yield of 65 per cent of the seats. Preferences partly explain the discrepancy, but not much – Crikey reports today that 60 per cent of Greens preferences exhausted, making it unlikely that they would have overhauled the Liberals on the overall two-party preferred figure. Even if they had, it would still have been the kind of result that gave the state electoral system under Joh Bjelke-Petersen such a bad name.

Contested # Won % Won Vote % Mayor %
ALP 26 17 65% 43.3% 40.3%
Liberal 26 9 35% 46.8% 47.6%
Greens 17 0 0% 8.0% 10.0%
Ind 6 0 0% 1.9% 2.1%

Who then is to blame for this piece of electoral villainy? The current boundaries were put in place by the Electoral Commission of Queensland in 1999, a year after the Beattie Government came to power. Liberal state director Graham Jaeschke noted at the time that the redistribution left Labor with no marginal wards while the Liberals had five needing swings of less than 5 per cent to change hands, two of which would do so at the 2000 election. By contrast Jaeschke’s Labor counterpart, Mike Kaiser, spoke volumes by describing them as "a fair set of boundaries". However, such was the Liberal Party’s overall performance in 2000 that if they tried blaming the boundaries for the outcome, nobody was listening.

The Poll Bludger has no reason to doubt that the ECQ discharged their responsibilities conscientiously in drawing the council map, which reveals no wards shaped like salamanders and no apparent rhyme or reason to the location of the seven wards which the Liberals won by margins greater than any achieved by Labor. One could perhaps generalise that most of these are on the outer limits of the municipal boundaries, while wards closer to the city and the bay swung heavily back to the Liberals without eliminating the huge margins that Labor secured in 2000. It could be that the Liberals have nobody to blame but themselves for failing to translate shifting public sentiment into support where it mattered – in short, that they suffered from a flawed marginal seats strategy.

Even so, Crikey’s take on the discrepancy – that Newman’s success marks a stinging rebuff for "the ruling Queensland Liberal Party cabal" at party HQ, who ran the wards campaign independently of Newman’s operation – needs to be treated with care. It is indeed true that the Liberals did marginally less well in the wards than the mayoralty as far as the primary vote goes, while the opposite is true of Labor. It is also true that all voters had the option of independents and the Greens for the mayoralty while many ward contests were two-horse Labor versus Liberal contests. But with Labor clinging on to six wards by margins of 5 per cent or less, a good deal of the imbalance can only be put down to bad luck.

As for the implications of the stand-off between a Liberal Lord Mayor and a Labor-dominated council, an article in today’s Sunday Mail suggests that the 1975 parallel invoked partly in jest in the post below may not be too far off the mark. It notes that the Lord Mayor "also acts as the council’s chief executive" and is "able to run council affairs between council meetings and prepare the annual budget". Best of all, "if the hostile council blocked the budget, Premier Peter Beattie could be forced to appoint an administrator". One wonders how impartially Beattie can be expected to behave in the event that he is required to assume the role of John Kerr.

Council elections wash-up

Well, shut my mouth. In his earlier posting on the Brisbane City Council election your correspondent declared that "three weeks after an election which saw the Liberal Party win a solitary seat out of the 40 on offer in the Brisbane area, it would be a very brave Poll Bludger who would tip anything other than a victory for Quinn and another clear Labor majority on council". Only half correct. While the Liberals appear to have gained only one ward at Labor’s expense, their candidate Campbell Newman has swept to victory in the lord mayoral vote, seeing off Labor’s Tim Quinn after just under a year in the chair with over 47 per cent of the primary vote (9 per cent more than Gail Austen managed in 2000). The Poll Bludger wouldn’t care to second guess what motivated the voters of Brisbane when they entered the booths to do their bit for democracy, but he would suggest that an understandable desire to check and balance a triumphant state government played its part.

One might argue that the stark discrepancy between the mayoral result and the ward outcomes suggests that Brisbane voters take a sophisticated view of how political responsibilities should be spread, but it should also be noted that the Liberals were desperately unlucky not to have done better. After the state election, the Coalition’s story was that while they only picked up a pitifully small number of seats, they had at least made many others dangerously marginal – a clear case of wishful thinking on that occasion but a perfect description of yesterday’s outcome in Brisbane, as even a cursory glance of the revised pendulum below makes clear. One might even go so far as to talk of a gerrymander, as the Liberals no doubt will.

Depending on when you read this, the following is based on either final results or those at the end of election night (I don’t plan on correcting the post if anything changes so if something here doesn’t gel, that’s the reason):

Labor wards Liberal wards
THE GAP (14%)
* (13%) CENTRAL
* (13%) DEAGON

As before, I have had to indulge in a few dodges to arrive at two-party preferred figures here. Two-thirds of Greens’ preferences have been distributed to Labor and independents have been written out of the equation – wards where independents were running are marked with an asterisk.

The Liberals then have picked up McDowall, which they never should have lost, and may yet gain East Brisbane, Runcorn and Acacia Ridge depending on how the postal and absentee votes go. So while the Liberals might end up doing as well as 12-14, a much less flattering outcome of 9-17 is most likely. This means that for the first time Brisbane will have a Liberal Lord Mayor facing a hostile council. The Poll Bludger will not pretend to have any idea what the implications of this might be – some sort of 1975-style supply deadlock, perhaps. A few features of the result are worth noting however. Greens mayoral candidate Drew Hutton topped 10 per cent, a pretty fair effort and one that would have him confident of success in his run for the Senate later this year. The Greens also did notably well in one of Labor’s safest wards, Dutton Park, where their candidate Ben Pennings topped 25 per cent. The other notable non-major party performer was Paul Brooks, who polled 18 per cent as an independent in Wynnum-Manly. Council opposition leader Margaret de Wit can take satisfaction in comparing her 9 per cent swing in Pullenvale with the 3 per cent achieved by her factional nemesis Michael Caltabiano in Chandler. De Wit unseated Caltabiano from the leadership position during the last term and was reportedly persuaded to step down from a preselection challenge to federal Ryan MHR Michael Johnson after a threatened counter-attack against her own preselection for council. Labor suffered a major swing in Richlands, presumably because independent George Pugh’s 21.5 per cent vote from 2000 was made up of disgruntled Liberals who have now returned to the fold. Pugh ran again but could only manage 9 per cent this time.

Brisbane of course was by no means the only scene of council election action on the weekend, with other noteworthy results in Queensland including Gold Coast Mayor Gary Baildon’s defeat by sporting legend Ron Clarke and a predictably humiliating outcome for the wildly controversial Alison Grosse in her quixotic tilt for re-election as Mayor of Maroochy (she polled 3.6 per cent). In Sydney Clover Moore, the independent MLA for Bligh, succeeded as expected in overcoming former Keating Government minister Michael Lee to be elected Lord Mayor of Sydney. Unfortunately this does not require her to abandon her seat in the Legislative Assembly, as the Poll Bludger is gagging for a by-election and Bligh is a most interesting electorate. Information from elsewhere in New South Wales is sketchy at this stage, but Labor has apparently done well in the western Sydney councils of Blacktown, Parramatta, Penrith and Campbelltown. See the post on Parramatta directly below for the likely significance (or otherwise) of a Labor resurgence in this area. This comes despite a backlash against Labor over the council mergers issue reported elsewhere, translating into strong showings for the Greens in the inner-city councils of Marrickville, Leichhardt and Ashfield. The Poll Bludger will also keep a lazy eye on the knife-edge battle for the Byron Bay mayoralty, with the Greens’ Jan Barham going down to the wire against independent Ross Tucker.