Written in the writs: Queensland goes to the polls

Australia’s largest electoral event of 2009 (unless Rudd goes a year early) will come to pass on 21 March as Queensland goes to the polls. Labor defends a massive lead in this election but most pundits expect their margin to be considerably reduced on election night. It was all Labor territory Anna Bligh passed through today on the way to the Governor’s office in Bardon to issue the writs, as Mark Bahnisch noted today.

The question is how many Brisbane seats will still be Labor in a month’s time and whether they will be in power at all. While there has been an absence of recent poll data, an LNP victory is still seen as an outside chance. According to SportsPunter.com a party called “Labour” are $1.50 to win while an entity called the “Coalition” are $2.55. Perhaps given their spelling and failure to keep up with the existence of the LNP, SportsPunter.com ought not to be trusted with your money. Nevertheless the odds are a fair reflection of what the LNP needs to do to win.

Springborg’s party needs a uniform swing of 8.3 percent to take outright government. Swings are rarely uniform and there will be variations within the mix to make prediction difficult. Labor holds 58 of 89 seats, the LNP holds 25. The LNP needs to win 20 seats to form government. The One Nation seat will go to LNP; and of the independents, Dolly Pratt might lose to the LNP in Nanango while Liz Cunningham could lose to the ALP in Gladstone. The Greens hold one seat thanks to defector Ronan Lee in Indooroopilly but even a small swing will see LNP win that seat.

Others to watch could be Morayfield (10.7 percent) and Kallangur (11.0 percent) which Labor could lose due to retiring MPs despite huge margins. Because of the electoral boundaries and redistributions, a 50:50 Two Party Preferred Vote will not be enough for an LNP victory or even a draw. But as Pollytics said, Queensland has Optional Preferential Voting (OPV) so preferences often exhaust. This makes two party preferred polling estimates potentially misleading. But it can be a devastating tactic. Beattie used OPV in the 2001 election to destroy a disunited opposition and again in 2006 in an attempt to marginalise the Greens.

As the Brisbane Times says today, what goes around comes around and Greens leader Bob Brown would not guarantee Premier Anna Bligh Greens’ preferences. BT says local Greens are likely to recommend a “just vote one” strategy because of the Bligh Government’s failure to back down on its Mary River Dam project. It had more of a finger on the pulse than the Courier-Mail. When announcing the election today, the latter came out with this gem: “Calling the election today will result in a 27-day campaign, one day longer than the usual minimum 26-day campaign favoured by her predecessor.” Let’s hope for more incisive analysis over the next four weeks.

Another News Ltd apparatchik, Andrew Bolt, was more controversial. He said Bligh was going to the polls “before voters cotton on to her economic crisis.” Bligh herself gives credence to the idea the crisis is “hers” when she claims in her poll announcement video she would protect Queensland from the GFC. John Quiggin says the government is going early because the people do not blame them for the crisis. He says the fact Bligh called the poll within a day or so of the credit rating downgrade was striking. Quiggin says the rating agencies are no longer trustworthy and the policies required to keep AAA “would have been economically disastrous”. This is a view shared by Nicholas Gruen and Joshua Gans. Gans, who writes at Core Economics, told Woolly Days that Queensland cutting infrastructure spending “would be disastrous for the economy”. I agree with Quiggin that as the party in power “[t]his election will be won, or lost, by Labor.”

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