Queensland election 2009: In a Galaxy Poll far far away

State elections are not everyone’s cup of tea. Andrew Bartlett hates the “too many photo ops and soundbites masquerading as policies”. The Queensland election has these blights and is taking a dangerously presidential turn. The focus is on the leaders Bligh and Springborg rather than their policies. The attached photo, which appears in the Brisbane Times, makes the two party leaders look like pugilists about to go 15 rounds with each other.

But if state politicians are putting it on then so are the media. Channel Nine delights in presents an almost nightly litany of government blunders while Gary Sauer-Thompson notes News Ltd is infatuated by the “LNP is gaining on Bligh” meme. The Courier-Mail Galaxy poll published yesterday bought into the horserace analogies beloved of opinion poll analysis with its talk of “neck-and-neck” and “down to the wire”.

Yet despite Labor’s “10 point freefall”, they should still win the election thanks to its hold in the south-east. The size of the LNP’s task in Brisbane is graphically represented in this excellent map by Ben Raue at The Tally Room. There are 38 seats in the Brisbane metropolitan area and 36 are held by Labor. As Raue points out, with just 45 seats needed to form government, that already puts Labor “within spitting distance” of a majority.

It is many of these Brisbane seats will fall to the LNP. Assuming the Galaxy poll is a reasonable reflection of voters’ intentions and there is a 50:50 split in two party preferred, that would represent a 4.9 percent turnaround since 2006. There are 12 Labor seats that would fall in this uniform swing – but the stark reality of the numbers would still leave the government with a comfortable working majority.

Possum (Scott Steel) publishes the complete Galaxy poll data at Pineapple Party Time (the Crikey group blog devoted to the Queensland election). With a low sample size of 800 people, there is a significant 3.5 percent margin of error. However, apart from whimsically suggesting that the data marked “NFI” (No further information) actually stands for “No Fucking Idea”, Possum leaves the analysis of the poll to his stablemate William Bowe.

Bowe begins by turning to his home state of WA for comparison. He analyses a Galaxy poll prior to the WA election last year and points out similarities and differences between the two states. While the WA Coalition lead on health issues was replicated by the LNP, Labor polled better on water, education and law and order in Queensland. They also did well in roads and public transport, issues not in the WA survey, However Bowe cautions the Queensland survey didn’t appear to include an important question asked in the WA one: “Has the decision to call an early election made you more or less likely to vote for the Labor Party?” In WA over a quarter of the respondents said the early election decision made it less likely.

As I’ve written before, an early election is Labor’s biggest danger. Malcolm McKerras predicted earlier this year Anna Bligh would be re-elected Premier (despite a 50:50 two party preferred vote) but he also cautioned she would call an early election “at her peril.” Many would agree with the Queensland Greens who say Bligh’s decision to go early is bad for democracy. They want fixed four year terms to stop governments from rigging elections “by calling them at a time that takes advantage of wavering public opinion.”

This election is about how Labor could lose government, not how the LNP can win. As Brian Costar writes, Queensland is beset by serious infrastructure deficiencies in water, health and transport infrastructure. The advantages of incumbency have turned into the staleness of entrenched power. According to LNP supporter Russell Egan, Springborg has one huge advantage: “He hasn’t been in government for 11 years and doesn’t have to explain why not a single inch of new highway or rail has been laid for 11 years, why our hospitals are clogged with elective surgery waiting lists and schools are being outgrown by ballooning outer suburbia.” Three weeks tomorrow, the voters will get their chance to vent their anger. Bligh will be hoping she gets away with a bollocking, but not the sack.

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