A long road to freedom: How the Freedom Ride for Aborigines changed Australia forever

safaAustralia was awakening from its long self-satisfied slumber in the 1960s. While Robert Menzies’ imperial views still reigned in Canberra, young educated Australians tapped into the zeitgeist of worldwide student protest. The imprisonment of Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King sparked civil rights demonstrations outside the US consulate in Sydney in 1964. Students made headlines and burned a Ku Klux Klan cross in clashes with police. But some asked the disturbing question: why weren’t they campaigning against racism in Australia?

Overseas newspapers pointed out the hypocrisy of student riots against US issues while their country held the White Australia Policy and denied Aboriginal rights. The Ceylon Observer noted “we coloured folk” could settle in the US but not in Australia. The Observer asked the students to probe their own lack of “coloured neighbours”.

Aboriginal groups also noted Australia’s failure to adhere to the UN Declaration of Human Rights. International censure was embarrassing to Canberra but immaterial to state governments who “managed” Aboriginal affairs. This disconnect led Aboriginal organisations to seek constitutional change.

Student interest was muted by the lack of Aboriginal people on campus. That changed when Charles Perkins and Gary Williams won scholarships to the University of Sydney in 1963. Williams was part Bundjalung, part Gumbaynggirr from northern NSW with a family history of activism while the Arrernte-Kalkadoon Perkins was an experienced public speaker as vice president of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines.

The freedom ride idea came out of a committee for action on Aboriginal rights at the university on National Aborigines Day, July 8, 1964. The meeting was advertised on a leaflet inscribed “Poor bloody Abos!” and it heard children were locked up in Walgett for trivial offences and a constitutional change campaign had started. There was a protest of 500 students outside parliament house the following day.

Perkins became committee leader and looked at options to maximise publicity, one being a freedom rider bus through country towns. Perkins knew it would be good for television with short grabs and dramatic visuals. Freedom rides began in Jamaica in 1957 to protest a cycling tax but were better known from the southern US rides in 1961. The arrest of 300 American freedom riders trying to desegregate buses made news across the world including Australia.

Perkins wanted to bring non-violent direct action home to shine a light on discrimination in NSW. The ride took six months to organise and on February 12, 1965 a white touring bus arrived at the university. Twenty-nine students boarded with a banner of Student Action for Aborigines giving it the name “SAFA bus tour”.

Perkins was aboard and Williams joined later. There was one other Aboriginal man, lay preacher Gerry Mason. Also there was student Darce Cassidy who recorded for the ABC while on holidays until ordered to disembark at Moree when his leave expired.

The students conducted a “social survey” of Indigenous people along the way. The questionnaire asked about attitudes, housing conditions, water, sewerage and electricity. It helped SAFA win permission from the NSW Aborigines Welfare Board to enter their stations and reserves. These boards were tasked with Aboriginal assimilation into the wider community, though white townsfolk wanted to keep Aborigines out and public utilities like schools, cinemas and pools segregated.

Ann Curthoys’ memoir “Freedom Ride: A Freedom Rider remembers” is a first hand account of the journey. Curthoys was a young left-wing student, influenced by her mother’s student activism, and had already written on Indigenous issues. She boarded the bus bound for ten NSW towns: Wellington, Gulargambone, Walgett, Moree, Boggabilla, Tabulam, Lismore, Bowraville, Kempsey and Taree, a 2300km trip.

The students did their first survey in the shantytown at Wellington. The dusty shacks were a shock for middle-class students. Employment was scarce and social services non-existent. Perkins went into a pub that discriminated against Aborigines. Bar staff reluctantly served him after consulting the manager. The bus left for Dubbo that evening with no consensus for further action in Wellington.

The first stop the morning after was Gulargambone where white and Aboriginal homes were separated by the Castlereagh River. Curthoys said the Gulargambone reserve was a “sobering experience” with poor housing too close to sewerage outlets and the rubbish dump. Diarrhoea, eye sores and skin sores were common. Aboriginal people said police ran the reserve and whenever there was trouble they would arrest the usual suspects before beating them up at the station. Yet the students felt Gulargambone was not the place to demonstrate. They moved north to Walgett in Gamilaraay/Yuwaaliyaay country. Cheap Indigenous labour kept Walgett profitable but whites were alarmed at the black population moving into town, and segregation was rigorous.

Dimly aware of the town’s history, the students settled in at the Anglican hall. They decided to target the RSL club, which refused to admit Indigenous people, including ex-servicemen. The following morning radio reported the planned RSL picket. The Anglican Minister was unhappy and reluctantly agreed to let them stay another night.

The students held a banner at the club saying “Good Enough for Tobruk. Why not Walgett?” One bystander cried out “Who the hell do you think you are?” while others jeered. Perkins spoke and a public debate began. The picket lasted seven hours in front of 350 people. The locals were angry at long-haired city boys and short-skirted girls telling them how to run their town. But it ended peacefully and the group returned to the hall around 9pm.

The church minister expelled them, claiming to be shocked they were a mixed sex group with alcohol. He revealed his real reason in a later letter: “our dark friends are just not like Europeans,” he wrote. At 10pm the students reluctantly boarded the bus followed by 200 locals. About 10km out of town a grazier’s son named Joey Marshall tried to run the bus off the road.

They went back to Walgett to report the incident and confronted a drunken mob at midnight outside the police station. With the situation turning ugly, a remarkable black woman Pat Walford harangued the white men. “There’s a lot of white fellas that go looking for gins here at night,” she said. “It hurts you white people in Walgett to see the whites from Sydney up here and do that to you, doesn’t it?” Walford’s threat to name the “gin jockeys” worked. The white women turned on their men and the crowd disappeared.

Shaken and excited, the students went to Moree, the most well-remembered leg of the journey. Moree was in Gamilaraay country with rich soil making it prosperous for sheep, cattle and wheat. Tourism was important too and a council decree made the artesian thermal baths, swimming pool, and memorial hall off-limits to “full blooded or half-caste aboriginal natives”, a decision council defended as “vital to the town’s prosperity”. The segregation spread to cafes, cinema, hotels and the hospital, and the town was known as Australia’s Little Rock.

The students met Moree businessman and ex-councillor Bob Brown, who lost office when he opposed segregation but other locals were reluctant to talk. The Sydney media arrived to cover the confrontation when the students picketed the pool. The students were not allowed to take Aboriginal kids inside. After a crowd gathered, the mayor and police agreed to let them in. There was 300 people at the public meeting that followed. The atmosphere was hostile with some shouting Aborigines were “dirty and lazy people”. The students called locals ignorant and prejudiced.

The meeting surprisingly voted to desegregate the pool though most abstained. The happy students left Moree but promised to return if there was trouble. The Sydney papers reported the students had cracked the colour bar in Moree but the local press said racial discrimination was exaggerated. The students conducted a survey in Boggabilla where they found police harassment and the need for better housing and sanitation.

They went on to Warwick, Queensland to avoid a bureaucratic £250 road tax for an intra-state journey. They were heading back to Tabulam near Lismore when they heard news from Moree. The pool manager had decided Aboriginal people would not be admitted for hygiene reasons. The students returned to Moree despite the Mayor warning they would cause harm. They gathered kids from the mission and went to the pool. Perkins sought tickets but was refused. The Mayor arrived as a hostile crowd gathered. Under orders from the Labor state government, police refused to remove the students. The abuse turned physical with whites throwing rotten eggs and tomatoes. Police asked for the pool to close before the Mayor finally offered to rescind the colour bar. The delighted students agreed to leave but needed a police escort to the bus.

They escaped to Inverell. The media response was huge. Moree’s North West Champion called the students “misguided juveniles” and “troublemakers” but the Sydney press hailed Perkins as the articulate leader of the Freedom Riders. The Canberra Times said the students had made everyone think and talk about the “way we treat our Aborigines and half-castes”.

The Ride still had one week to go. They stirred more hornets’ nests in Lismore, Bowraville, Kempsey and Taree but the students were becoming weary. They did surveys, there were pickets at segregated venues, there was rural hostility, there was urban interest in the media but nothing matched Moree. Lismore was surprisingly positive. Perkins became a celebrity and the Riders a media event. Locals were at pains to show Lismore was not racist.

Bowraville, however, was riddled with sullen discrimination and they found it a “nasty, brutal place”. The survey results were shocking and the students challenged segregation at the cinema. When the bus arrived, the cinema owner hastily put up a sign saying “No Pictures Tonight”. Media was again mixed, with praise in Sydney and local hostility. The students felt they had failed as the segregation continued.

It was the same in Kempsey where they were not welcome. The Macleay Argus called them “a busload of half-baked young men and women, probably unparalleled in their own conceit and impudence”. No Aboriginal leader would meet them and the students did their surveys in the rain. The Kempsey pool also practised discrimination but when the students repeated their Moree tactic they failed and left town. The Freedom Ride was ending in disappointment. The last day of the Ride took them to the Aboriginal settlement at Purfleet near Taree. They spoke with people at the reserve and pushed on to Sydney.

They expected a big media reception on their return but there was nothing. However Perkins made the Herald front page the following day. “This small group of students has created a new dawn of hope for my people,” he said. The reverberations carried on through the years. Relatives and survivors followed in their footsteps on the 50th anniversary of the Ride. Charles’s daughter Rachel Perkins was part of this year’s tour.

Unlike in 1965, the Mayor of Moree welcomed the new visit. The original Riders tapped into deep and unspoken racism affecting not just small towns but all of Australia. It paved the way for the referendum two years later that allowed the Commonwealth to override the states. Moree and Walgett didn’t change overnight but they no longer openly flaunted racist attitudes. The Freedom Ride was a stinging challenge to Australia and bigger than its participants. As Curthoys said, it stimulated a new kind of Aboriginal politics with far-reaching consequences. The Freedom Ride held out the promise nothing could be quite the same again.

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Plenty of blame to go around with Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan

I’m sorry for the families of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan as they deal with the protracted agony of the judicial killing of their sons in Indonesia. It must be bitter to them to see their sons hang for heroin while jurisdictions across the world loosen laws on marijuana.

But that is the law of Indonesia and has not changed in recent times. It was something Sukumaran and Chan knew when they committed the crime. The other seven in the Bali Nine identified themselves as mules and Sukumaran and Chan as the ringleaders. As ringleaders they knew would likely lose their lives if they were caught. Despite the tragedy of their reform, the position they now find themselves is almost entirely their own fault.

Neither Australia nor Indonesia are coming out of their likely deaths with any degree of glory. Lee Rush, the father of one of the mules, knew the consequences of what his son Scott was about to do and warned the Australian Federal Police 10 weeks before the Nine left the country. The Bali Nine drugs were for the Australian market, so the men had no contraband on them as they left the country. An AFP suit told the media Indonesia’s death sentence was not a consideration.”You’ve got to realise this is what the AFP does,” the suit said. I wonder what Lee Rush thinks about AFP’s processes.

If this is what the AFP does, why hasn’t the Australian Government offered to change it as a way of dealing with a justice system it does not like? The lack of action undermines Julie Bishop’s call for people to boycott Indonesia (not Bali – that was the media’s addition). Indonesia is well aware of Australia’s double standards and is right to ignore it in its calculations.

But Indonesia is not spotless either. The law has been in place for decades but the execution chambers were empty for six years before new President Jokowi decided being strong on the death penalty would be popular electorally. He did not have the gravitas of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to intervene and grant clemency in the absence of sound law.

There is a political problem for Jokowi, however. The same electorate that wants the foreigners hanged, wants its own people repatriated from death sentences on foreign shores. Last week the Jakarta Post said Indonesia vowed to secure the release of 229 Indonesian on death row across the world. This, only a few weeks after Indonesia hanged a Brazilian, a Malawian, a Vietnamese and a Dutch citizen as well as some of their own.

Australian communications minister Malcolm Turnbull called on Jokowi last night to show “strength” by not killing the Australians. But if he really wants to communicate he needs to acknowledge his government’s culpability before pointing out the hypocrisy of others.

Closing the gap to 2030

Closing_the_Gap_2015_coverIt was the anthropologist Bill Stanner who described Australia’s attitude to its Indigenous people as a “great history of indifference”. Stanner was speaking in 1963, just after Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders (hereafter ATSI) got the vote.

That brought Indigenous people into the Australian story, a process accelerated by the 1967 referendum that ensured “Aboriginal” people (ATSI people) were counted in the census and the Commonwealth had a role to play. One of the referendum’s instigators, Faith Bandler who died yesterday aged 96, wasn’t Indigenous but her polyglot Melanesian-Scottish-Indian background was emblematic of a new Australia gradually looking beyond the coattails of empire for inspiration, and prepared to dig deep for the descendants of its original inhabitants.

Australia’s story over the last 50 years has been one of an attractive, open, vast and vibrant country with great wealth and freedom, attracting people from around the world. The conditions of ATSI people has greatly improved in that time but because they started from a low ebb, they remain adrift of the general population in most statistical markers. Their place on the census allowed economists to easily measure the state of the gap while Commonwealth involvement gave the problem a much needed national focus.

In March 2008, Kevin Rudd used his popularity as prime minister to coax the new Australian Government and Opposition to sign the Close the Gap Statement of Intent. Rudd hosted the Indigenous Health Equality Summit which committed to closing the health equality gap between ATSI and non-Indigenous Australians by 2030.

The rationale was a dichotomy revealed by the UN Human Development Index which ranked Australia third in the world off the back of its mining boom. The score ranked Australia highly on such matters as life expectancy, employment, health and other indicators. Yet the life expectancy of an ATSI person was 17 years less than the Australian average.

The gap was a stark reminder of a great divide in Australia across education, incoming, housing, mental health, chronic disease, child and maternal health, and access to health services. The gap led to an immense burden of suffering and grief for ATSI people which was a “scar on an unhealed past” and a “stain on the reputation of the nation”.

The impact is felt by the states as well. Victoria and Queensland got on board the Statement of Intent in 2008, WA in 2009, the ACT, NSW and SA in 2010. WA and NT have not yet signed up but the committee recognises states have as big a role to play as Canberra. They spend the Commonwealth tax dollar on health and education.

But the Commonwealth takes the lead, producing the Closing the Gap report since 2008. In this issue as in many others Rudd overpromised and underdelivered yet there has been much progress in seven years. The improvement is hard to see because while Aboriginal health has improved, the health of the general community is also improving. We are failing to “close the gap” fast enough.

Women are bearing the brunt of the problem. In the last five years, Indigenous life expectancy has gone up by 1.6 years for men but just 0.6 for women. Both sexes still die 10 years earlier than non-Indigenous people, so the good thing is the gap has narrowed by seven years since 2008 and is a reminder that closing the gap takes a lot of continuous effort and time. In New Zealand it took 20 years to improve Maori life expectancy by four years.

Prime Minister Gillard never had the same focus as Rudd on Indigenous affairs. She guided a minority government through many controversial issues but ATSI legislation never floated to the top. In her final closing the gap report in 2013 she claimed victory on access to remote pre-schools but admitted there was still a “massive and unacceptable” standard of living gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Last year was the first Closing the Gap report of the post-Labor era. Like John Howard, Tony Abbott put great store in what he called “practical reconciliation” (ruling self-determination off the table.) Like in the Labor years, the report spoke of the “stark reality of health inequality” and called for measures to reduce smoking rates, improve maternal and children’s health and to make inroads into chronic disease.

This year is much the same. The committee wants greater focus on access to primary health care services to detect, treat and manage Indigenous health conditions. They have evidence to suggest Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services gives the best bang for contested government dollars, providing wide-scale, quality access to health services.

The committee supports the government’s priorities of education, employment and community safety. But they want the Closing the Gap strategy to have a “clearer connection” with the Indigenous Advancement Strategy. Education, employment and community safety lead to good health but good health is also important to driving education, employment and community safety. Health services is the bigger employer of Indigenous people so increased investment will lead to increased employment.

The year 2030 remains the target and by then we should see a further shrinking of difference. But “the gap” must remain a priority well beyond then. Indigenous injustices, shielded by settler indifference for 180 years, cannot be wiped away in the health service schemes of a single generation. There must be continued commitment to the removal of the gap for ATSI people as populations. But integration or assimilation is not the complete answer. There must also be a commitment to support ATSI people as distinct peoples with their own culture and languages, regardless of health and employment outcomes.

Scott Buchholz and Pauline Hanson: why Queensland politics matters to Canberra

Pauline Hanson chats with a voter in Gatton (photo by Amy Lyne).
Pauline Hanson chats with a voter in Gatton (photo by Amy Lyne).

TWO closely related events took place in the last two days, one in Australian federal politics and one in Queensland.

In federal politics the shenanigans (a lovely word meaning mischief that sounds as if it should be Irish and probably is via Tammany Hall) of #libspill week, ended with its first victim: chief whip Philip Ruddock. Canberra’s press gallery believes the father of the house was sacked because he miscalculated the size of the backbench rebellion in the party room.

The spill did not reveal who was ready to step into Tony Abbott’s shoes. The likeliest contenders Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop kept their powder dry, but the 39 MPs voting for a spill of the leadership positions revealed a deeply wounded leader.

Abbott is a fighter and like the Black Knight will claim his troubles are just a flesh-wound and he has the wherewithal to continue to provide “adult government”. Ruddock was the most senior adult in that government, a moderate who successfully implemented John Howard’s hardline anti-immigration policies to electoral success.

He was never close to Abbott and he was made a scapegoat yesterday losing his position to his deputy Scott Buchholz. Very few people outside of Canberra and a small part of south-east Queensland have heard of Buchholz, an amiable man, though not a deep political thinker.

I met him first at Roma races and liked his bonhomie and charm. He is well connected as Barnaby Joyce’s former chief of staff and a businessman who ran a transport company out of Toowoomba for 18 years.

He is also the federal member for Wright, a seat with a ridiculous shape (looking a bit like Iceland) that bolts together Beaudesert and the Gold Coast hinterland with the Lockyer Valley, with mountains dividing these dissimilar communities and no direct roads between them.

Its shape and scope is similar to the equally absurd Queensland seat of Lockyer, which almost played a big part in deciding the fate of the Queensland Government.

It took 13 days for Palaszczuk to form government and it took 12 days for Lockyer to be declared. Labor won the election and the LNP won Lockyer but if Pauline Hanson had got in, she would have been a thorn in both their sides. Labor would be delighted low profile incumbent LNP party outsider Ian Rickuss (who had a hate-hate relationship with Premier Campbell Newman, but will be more in with Springborg) held on, defeating Hanson by 114 votes on two-party preferences.

Hanson was just 59 votes away from getting a shot at the balance of power with independent Tony Wellington. I wanted Hanson to get in, if only to liven things up, but I would have been nervous to give her such a shot at power.

While the election was in play, the left-wing Hanson haters got their knickers in a twist in moral panic and castigated Lockyer voters for their “stupidity”. It was hypocrisy on a grand scale from people who believe Abbott supporters are always blaming the voters for bad polls. In Lockyer it was easy to see her appeal, and she grabbed votes from the left, the centre, and the right.

Hanson is a serial candidate and her near success in Lockyer, and wide approval, will encourage her to have another go. She told me she has signed up as a volunteer with a crisis care centre in Laidley. Her first shot at another campaign would have been the council elections of 2016 and a run at Lockyer Valley mayor.

There are three reasons why that won’t happen. Firstly, she said herself, she won’t run. Secondly, she is ineligible, living across the border in Scenic Rim council area. It didn’t matter in the state election, “where she put her head down of a night” as she put it (though it meant she couldn’t be one of the 59 votes needed to turn the election around) but she must live in the seat to run in the council election. Thirdly she ran with the blessing of Lockyer Valley mayor Steve Jones, a feisty old-style conservative linked to his cousin Alan Jones. Steve Jones hates the LNP and particularly detests Ian Rickuss. I’ve had my ups and downs with Steve Jones, but Hanson is unlikely to want to cross him if she can help it.

A more likely strategy is for Hanson to run for Wright in the next federal election in September 2016. She lives in Wright and can count on a good vote from the Lockyer Valley. Beaudesert and the coastal fringe will be a challenge but her rock star appeal in the electorate may get her over the line.

Labor preferenced her last in Lockyer and are likely to do so again in Wright. But 60% of Labor voters ignored the how to vote card and put Hanson ahead of Rickuss. Federal elections are not optional preferential like Queensland so voters have to vote all the way down the line.

Wright is held by Buchholz, a fierce supporter of Tony Abbott. Abbott was Howard’s point man who ensured Pauline Hanson’s arrest and imprisonment for electoral fraud, a case overturned in the Court of Appeal after Hanson served three months in prison.

Hanson hates Labor, but has good motivation to hate Tony Abbott more. This is why Abbott has shored up Buchholz’s position with a promotion. A minority government in the 2016 election with Hanson in Canberra would be as disastrous for Abbott (assuming he is still Prime Minister and not just a dead man governing) as it would be for Labor.

Election drags on in Lockyer and Queensland

On the night of the Queensland election, I ran a live blog at the Gatton Star website. In an evening of swings, movements and fast-moving drama, I eventually called it as a win for Ian Rickuss in Lockyer and a defeat for the LNP in Queensland. I got some matters wrong in the short term, including the outcome of Lockyer, though it looks as if I will be ultimately proved correct in the coming week.

The seat of Lockyer contains the town of Gatton and the Lockyer Valley council area as well as an odd panhandle that extends across south of Ipswich and north of Jimboomba. The constituencies of the two parts of the electorate don’t have much in common and there are no direct roads linking the two.

In the 1980s this was a safe Nationals seat under Tony Fitzgerald (not THAT Tony Fitzgerald). Ian Rickuss, now 60, has held it for the LNP since 2004. In between, One Nation won the seat twice, in 1998 and 2001 under different candidates, both who left the party while in office. Rickuss has made the seat his own (apart from 2006 when he just edged out Labor’s John Kelly), winning the seat comfortably in three other elections.

This time round he was challenged by another 60-year-old. Pauline Hanson is two months older than Rickuss but looks a lot younger. Yet she has been around longer than Rickuss and is far more in the public eye. Hanson has been one of the most well known figures in Australian politics for almost 20 years.

Ipswich Labor councillor Paul Tully (who sidelines as an impressive election analyst) remembers Hanson from her short days as an Ipswich councillor in 1994. Hanson was hard-working and concentrated on local issues not federal ones, recalls Tully, but she lost office in a snap 1995 local election when the borders of Ipswich changed. She rocketed into wider public conscience in 1996 when she won the safe Labor federal seat of Oxley.

Hanson ran as a Liberal who was not expected to win. She was disendorsed for comments she made arguing against special assistance for Indigenous people. She won the seat in a huge swing and expanded on her beliefs in a notorious maiden speech. Hanson entered parliament as an independent but her folksy populism and demonisation of minorities struck a chord with voters who felt abandoned by the political classes.

Hanson lashed out at Asians and Aboriginals and multiculturalism and the big end of town and there were many who believed she was “just saying what others thought”. The big parties and their followers in the media called her views reprehensible but their attacks just brought more supporters into her tent.

Her controversial statements, and her instantly recognisable redhead look, brought intense media scrutiny, examined in Margo Kingston’s Off the Rails. That book was set in the chaotic 1998 election where Hanson, now a party leader of One Nation, abandoned Oxley and ran for the rural seat of Blair. That election followed the Queensland election where One Nation took 20% of the vote so Hanson was riding a wave.

Hanson won the popular vote in Blair with seven thousand votes more than the Liberal’s Cameron Thompson, however Thompson won on Labor preferences. A similar result ensued when Hanson ran as a senator for Queensland in 2004 where a Liberal, Russell Trood pipped her for the final seat, again on Labor preferences.

Fast forward 11 years and history is playing itself out the same way a third time. Her announcement in December in a farmer’s field at Crowley Vale she was standing for the seat of Lockyer attracted the most media I’ve seen at an event in the Lockyer Valley and the only time I’ve seen Sky News here.

She was happy to play on her celebrity status and immediately garnered warm praise from people across the electorate who saw her as the perfect anti-politician. Hanson painted herself as the farmer’s friend who would fight for ordinary people. Any time I wrote a story about her, the feedback was electric, intense – and mostly favourable.

When I put out an opinion poll of the candidates, she took 41% of the 2000 people that voted. My poll was unscientific and I didn’t think it amounted to a winning lead (for starters, I had no idea whether poll voters were in Lockyer) but it was clear she would do well in the election. The ECQ failed to pick this up, and in their calculations they thought it would be a race between Rickuss and the Katter Party’s Dave Neuendorf, who was runner-up in 2012.

Hanson did a preference deal with Neuendorf, who is also on KAP’s state executive. She picked up the majority of Neuendorf’s 2000 votes and also did well out of the Greens and PUP’s 1000 votes.

But she wasn’t expected to pick up Labor preferences and that’s why on election night I called it for Rickuss. Labor put One Nation last in whatever seat they ran candidates in. Labor’s candidate in Lockyer Steve Leese did well in the election, polling 7500 votes finishing third only 500 votes behind Hanson, who was 2000 behind Rickuss.

Over the following couple of days, it was clear Labor voters weren’t following the script and almost 70% preferenced Hanson ahead of Rickuss. It looks as if that figure will see her fall just short again. As of close of counting on Friday, Rickuss leads by 183 votes with 91% counted and his lead has steadied around the 200 mark for several days. Labor say they placed One Nation last because of its racist views but that is nonsense. Race was not an issue in the election and One Nation’s policies were indistinguishable to the Katter Party which Labor preferenced ahead of the LNP.

What Labor’s how to vote card showed was they feared Hanson more than an LNP plodder and didn’t want her involved in any negotiations to form government. New LNP leader Lawrence Springborg (a likelihood I correctly predicted before the election, if not the result itself) muddied those negotiations by suggesting the LNP government remain in caretaker mode until a possible by-election in Ferny Grove is decided.

Labor have taken that seat and are on track to get 44 seats. With Nicklin independent Peter Wellington they will have 45 seats and a majority in the 89-seat parliament. They may offer Wellington the speaker role trusting he would do the right thing with a casting vote in any 44-44 event.

The two Katter Party MPs Shane Knuth and Robbie Katter have not shown their hand yet. Bob Katter is instinctively conservative and couldn’t bring himself to support Gillard’s minority government so the likelihood is they will lean to the LNP. Neuendorf and his fellow executive may take a different view.

Springborg is on the same page as Katter ruling out asset sales and may also support the KAP’s policy of an inland highway and railway line through the Galilee Basin while scrapping Brisbane’s BAT (bus and train) tunnel which Katter contemptuously describes as existing only to get punters home to their televisions ten minutes earlier.

Springborg is also talking up the benefits of incumbency and the “caretaker government” (though it is defeated Campbell Newman who, scarily, is still the caretaker). Springborg is betting on the Ferny Grove by-election in Ferny Grove where PUP candidate Mark Taverner was an undischarged bankrupt. Taverner took 3% of the vote but it is not clear whether his preferences went to Labor or the LNP. Labor won by about 400 votes, a margin that may convince the ECQ to call another election or the LNP to take it to the court of disputed returns.

Antony Green argues Labor’s Mark Furner deserves his place in parliament, until such a case would be heard. This would give Labor the numbers to form government.

Springborg will turn Ferny Grove into a referendum on his leadership, if it happens, and he has the backing of the Courier-Mail but crucially he would be doing it as an opposition leader not as an incumbent.

Annastacia Palaszczuk argues Springborg does not have a mandate as Premier and she is right. But she must make her move to claim power this week, once the results are declared.

Annastacia Palaszczuk has shock Queensland election win

apCampbell Newman was right after all, the LNP couldn’t win without Ashgrove. He’s gone and so is his government. I was wrong and Lawrence Springborg will not be premier of Queensland in the morning, though he may be leader of the opposition.

Labor have reversed the landslide of 2012 in three years, something most people expected would take nine or 12 years. Annastacia Paluszczuk has surprised with the strength of her performance and Labor looks like taking 45 or 46 seats – enough for government. In her speech Paluszczuk said the election was too close to call but she clearly hoped to form government. She may wish to bring the Katter Party MPs Robbie Katter and Shane Knuth as well as independent Peter Wellington inside the tent, an experience Wellington has from his days dealing with a Labor minority government in 1998.

Paluszczuk said she had a mandate not to proceed with asset sales and she is right – the issue was toxic for the second election in a row and this time cost the LNP. The KAP is also against asset sales so maybe the new government has the opportunity to be more pro-active with assets like Energex. Labor will have to be frugal but won’t want to be an austerity government so new ways of doing things could be attractive. Campbell Newman seemed new three years ago but proved an arrogant throw back to the Bjelke-Petersen era.

Newman won government from outside parliament in 2012 and lost it and his seat in 2015. His trickery calling a January election failed badly with the electorate who had enough of him and the party he led. His opponent Kate Jones said trust had to earned not bought.

Even former Nationals premier Rob Borbidge on Channel 7 had to overcome revulsion to admit Kate Jones had done well but that Annastacia Palaszczuk had done even better and is more likely to be the next Premier ahead of Newman or any of Newman’s successors.

The LNP did the “hard yards” in government as one of many likely defeated ministers David Crisafulli said tonight. But the electorate has not thanked them for it. Instead it has taken power away from them just as ruthlessly as it stripped Labor in 2012.

This was a great cry of Good-bye Campbell.

Palaszczuk will have a short honeymoon to keep up with the Joneses but let’s give her time to prove herself. The media needs a self-imposed moratorium on ruling in/ruling out questions to contenders like Cameron Dick or Dick needs a way of shutting them up. For now he must support Annastacia Palaszczuk for her shock election win.

Sometimes unconvincing in the campaign, she did well in the debates and stayed on message. She deserves the fruits of unexpected triumph.