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The Queensland State Election will go down to the wire, with our sources on the ground suggesting there will be a swing away from the sitting Labor Government in the regions in Australia’s first post-COVID election. However, this is being countered by a potential swing to the ALP in south-east Queensland (and the Greens in some inner-city Brisbane seats) making this election tricky to call.
There is a real possibility that Annastacia Palaszczuk, who is seeking to make history as the first female party leader to win three elections, could need minor party support to govern. It also remains possible the LNP could ride an apparent collapse in One Nation support to snatch government, most likely in minority.
Polls prior to the coronavirus outbreak had the LNP ahead, however, the Premier’s personal popularity has since increased largely because of her exceptional handling of the pandemic. Now things appear to be tightening again as voters look beyond the pandemic, particularly in regional Queensland.
If LNP leader Deb Frecklington, a lawyer and farmer, can lead the LNP out of the wilderness it was cast into when the Newman Government imploded, she will become the first female Coalition leader to become Premier by winning an election and a party folk hero.
Whoever wins has the confronting task of rebuilding a shaky economy in the Sunshine State, where some 138,000 Queenslanders have lost their jobs since COVID-19 struck.
Labor has a slender two-seat majority with 48 of 93 parliamentary seats and would lose majority government with a swing of just 0.7%. The LNP holds 38 seats and needs to win nine seats for majority government, a swing of approximately 3.4%. Anything within that percentage margin will result in minority Government.
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Last month, the Queensland Treasury’s COVID-19 Fiscal and Economic Review painted a daunting picture of what the election winner will be facing: economic growth during two fiscal years to June 2021 has slumped from a pre-COVID estimate of 5% to zero. Projections indicate revenue falling by $6.7 billion and total debt growing to more than $101 billion. The July unemployment rate of 8.8% is expected to peak at 9% in the December quarter.
The campaign has focused on the economic impact of the ongoing border closure, supporting the regions especially those dependent on tourism and retail sectors and mining jobs versus green jobs.
Labor has taken a bread and butter approach, focusing on money for regional hospitals, enhancing TAFE training and skills and rail manufacturing in Maryborough. It has also promised thousands more jobs on the burgeoning public sector payroll particularly in health care and policing.
The LNP has promised to upgrade the Bruce Highway, back the Bradfield irrigation scheme to harness tropical storm water in North Queensland, cut electricity bills and car rego, and develop a defence technology precinct in outer Brisbane.
As in all campaigns, momentum in critical. Concern about the economy appears to be peaking as the parties face the last few days of campaigning. While SEC Newgate Research’s coronavirus weekly tracker indicates concern about the coronavirus has declined from a peak of 95% in March to 65% now, some 81% are extremely or very concerned about the economy.
As we saw at the last Federal Election, there is the stark difference between voters in south-east Queensland and those in the regions, which makes political marketing highly complex. The Greens appear to have continued to grow their support base in the capital’s inner-city suburbs with former ALP Deputy Premier Jackie Trad tipped to lose her seat of South Brisbane according to Newspoll this week.
For an ALP majority, Labor has to maintain its iron grip on Brisbane and potentially pick up a couple of marginal seats in Brisbane or the Gold Coast, offsetting regional losses. For an LNP majority, they need to pick up multiple seats in Townsville and Cairns, win Whitsunday back and then get strong preference flows in Brisbane-based seats.
If neither of the above happens, the Katter party could end up with three seats, the Greens with potentially two seats, and one or two independents will become the kingmakers.
Labor has the more recent track record of being able to reach agreement to form a minority government and unless there is a significant swing it would be easier for Premier Palaszczuk to put together a governing coalition with the Greens or independents. The LNP would need to win five or six seats or convince a larger, rainbow coalition with all of the Katter MPs, One Nation and independents to govern.
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Labor is still favoured to win the election, albeit in minority with support from the Greens or the Katter party. However, it will likely need to hold some marginal seats in notoriously tough areas like Townsville and Cairns.
Regardless, whoever forms government faces a challenging four years when the full economic impacts of COVID-19 hit.
This note has been compiled by SEC Newgate’s public affairs team in Brisbane. Should you wish to discuss anything in this note in more detail, please contact Jamin Smith on 0451 755 355.