The Queensland Labor government will be attempting to win a fifth term in office at the state election in 2009. The election must be held by September 2009, three years after the last election in 2006, but could be held at any time in 2009. In particular, the Bligh government may decide to avoid a nasty budget in May by calling an early election. In addition to attempting to win a fifth term in office, Anna Bligh is also aiming to be the first female Premier to win an election in her own right.
The current government was first elected at the 1998 election, led by Peter Beattie, before winning re-election in 2001, 2004 and 2006. With the exception of a shortly-lived National minority government in the mid-1990s, the ALP has held power for the last two decades. The September 2006 election saw a slightly-reduced ALP majority, with Beattie remaining dominant. Beattie resigned one year later in September 2007, succeeded by Anna Bligh.
The biggest political news of this year in Queensland was the merger of the two Queensland conservative parties into the Liberal National Party (the “LNP”), led by former National leader Lawrence Springborg. After years of intermittent coalition conflict, the two parties will be going to the 2009 election as a single unit.
The only regular opinion polls in Queensland state politics are performed by Newspoll, who bring out a poll every second month. Labor has remained dominant in the polls, with the Opposition’s performance peaking at 49% 2PP in the first post-merger poll. However, the recent December poll has pushed the ALP back to a 57-43 2PP lead over the LNP.
The 2006 election resulted in the ALP holding 59 seats to the LNP’s 25 seats, with 4 Independents and 1 remaining One Nation MP. A loss of 15 ALP seats would result in the government losing its majority, while the LNP would need to win 20 seats to form a majority. According to the pendulum, such a seat change would require a swing of between 7.2% and 8.3%.
Labor is facing many of the same issues as every long-term Labor government, although the Queensland government seems to be performing better compared to the similarly-aged Labor governments along the east coast. However, it remains clear that, with the exception of the Joh Bjelke-Peterson era, the ALP has dominated the last ninety years of Queensland politics.
Despite the merger, many of the central issues holding the coalition back from government remain in place. The Liberal Party consistently outpolled the Nationals in terms of primary votes, and most of the ALP marginal seats were contested by the Liberals. This resulted in the problematic position where the Nationals, as the senior coalition partner in Parliament, were in a position where they would fall into the position of junior coalition partner in any new coalition government. As long as the Nationals dominated the coalition, many natural Liberal voters refused to vote for a government that would be led by the Nationals. Despite the LNP attempting to claim the Liberal mantle, it doesn’t seem to be capable of overcoming the difficulty in a rural-dominated party trying to win government in suburban seats. The LNP was effectively a National takeover of the Liberal Party.
As the only state without any proportional representation, Queensland has always been difficult for the Greens. The Greens have never managed to win a single seat in Queensland, and the first Greens MP, Ronan Lee, defected from the ALP earlier in 2008. While his electorate of Indooroopilly is a strong Greens electorate, it will be extremely difficult for Lee or any other Greens candidate to win in the upcoming election. Lee holds a traditionally Labor Liberal electorate and would have found it difficult to be re-elected as a Labor candidate. In all likelihood the Greens will lose Indooroopilly and will again be reduced to no representation in the Queensland state parliament.