As the results shake out, the biggest winner, of course is Anna Bligh and the ALP. In spite of the party ruling for 18 of the last 20 years, and the last eleven consecutively, the party has emerged relatively unscathed from what appeared to be a close campaign. The party’s campaign in the final days successfully discredited Lawrence Springborg as alternative Premier and scared people out of a large protest vote. The party remains twenty seats ahead of the opposition, and could end up only losing two seats, compared to Beattie’s last election in 2006.
The biggest winner on the opposition benches is the right wing of the (former) Liberal Party. The Liberal/National merger was spun by some as a takeover of the Liberal Party by the Nationals, and that isn’t wrong. But it has also been an opportunity for a shift in the balance of power within the LNP. The 2006 election saw the Nationals with 16 seats, double the Liberal contingent. A similar division existed between seats outside South-East Queensland and those in the metropolitan area. Yet former Liberals now hold 12 of the 30 seats won by the LNP, with 17 former Nationals and one seat impossible to classify as either. The merger, combined with this shift in the internal balance of power, opens up the prospect of a Liberal from the right-wing of the former party becoming Leader of the Opposition. Even if such a leader (like Tim Nicholls) is no more progressive than a traditional National Party leader, his urban roots and image could be enough to put the party over the line in 2012, and solidify the urban Liberals’ control of the conservative side of politics, just as they dominate in every other state and in the federal Parliament. The LNP, without Lawrence Springborg, could be the key to ending the paradox that has helped keep Labor in power for 20 years: the conservatives can’t win the seats they need to take power without shedding their country image in Brisbane.
Another winner, you’d have to say, is the people of Queensland. In the end, it’s a good thing to have heavily contested elections, and this was the first time in a long time that the ALP has had its supremacy challenged, which can only be a good thing, as well as the fact that a stronger opposition makes for a better political environment. The LNP also promised a gross feed-in tariff, which forced the ALP to agree to that, which will be a significant advance in encouraging private innovation to deal with climate change.
Lawrence Springborg – In spite of managing to unite the Liberals and Nationals as a single party, and put the ALP on the run, in the end Springborg proved too much for the Queensland public to digest. The ALP won the campaign in the last days by directly campaigning against Springborg, both by reminding the public that he would be the LNP’s Premier, and using the photo of Springborg scratching his head, which screamed “country bumpkin”. In the end the public wasn’t willing to accept Springborg as Premier, even once he’d successfully shifted the image of the LNP to be acceptable to the public.
The final loser of the election campaign was Ronan Lee and the Greens. The Greens only gained a swing of 0.2%, despite the election demonstrated great levels of apathy and disappointment amongst supporters of both the ALP and LNP. The result has been spoken of as a success, but these stories neglect the fact that the Greens have never before run in all 89 seats. In 2006 the party only ran in 75, and you would find, once more comprehensive analysis is done, that the Greens vote in the seats contested in both elections would likely have gone backwards. This can be seen in William Bowe’s post at Pineapple Party Time, which demonstrates that, in Brisbane and the Gold Coast, the Greens vote clearly went backwards. It’s natural for a party to look for a positive spin on a result after working hard, but if I were a Queensland Green I would be disappointed both with the campaign’s strategy and result.
When you consider that the Greens have managed major swings in recent elections in Western Australia and the ACT, the Mayo by-election and council elections in New South Wales and Victoria, you would have to question what went wrong with the Greens’ strategy.
The Greens focused most of their energy, and expectations, on the seat of Indooroopilly in the person of Ronan Lee. I’m not commenting on the wisdom of Lee’s defection for either Lee or the Queensland Greens, but you would have to say that, looking at the numbers in Indooroopilly, the decision to focus resources on Indooroopilly was a major strategic blunder.
Despite the benefits of incumbency and most of the party’s energy being focused on his seat, Lee managed a dismal 26%, while Larissa Waters managed almost 24% with much less profile and support in neighbouring Mount Coot-tha. You would have to think that the chances of winning Lee’s seat were always miniscule. All of the energy drawn into Indooroopilly to limit the swing against Lee to a large 14% has seen the party suffer swings against it in most seats in Brisbane.
The party isn’t a complete loser though. As far as I could see, the statewide campaign was the most professional run by the party in Queensland, and the party’s effort in running a candidate in every seat has to be commended. The party should be in a strong position in 2012 to challenge an even-more-tired Labor government in seats like Mount Coot-tha.