Podcast #114: Queensland council elections preview


Ben is joined by Alexis Pink from community radio station 4ZZZ and Andrew Messenger from the Guardian Australia to discuss the upcoming council elections across Queensland and the two state by-elections to be held on the same day.

We discuss the Brisbane City Council campaign and then touch on a number of other interesting council races and the by-elections.

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  1. Interesting discussion and it raised a few points that I hadn’t considered about possible permutations.

    My take away from this was the difference in strategy and how that will play out. Firstly the influence of strategy in getting Jonathan Sriranganathan elected in the first place (i.e. the move away from environmental to social issues) and now the clear point of difference that the Greens have taken to this election (change) V the LNP / Labor approach of more of the same. Strategy is mostly about trying to second guess how the external environment (i.e. voters) is going to move and how best to manage / capitalise on that change. We will see how that plays out, but my gut feeling this is a case of incremental change, rather than a case of pitch forks. So I still expect Schrinner to win the LM, but I was surprised to hear your experts talk about a possible Labor / Greens majority in the Wards – that would IMHO be a big turn around.

    I first moved to Brisbane in 91 and it was then very much a Labor town and listening to this podcast it struck me how much this has turned around since then, where to me Labor are almost invisible now at a BCC level. I actually like Schrinner as he represented a more moderate Liberal that I could support, even though I lean left. Before him Quirk was to me a safe pair of hands, but Newman was the outlier at LNP Council level and I think they have learnt a lesson here in picking moderates, rather than radicals, which has snuffed out Labor’s opportunity to paint a real or perceived point of difference between the two parties.

    The other point I would make in response to the comment about the lack of a community of interest in the Sunshine Coast. I was working in Logan CC at the time of the LG amalgamations and it was fairly clear to me that while amalgamation were dress up as efficiency – there was a bigger game at play here – property development and privatisation of the water and sewerage arms of Councils. So “communities of interests” were not really a top tier consideration. It was mostly about getting economics of scale to enable large greenfield developments that required large infrastructure investments (water and sewerage being two) going. That was certainty the case with us. Beaudesert SC had the greenfield sites but being a peri urban council it did not have the financial capacity to fund this development so it was subsumed into Logan who had the capacity and financial resources to take it on. But as far as communities of interest goes there is no similarity between Woodbridge and Yarrabilba.

  2. What struck me watching the Mayoral debate Yesterday is that even Labor seem to believe that it’s going to be a Schrinner vs Sriranganathan. Even if the votes don’t end up falling that way, that’s pretty unprecedented at this level of significane. Feels like a bit of a watershed moment, though I’m also steeling myself for another hardly-anything-changes 2020 result.

    If the Greens do outpoll Labor, or come close to it, that is going to have huge ramifications for the state election I reckon.

  3. I didn’t watch the debate but I did get the sense from the recent abc article, not to mention Labor’s ubiquitous social media ads that they do think Tracey Price has a reasonable chance of winning. And I do wonder how antagonistic Labor will be and to whom depending on the outcome. Both Price and Sriranganathan are both going to have to find votes outside their party if they want to get anything done. Jono is a radical but he’s actually far more amenable to bi-partisanship than many other Greens politicians. He’ll work with Labor councillors if they genuinely want to. Labor are harder to predict. There’s a good deal of incentive for them to not work with the Greens, as Ben said, and that’s definitely their first instinct. I don’t know anything about Tracey Price – no one really does – so whether she would at least try to find common ground with the Greens, work with the LNP and shut the Greens out, or just run the current Labor playbook where they announce their own policies and blame both Greens and Liberals for not agreeing with whatever they unilaterally came up with, I really don’t know. If Schrinner is returned without his LNP majority then he’ll probably do exactly what he said he would, which is charge ahead with his own agenda regardless. Would Labor councillors give him the votes he wants in that case? Probably.

  4. I always had the sense the Labor councillors were on pretty good terms with the Greens or at least with JS. Price also seems like a bit of an outsider, so my instinct is she wouldn’t be as antagonistic to The Greens as say the average Labor supporter on twitter.

    As they say in the podcast, there’s potential for a pretty successful partnership, but also a depressingly chaotic one.

    If Price does win, I think it would be down to ‘it’s time’ sentiment and not to anything Price herself has done. She’s been underwhelming from day dot in my opinion. Though all the best to her she seems like a good person with decent ideas, just not a great campaigner and perhaps without the support from her party that she needs.

  5. They don’t personally hate Sriranganathan like they hate MCM, but I’d generally expect a new Labor politician to take their cues from party HQ rather than anything else, especially one who, as you said, has little personal identity outside being the Labor candidate for x election. The state government seems very hostile to the possibility of a Greens-led council, given the way Grace Grace stood up in parliament to denounce their eagle farm plan. Definitely don’t see that happening at least under a Tracey Price administration. The ALP city councillors might think differently.

  6. Division 7 Gold Coast City Council with incumbent murder-accused Ryan Bayldon-Lumsden. The most interesting race to watch on the Gold Coast in my opinion. Bayldon-Lumsden will receive the most first preferences. However, so many votes will be scattered across the field (a lot of candidates standing this division). These votes will snowball behind someone in the field (who knows at this point) and jump in front of Bayldon-Lumsden on TCP.

    The significant amount of signage vandalism directed at Bayldon-Lumsden I’ve noticed on the ground seems to suggest that there is some frustration enveloping the community.

  7. I wouldn’t have the cojones to vandalise Bayldon-Lumsden’s signs… seems like the kind of person who’s bad side you wouldn’t want to be on!

  8. The Australian reported yesterday that Labor is hopeful of winning Calamvale and Northgate, and that the Greens are very confident about winning Paddington and Walter-Taylor, and are hopeful about Coorparoo, Central and Enoggera.

    None of that seems particularly unrealistic and if the LNP lost all those wards they would lose their majority on council, but I would still expect them to retain the mayoralty.

  9. Labor should’ve ran Peter Beattie for mayor in 2020 or this year. Would’ve given the LNP a very tight fight.

  10. I am interested if Labor can win Northgate or Doboy if Labor becomes weaker in affluent areas due to the Greens they have to perform better in the suburbs

  11. I’m starting to be convinced that there’s a mood for change and the election will come down to two things: 1) Have the Greens done enough to convince people that council elections can be more than roads, rates and rubbish . 2) Have Labor and The Greens done enough to convince people not to let their preferences exhaust.

    If neither is true, easy LNP retain, Greens pick up a few targets but fall short of their expectations.
    If either is true, down to the wire whether LNP lose their majority, Sriranganathan makes 2CP but can’t catch Schrinner on prefs. If both are true, landslide swing, mayoralty toppled, though not sure if it’s Price or Sriranganathan who benefits.

  12. Babaluma and Joel, I currently see Paddington and Walter Taylor as the two where Greens are favoured to win with Coorparoo a close third (I probably see Fiona Cunningham as a slight underdog, despite her margin being 5% and also being an elected, rather than appointed incumbent).

    I think Labor will probably pick up one of these seats (Northgate, Calamvale or Doboy) with Calamvale being the one to flip first given its location covering ethnic minority suburbs which have shown weakness to the Coalition at other elections, both local and interstate.

    Enoggera is probably a true toss up seat that will end up as a three-way tie between the LNP’s Andrew Wines, Labor and the Greens. I think Andrew Wines as the incumbent likely squeaks out a win here, but it will be super close.

    Overall, I think the most likely outcome is a loss of four seats for the LNP (Paddington, Walter Taylor, Coorparoo and Calamvale), a gain of one for Labor and a gain of three for the Greens. This will result in a council composition of 15 LNP, 6 Labor, 4 Greens and independent Nicole Johnstone.

  13. If the LNP have a horrible night, other losses could extend to Central and Holland Park (both considered second tier targets for the Greens, with Holland Park likely to fall before Central). Other seats should be considered safe.

    The best outcome for Labor and the Greens is that both parties flip all LNP wards under threat, a total of nine (resulting in a council composition of 10 LNP, 8 Labor, 6 Greens and one independent). A result of this magnitude would probably mean a swing large enough to also unseat Schrinner as Mayor.

  14. Also forgot Marchant as one of the second-tier targets for Labor – given that it is held by appointed councillor Danita Parry, it may be seen as a better target compared to a ward like Doboy which covers unfavourable areas around the eastern suburbs close to Redland Council which have swung away from Labor.

  15. Central is absolutely more in reach for the Greens than Holland Park and they’re publicly briefing as such. I wouldn’t totally rule out Holland Park but if they won it that would be a extremely good night for the Greens that exceeded the optimistic side of their own expectations, at least from what they’re briefing the press.

    I think the Greens would be extremely disappointed if they do not win at least Paddington and Walter Taylor, where they’ve had a much bigger campaign presence than the LNP, who have barely been more visible than Labor.

  16. I like your 15, 6, 4 composition Yoh An, except I would add Enoggera to the list of wards the LNP will not walk away with. I think that is gone for the LNP, but very unclear where it lands. Similar to the Federal seat of Brisbane seat in the 2022 election (which ended up in the Green’s hands with Stephen Bates taking the seat even after he ended up 3rd in the initial 1st preference count).

    I am unsure about your confidence that the Greens will not pick up Central or Holland Park. I’d say it’s probably a bit better odds than a coin flip in the Greens’ favour as to whether they pick up neither or at least one.

  17. The ALP should already have Northgate and Doboy, based on demographics and the State and Federal seats that overlap it. But they don’t.

    I don’t see Brisbane Central shifting until Councillor Vicki Howard retires. It’s one of those wards that is held significantly by her personal vote. The same applies to Tennyson.

    The westward drift of The Greens into Ryan continues and it’s going to be interesting to see how badly the ALP primary vote drops in those areas. The issue for The Greens is their inability to grasp the middle class vote particularly in the outer ring suburbs.

    Enoggera was a Labor ward 16 years ago and they haven’t really put the effort in to take it. There’s also a huge entrenched vote there with Gallipolli Barracks providing a solid block of LNP votes.

    I think the ALP may be under pressure from The Greens in Deagon. With the LNP not running a candidate there because of Brock Alexander’s dumping it will end up as an ALP/Greens battle. There’s some VERY rusted on Greens at the Brighton end of the electorate and Jared Cassidy has spent most of his time as the ALP Council Leader. As house prices have jumped I expect to see a lot of preferences going to The Greens from LNP voters. Traditionally the ALP has looked on that whole area (Lilley, Sandgate, Deagon) as patronage seats to be handed to family members or friends because, much like Inala, it doesn’t take a lot of work to hold. With LNP voters distributing preferences instead of Green Voters this could be one of those wards that goes counter to any swing.

  18. I don’t really think there’s any evidence that the ALP could be under pressure from the Greens in Deagon. Even if the LNP come third (which seems unlikely to me), Labor will be safe so long as they finish ahead of the Greens as a majority of LNP preferences will likely exhaust. The Greens would probably need to be polling a primary within 20 points of Labor (extremely unlikely – currently a 40 point gap) and require the kinds of LNP preferences that they’d only get in compulsory preferential voting when the LNP hand out how-to-vote cards preferencing the Greens (which the LNP won’t be doing due to candidate disendorsement). Regarding Brighton, the Green vote is quite weak as you can see on Ben’s maps – 13% – worse than their council-wide vote. The swings to the Greens in the Brighton part of the federal electorate of Lilley at the federal election were very weak – they actually went backwards in one booth. Jared Cassidy’s high profile as opposition leader will help him as well. I can’t see any substantial evidence that Cassidy would be under pressure in Deagon. All the evidence points the other way.

  19. 2020 result in Central has no indication of a personal vote for Howard. Schrinner got more firsts prefs that Howard did unless there’s an error on Ben’s page.

  20. @Greens Political Party Supporter
    There is effectively no LNP candidate in Deagon, just a former candidate who was booted out after the close of nominations. So while the ballot paper will have LNP next to his name, the HTV’s won’t. Any campaign workers won’t. The corflutes won’t.

    I also note that he hasn’t lodged a HTV, which means he won’t be able to display one on Saturday. So yep, the LNP will finish third with NO material indicating which way their supporters should preference.

    Also the Green vote is much higher in the north of the ward – Brighton and Sandgate. It ranges between 12 and 15 percent at peak. For some reason it’s also very high at the Zillmere North booth, but that’s probably an anomaly due to the small size of the booth.

  21. @Jodiepops
    Results in Central 2020
    Howard -2,4% Primary; -0.4% TPP
    Schrinner -4.5% Primary; -2.2% TPP

    The 2019 BCC redistribution makes it very hard to compare the results in 2016 with those in 2020.

  22. @all HTV’s are available at https://event.elections.qld.gov.au/Events/VoteCardsView?EventID=622&EventType=2 In Brisbane The Greens and the ALP are tightly exchanging preferences and the LNP is running a Just Vote One campaign.

    One of the issues in BCC is the hollowing out of the city vote, the Federal seat of Brisbane is a great example. It moved from a very safe Labor seat with most of the population at the edges, to a less safe Labor seat when Wayne Swan was happy to give Hamilton and Ascot to Arch Bevis in the redistribution, to an LNP seat when the ALP vote was cannibalised by The Greens, to a Greens seat based on a declining LNP vote and an 85 percent preference flow from ALP voters to The Greens. At the same time the population was growing in the city core, with a relatively wealthy political class who were quite happy to support free inner-city public transport at the expense of the outlying suburbs.

    The opposite was happening in Longman as the significant tradie vote switched from ALP to LNP and voters became employers instead of employees. Much the same happened in Capricornia as the mining industry FIFO base grew. Paying taxes and not getting Centrelink does that to you.

    In one of my favourite small towns, Collinsville, the TPP ALP vote was 5 votes ahead of the LNP. Collinsville, as part of the state electorate of Bowen, is the only place in Australia to ever elect a Communist Member of Parliament. Twice. Not even Fitzroy has managed to do that…

  23. @Wilson
    City Hopper ferry services are free and stop at 7 terminals between North Quay and New Farm. They basically run from 6 am to midnight,
    The free bus services include the City Loop, Spring Hill Loop and South Brisbane Loop services.
    The City Glider bus service (Maroon, Blue and the proposed Gold line) are also heavily subsidised relative to cost because they run extended services (24 hours on Friday/Saturday, 18 hours Sunday-Thursday).

    I’d also argue that for a proportion of the population City Gliders are free because they can also enter and exit from the middle doors so payment depends on your conscience. Brisbane doesn’t have bus inspectors, unlike the transport inspectors on trains. Technically bus drivers have a button to record incidents of people not tapping on or off, but that’s mostly just for seeing which bus routes and stops have high fare evasion. I’ve never actually seen anyone issued a ticket for that on a bus. I’d see it at the exit to train stations (particularly Central) all the time.


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