Everyone thought it would be close. It wasn’t. At 7:10pm Antony Green called the election for Labor. In truth it felt rather anti climatic. The ABC called it when only three seats changed hands and when it was clear the big swing to the LNP was not on. You’d expect me to be overjoyed, and I’ll probably be shot by my ALP comrades for saying this, but the ALP didn’t deserve to win, and the statistics suggest this. The only reason Bligh was able to retain government was due to its massive victories in 2001, 2004 and 2006. This election result more or less restored the balance to the Parliament, which has been so thoroughly dominated by Labor since the first of these victories.
After a good night’s sleep my feelings of bitterness have abated somewhat but I cannot help but think that Queensland deserves better. While that comment may seem overtly self serving given my party’s victory it remains true. I’ve talked before about how the campaign tactics of Labor were absolutely deplorable, and they still were. A victory does not change this. The more troubling thing regarding this is that the campaign strategists will claim this victory as a triumph, when in reality it is anything but.
Anytime there’s a 4.5% swing against the government people would expect it to fall. Swings of roughly that margin resulted in the defeats of John Howard and Paul Keating. Although the media will be drowning in history celebrating the fact that Bligh was the first woman to be elected in her own right, this ignores the cold hard facts. At this stage the ALP have lost 8 seats with more likely to come and margins have been severely dented in others. Take Treasurer Andrew Fraser’s seat of Mt Cootha for example. Going in he had a margin of 12% and now its been halved thanks to a Green primary vote of around 21%. Fraser is the best politician the Queensland ALP has and will probably succeed Bligh, but this is a terrible performance and symptomatic of a larger problem. Seats such as this are now legitimately winnable for the Opposition in 2012.
In retrospect, my prediction of small LNP majority was perhaps foolhardy. It’s not until election night that one realises the monumental task that the LNP actually had. Prior to the election the LNP held only two Brisbane seats out of 30. This time they only did marginally better picking up three, with two or three more still in doubt depending upon calculations. In this regard the LNP have failed to grasp the most basic lesson from their last two election defeats. Springborg does not appeal to Brisbane metropolitan voters. Now that he has resigned the media will probably shower him with praise instead of treating him like the abject failure that he is.
This victory runs particularly hollow for me because the ALP did so poorly on the Sunshine Coast. All seats swung against the party by margins of between 4 and 5%, clearly being the most dominant geographical area for the LNP. The thing that troubles me about this result is I thought we had reached bottom with the result at the last election, but this case the result in my opinion was far worse, given that I thought we had some credible candidates. I feel sorry for them because I know they have worked bloody hard in trying to fight the trend. However I hope my colleagues on the ALP Sunshine Coast see this as the poor result that it is rather than an indication that the ‘Sunshine Coast will always be against us’. Additionally party office treated the Sunshine Coast like its poor drunk uncle who is relegated to the back of the room. We were given absolutely no resources and perhaps most importantly Bligh did not visit us on her ‘30 electorates in 3 days tour’ indicating the lack of esteem that party office gives the region.
This election can be summarised in one word: failure. The major parties failed the voters, the media failed the public in actually reporting the issues that mattered, the LNP failed to provide suitable competition and the ALP failed to prove that they actually deserve to retain government. Ironic then that the last failure resulted in a victory. Come 2012 the party will not be so lucky.