New dawn in Queensland politics

Published on
April 2, 2012

The Queensland State Election on 24 March 2012 delivered an overwhelming parliamentary majority to the Liberal National Party (LNP) and its leader, Campbell Newman. The state-wide swing between the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and LNP was 15.4 percent, over three times what was required to win government.

Queensland Labor always faced a difficult task of winning the State Election, having endured months of poor polling locked-in around 60:40 ever since Campbell Newman was made leader of the LNP in April 2011. Queensland Labor’s response was to pursue a high-risk negative strategy focused on unfounded allegations implicating Campbell Newman and his family with Brisbane City Council decisions that benefited themselves and LNP donors. The campaign backfired on the Labor Party when its lack of evidence for the accusations was exposed by the media.

In a Crosby-Textor exit poll, Queensland voters nominated “political behaviour” as the top issue affecting their voting decision, a firm indication that voters punished Labor for relying too heavily on character attacks rather than their policy record of 14 years in office. The public fall-out from the negative campaign may have cost the Labor Party as many as another ten of its safest seats, as the LNP were rewarded for holding their nerve and maintaining their positive campaign throughout the final two weeks.

The seat of Ashgrove was critical in the election, as Campbell Newman was attempting to become Premier from outside Parliament by winning the seat off a Labor incumbent. A win for Campbell Newman with only a small margin would have been less than ideal for a new Premier-elect. However, the electoral tsunami that he unleashed across Queensland picked up everything in its tide, including devastating the vigorous local campaign of Labor’s incumbent, Kate Jones. The 13.7 percent swing to the LNP in Ashgrove now gives Mr Newman a solid 6.6 percent margin in his quest to reshape governance in Queensland.

Few adjectives can be used to describe the magnitude of the win, as most have been overused for elections with swings less than half this size. Queensland political history shows very few tectonic shifts in the political order, perhaps only three previously since 1915. This is without a doubt one of those shifts. The size of Campbell Newman’s mandate and his zeal for action as Lord Mayor suggest a rapid program of change awaits for government and business across the state.