Political insights — October 2019

by Hon. John Mickel, Strategic Advisor — Government Relations

Published on
October 10, 2019

For the political armchair critic, 2019 has served up more than its fair share of twists and turns, and with two elections due within the next 12 months, it is likely there will be more unexpected developments in the lead-up to the local and state elections. Here is a quick recap of recent developments, and what to expect in coming months.

Federal government

Federally, the remainder of 2019 will seem politically serene compared with the frantic start in the lead-up to the May federal election.

The Morrison Government has started off well and settled into a new term confident and in a way that, at this point, is accepted by a majority of Australians. With a secure majority and a more predictable Senate, the government’s focus will be on the economy, and finding the appropriate policy responses to a volatile trading environment and challenging domestic economy.

There are also calls for the government to take measures to lift productivity as a prelude to wage increases. The government is wafer thin when it comes to the policy agenda it took to the election. In an election-winning formula, it relied upon highlighting the dangers of the opposition rather than producing a detailed policy response of its own, therefore the electorate will be looking for a well-articulated agenda moving forward.

Federal Labor with a new leader, Anthony Albanese, is still seen to be struggling. He has recognised the need to win seats in Queensland, especially regional Queensland, to form national government. Queensland will therefore be an ongoing focus for the national major parties, with an emphasis on infrastructure projects.

State government

The immediate impact of the federal Labor result was a policy reset on resource industries, and a bigger commitment to engage with the Queensland electorate.

As a result, the Queensland Government approved the Adani Mine and recently concluded a state conference affirming the importance of resources and regional Queensland, which is why state parliament was convened in Townsville. A decision on the next stage of New Hope’s New Acland Coal Mine is pending.

It is apparent there is huge emphasis in government media announcements on job creation and apprenticeships in regional Queensland. Nevertheless, with a year to run, the second-term Palaszczuk Government has been beset by problems largely of its own making. Recent integrity issues have politically wounded the Deputy Premier and the government as a whole.

In coming months, expect to see the economic portfolio ministers — Cameron Dick, Anthony Lynham and Kate Jones — to be in the ascendancy. The struggling Queensland economy needs full attention and for the government to recover it needs the private sector to have confidence, clear policy objectives and containment of costs.

A recent YouGov poll reported in the media showed the state government trailing the opposition. The Queensland federal election result has been a confidence booster for the state opposition. They have used the Parliamentary Estimates process much better than in the past and the leader, Deb Frecklington, has been active both in the media and in her visits throughout the state. She is also continuing to engage with business and community groups.

The integrity issues surrounding the government and the overwhelming federal success in Queensland has given the LNP a confidence boost. We will not make a prediction on results this far out.

Local government

The next significant election contest is the Queensland local government elections in March 2020. Of these, Brisbane (with a budget the size of Tasmania’s), is the most significant. The LNP is seeking a fifth term and has been astute in its personnel changes and the manner it has gone about them. Brisbane has a new Lord Mayor, new Deputy Mayor, and five Councillors in new wards, all placed with minimal electoral fuss.

Labor has recently endorsed a new mayoral candidate, ex-journalist Patrick Condren. Labor currently holds five wards out of 26 — and only one on the north side of the river.

Massive population growth in the inner north and south side of the city, along with electoral enrolment decline in the outer suburbs, necessitated boundary changes in the lead-up to 2020. These changes offer Labor a glimmer of hope in three seats, but at this time it does not seem enough to prevent the re-election of an LNP-dominated council. As ever, any resurgence is dependent on the candidates and the campaigns they run.

At this point we should acknowledge the valuable community service provided by former Mayor Graham Quirk. Graham was in public life for more than 30 years and never had a major scandal against him. It is to the credit of Brisbane Councillors and its bureaucracy that the issues which have beset Ipswich, Logan and Moreton Councils have not been levelled against the state’s largest council.