Why Labor was annihilated in Queensland

Labor didn't just lose the state election over the weekend – it crushed to just 6 seats in an 89-seat parliament. Here's why:

The Australian Labor Party didn’t just lose the Queensland state election on Saturday – it crushed to around six seats in an 89-seat parliament. Here’s why.

For starters, Queensland’s optional preferential voting system (OPV) can amplify a swing against a party. There is now MMP style accounting of the total party vote. Rather, it’s a case of electorate-by-electoral fights, with each voter able to vote for a single candidate, with the option of ranking some or all of the remaining candidates.

In yesterday’s ballot, the two main parties’ share of the vote was very similar to that received by National and Labour at New Zealand’s general election last year.

According to the Queensland Electoral Commission’s website, the conservative Liberal-National Party (LNP) alliance, led by parliamentary novice and former Brisbane Mayor Campbell Newman, has around 49.51% of the total state-wide vote and Labor around 26.81% (the Greens lost ground; Bob Katter's Australian Party was poised to take two seats).

But its success in electorate-by-electorate fights saw the LNP grab up to 79 seats (or 88.86% of seats) in the 89-seat state parliament (it will take several days to calculate the final result under OPV).

Pundits saw a number of factors behind the Queensland Labor party’s crushing defeat, including:

  • Attrition: Labor had been in power for 14 years (and only two years out of power since 1989), and suffered the never-ending mini-scandals, infighting and rot that attend any long-term administration
  • Floods: Voters were critical of premiere Anna Bligh and her party’s attempts at post-disaster recovery
  • The economy: Queensland had become Australia’s most indebted state. The situation has been worsened by the Australian dollar reaching parity with the US, hurting tourism
  • Asset sales: a programme of port, forestry, road and rail infrastructure sales raised $A15 billion for state coffers, but was unpopular with voters
  • Begging for mercy: An embarrassing Labor campaign during the last week that saw the party pleading for votes to stop the LNP becoming too powerful
  • Gillard: The rank unpopularity of the federal Labor government, and its leader, which has already contributed to the party's loss of power in New South Wales, Victoria and other states 

Ms Bligh was expected to be one of the handful of Queensland Labor MPs to keep her seat, but has already resigned as leader, and said she will resign from Parliament altogether.

The Queensland defeat is seen throwing the Gillard government into further peril.

The Australian Labor Party, which leads a minority government, needs to pick up seats in the next federal election – due in around 20 months – if it is to have any hope of retaining power, commentators say.

Attention will now turn to Labor leadership contender Kevin Rudd, who originally came to power in Queensland. Following his failed February 26 leadership bid, Mr Rudd pledged to quietly return to the back benches. After yesterday's result, he may reassess his position.

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