April 4th 2009

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: A way out of the economic tsunami?

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Senator Steve Fielding's political challenge

COMMONWEALTH GOVERNMENT: Rudd Government's radical agenda by stealth

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: The Liberal Party faces moment of truth

QUEENSLAND STATE ELECTION I: Labor's Anna Bligh returns to power

QUEENSLAND STATE ELECTION II: Leading abortion campaigner defeated

ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Can free trade theory survive the global slump?

ENVIRONMENT: Global cooling is here: Don Easterbrook

BIOETHICS: Plant liberation: Europe's next cause célèbre?

UNITED NATIONS: Voices for the unborn heard at UN session

OPINION: Granting scientists power to take innocent life

F.D. Roosevelt and Obama's strategies (letter)

Agriculture the best-performing sector (letter)

Increasing populations (letter)

CINEMA: Easy Virtue - Dark side of 'deliciously funny comedy'

BOOKS: SMACK EXPRESS: How Organised Crime Got Hooked on Drugs, by Clive Small and Tom Gilling

BOOKS: JOURNEY TO ETERNITY: Victim of Apartheid: a novel, by Eric Carman

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Labor's Anna Bligh returns to power

by Ken Francis

News Weekly, April 4, 2009
A feature of the polls was the dominant preference expressed for Premier Anna Bligh, when compared to Lawrence Springborg. Ken Francis reports.

The ALP government of Anna Bligh was returned to power in Queensland in the election held on March 21. There was a swing of some 3 per cent against the ALP.

The new government will command a safe majority, as the ALP will hold at least 50 seats of the 89 in the parliament, against the Liberal National Party (LNP) with 31, and the four sitting Independents returned. At the time of writing, four seats are yet to be decided.

A wide field of candidates offered themselves for election in addition to the major parties. There were candidates from the Greens, the DLP, Family First, the Daylight Saving Party and a coalition of independents in addition to the incumbent independent members.

In a close election, the Greens support for the ALP would possibly be decisive, whereas the other minor parties would garner a protest vote against the government.

The issues facing most Queensland voters were those of health, a new children's hospital, traffic congestion, budget management, water supply and dams, and the economic credentials of the two parties to address the challenges of the global financial crisis.

However, many voters were concerned by the possibility that a Labor government, led by a hard-core of Emily's List MPs, would sponsor legislation to introduce a bill to decriminalise abortion (see article in this issue, "Leading abortion campaigner defeated"), as happened last year in Victoria.

A minority of feminists in the LNP would also be expected to support such a move.

The ALP's strategy was based on an appeal to voters to hold on to the government they knew so as to face the coming economic storm, and the need to deliver jobs as a counter to the job lay-offs experienced recently in the mining sector.

The LNP policy platform for its part was rather indefinite, with promises to be paid for by cutting the costs of government through introducing an "efficiency dividend". The ALP countered by promoting this cost-cutting as a threat to the jobs of public servants.

The election was marked by considerable media attention being devoted to the fortunes of the parties, as recorded in opinion polls (News Weekly, March 7).

The early expectations were for a hung parliament or, less likely, an outright LNP victory. As late as one week before the election, the polls indicated a two-party preferred vote of 51 per cent to 49 per cent in favour of the LNP.

However, by the Thursday before the vote, Newspoll reported the gap had closed to 50.1 per cent to 49.9 per cent in favour of the LNP.

Most pundits forecast a 3 to 5 per cent swing to the LNP, creating a hung parliament with an LNP government depending on some sort of deal with some independents.

A win by the LNP in its own right was only ever an outside possibility as the recent redistribution favoured the ALP. A swing of 8 per cent against Labour would have been required to give the LNP a majority in its own right.

A feature of the polls was the dominant preference expressed for Anna Bligh as Premier, when compared to Lawrence Springborg, who was always seen as a rather undistinguished figure from the bush.

Only three days before the election, the ALP was in panic mode, and they released their own internal polling which showed the trend to the Opposition.

This strategic move was designed to focus the attention of their supporters on the importance of sticking to the party and not to register a protest vote, particularly on Labor's failures in health and its decision to construct the Traveston Dam.

In the closing days of the campaign, the ALP moved boldly to rescue the election. The Premier undertook a well-publicised program of visits to "30 electorates in 30 hours" in which she emphasised the need to create and retain jobs in Queensland.

The LNP were unable to deliver any sort of counter-attack, and the expected swing in their favour evaporated.

- Ken Francis

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