QUEENSLAND: by Luke McCormackNews Weekly
Issues facing voters on March 24
, March 3, 2012
The issues of children’s rights, civil unions and surrogacy feature prominently in 20 seats which will decide the next government in the forthcoming March 24 Queensland state election.
One of the most important electorates is Ashgrove, in the northern suburbs of Brisbane. It is here that Liberal National Party (LNP) leader Campbell Newman is challenging the sitting Labor member, Kate Jones. Mr Newman, although state Opposition leader, does not yet hold a seat in parliament.
The Australian Family Assocation (AFA) has distributed a flyer, informing Ashgrove voters that Kate Jones supported the legalisation of civil unions between same-sex couples in Queensland and a new law allowing singles and same-sex couples to have children via a surrogate mother.
Queensland AFA president Michael Ord told The Australian (February 21, 2012) that the leaflets were paid for and distributed by AFA members. He said the campaign was launched because “these are laws that are denigrating the support of the natural family, of a mum and dad and the kids, and they must be repealed”.
Mr Ord said that Kate Jones was one of at least 20 MPs to be targeted in the current election campaign for backing the laws.
North Queensland federal MP Bob Katter’s new party, called Katter’s Australian Party (KAP), is committed to repealing the civil unions law. The LNP full state council late last year adopted a similar policy.
However, LNP leader Campbell Newman, says that he would consider the repeal of civil unions, but would not want anyone left in “legal limbo” if same-sex couples had undertaken civil union ceremonies before the state election.
It is likely that a number of civil unions ceremonies will be held with great publicity, on the eve of the election, when the law takes effect.
Labor is focusing resources into Ashgrove in an attempt to prevent the LNP leader winning a seat for himself in the next parliament.
Two-party preferred polling puts the LNP with a comfortable 60 per cent lead over Labor’s 40 per cent.
However, Queensland politics is not that simple. Queensland has an optional preferential voting system that has resulted in most voters generally not allocating any preferences or not allocating all preferences.
This has lead to fears in the LNP that Katter’s party will split the conservative vote, benefiting the flagging Labor party. At the time of writing, the LNP has refused to exchange preferences with Katter’s Australian Party (KAP).
However, at least in north Queensland, where the KAP is at its strongest and is certain to win seats, the party is winning blue-collar Labor voters who are disgusted with both the economic and radical social policies of the Labor Party.
Federal Labor now supports same-sex marriage, although not binding politicians to the policy. Most Labor MPs in Anna Bligh’s government supported the private member’s bill for civil unions, which is one step short of same-sex marriage.
Commenting on the Labor push for same-sex marriage just before the December national conference of the party, The Australian’s columnist Paul Kelly said: “In essence, this campaign shifts Labor as a political party into a post-Christian identity.
“It is a fundamental break from Labor’s social origins and values. This is how many Australians will interpret a vote for gay marriage. The party’s repudiation of the cultural and religious foundations of marriage will be an epic event in its history” (The Australian, November 30, 2011).
Federal and state Labor have also antagonised traditional voters by introducing the carbon tax and more privatisation of state assets.
This election will be a test to see where traditional, blue-collar voters are prepared to direct their vote now that the party that they, and their families, have supported for generations abandons them.
The election is also a test for the LNP.
Katter’s Australian Party is taking on the globalisation, economic rationalist policies supported by both major parties.
National Competition Policy, supported by the former federal Coalition government, paid states to deregulate many rural industries and to privatise state assets such as the rail, gas and electricity industries.
Queensland is notable for not having an upper house of parliament. In other states, and federally, the Greens have gained ground in the upper houses of parliament.
In Queensland, the Greens are unlikely to win a seat in the single-chamber parliament, but they will take votes, mainly from Labor. It remains to be seen how Greens voters will allocate their preferences. Generally, 80 per cent of Greens preferences go to Labor.
As mentioned earlier, marriage, family and children’s rights are going to feature strongly in the election.
“Rosie” (not her real name) was the first women to deliver a surrogate child for two male homosexuals after the Bligh Labor government introduced surrogacy.
Rosie lamented: “As soon as the baby was born it all changed. I never thought having a child and giving him away would make me feel like this.… I regret the decision very much, I just wish I’d never done it.” (Herald Sun, Melbourne May 9, 2011).
Luke McCormack is Queensland state president of the National Civic Council.