By Callen Sorensen Karklis
G’day. I was a campaign worker for the ALP during the 2022 federal election. I have worked on election campaigns for 10 years since the 2012 Qld State election. I’ve worked on local, state, and federal levels. Regarding the 2022 federal election campaign, I worked across 4 federal divisions in SE Qld primarily centred on the bayside of Brisbane, Logan, and Redlands. These divisions included Brisbane, Forde, Bonner, and Bowman. It should be noted that these seats were mostly held at the start of the Rudd/Gillard era, and years prior. They were lost in 2010 after the leadership spill of Kevin Rudd by Julia Gillard. And for the duration of the Coalition government 2013 – 2022, there were all held by the LNP. Brisbane was a former safe Labor seat held by Labor on and off historically for a combined 76 years since federation. As of early 2022, it was held by the LNP at a 4.9% margin.
The bayside seats like Bonner (7.4% LNP) and Bowman (10.2% LNP). And the Logan seat Forde (8.6% LNP). Both Bonner and Forde were held by Labor during the first Rudd/Gillard term in 2007 – 2010. Bonner was once a part of Bowman, so much of that area had seen 32 – 33 years of a Labor federal MP historically while Bowman had seen 24 years historically of Labor. The areas split to become separate divisions in 2004. Sadly, despite a strong swing of almost 4% nationally towards the ALP on preferences via third parties such as the Greens and minor parties. Seats like Bowman, Bonner, and Forde missed out but there are reasons for that as well. Brisbane fared slightly better with Labor and Greens ahead preferencing each other.
I primarily did street stalls in Forde with Labor candidate Rowan Holzberger, who is a senate staffer of Senator Murray Watt. I met Rowan during my time advocating for the unemployed and underemployed for the Australian Unemployed Workers Union (AUWU) during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 – 2022 when advocating full employment. In Bowman, I letterboxed primarily for Indigenous health worker and former Warren Snowden staffer during the Rudd/Gillard era Donisha Duff. Volunteers and I letterboxed in the Redlands state electorate in suburbs like Victoria Pt, Thornlands, and Mt Cotton.
I letterboxed in Bonner with Labor stalwarts in the Wynnum area, and we even attracted assistance from left-wing activists from various progressive political groups as well such as local communist and the Jordan Shanks led Common Sense Brigade. We also organized sign setups and street stalls. And in Bonner, I organized with Cr Peter Cumming’s office to coordinate volunteers for Indigenous health worker Tabatha Young with fellow unionist like Bonner campaign coordinator Billy Colless from Together. We primarily focused on phone polling and direct voter contact.
As a campaign worker and former market research interviewer I noticed the following main issues that came up; 1) cost of living issues, 2) superannuation, 3) wages, 4) climate change and environment, 5) healthcare, 6) NDIS and disability support. Some of these issues also came up during the street stalls when voters would discuss issues with us. There were also environmental voters indicating concern on issues like overdevelopment such as Toondah Harbor’s PDA in Redlands, and fracking from bayside areas.
There were also some concerns about taxation, relating to the concern of cost of living with concerns about tax rates. Some voters were concerned about the rate of being taxed for a second job due to the rising cost of living and inflation. Hip pocket sociotropic and economic issues were key in this campaign. Other issues voters addressed were road infrastructure, public transport needing improvement from all levels of government. I also found some levels of anxiety over China despite whichever way somebody was voting for as well, considering the recent developments in the Ukraine. Other low-key issues in Bonner for example was the “Save Kougari” sports fields issue in Wynnum, more campaigning on local issues like this could be advantageous to the Labor cause. [Figure 1].
Analyzing the maths of the statistical data, there was a core sample of 23 voters spoken to by myself a small sample, but I was able to analyze the data confidently. 8 voters indicated that they were leaning towards Labor or rusted on (37%). 2 voters indicated that they were voting Greens (9%), 4 voters were LNP (18%) rusted on. While 8 voters were undecided voters, interestingly enough (36%). I estimated a swing of 2 – 3% if not more towards the ALP based on TPP (two – party preferred). That said the overall TPP swing on the night was 4%. [Figure 2]. Polling by the ALP was spot on internally for a change. Other points made by voters was the question of leadership. Scott Morrison was not liked after the 2019 – 2020 bush fire season after his trip to Hawaii, and the slow rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines and RAT tests during the pandemic, or for the way Job Keeper operated with billions of taxpayers’ dollars handed to corporates. Or for the embarrassing lacklustre action on climate change or the failed French submarine deal on the world stage.
Voters didn’t feel as though they knew Albanese enough but were obviously happy to make the gamble as most were unsatisfied with Morrison due to incompetence or felt he was provided with an impossible set of circumstances that would have tested any leader despite their politics. That said a vast number of undecided voters I found were not swayed by either leader of the major parties which could be reason enough why Teal Independents and Greens have done so well across the country almost capturing a 3rd of the Australian vote. Another interesting finding was the success of Labor to convert PHON voters or re-engage with them and some of the blue-collar vote again. This might explain why the PHON and Palmer United vote may have peaked at the federal level. I found this while doing phone polling despite the fear campaigns on mandates and vaccines. The Cannabis party outpolled PUP! Despite the ads spending.
The Greens were very clever in their campaign tactics regarding environmental issues, public housing, and dental being included in Medicare. I noticed that Greens targeted the Toondah issue primarily in Bowman but also used issues like it while campaigning in areas in inner Brisbane seats. The federal divisions of Griffith (Labor) held at 2.9%, and Ryan (LNP) held at 6%. Jokes indicating Queensland as Greenland was interesting considering only 1 seat was in play for Labor to gain in Brisbane with Greens and Labor competing for votes in defeating LNP MP Trevor Evans (2016 – 2022) who replaced former Howard parliamentary secretary Teresa Gambaro (2010 – 2016) who previously held Petrie (1996 – 2007). I noticed how the Senate candidate Penny Allman Payne targeted Toondah with Bowman Greens candidate Ian Mazlin.
Where many voters felt abandoned by Capalaba State MP Don Brown and Shadow Environment Minister Terri Butler on issues of protecting Ramsar wetlands in Cleveland. Particularly with regards to positive communication which voters felt was not strong enough or were sceptical of their views of protecting Ramsar. Despite previous Labor state and federal MPs being strong on environmental issues in previous decades. In contrast to the last time Labor came into power in 2007, the Greens result in Bowman was 4,475 votes (5.45% of the vote) compared with 2022’s federal election where the Greens vote has steadily risen to 10,616 votes (12.91%) despite the 9 years of coalition rule. [Figure 3]. What is key with the rise of the Greens vote is potentially the rise of younger voters voting without the ALP able to articulate to this demographic on environmental issues. And older voters turning to the Greens away from the major parties who are no longer interested in the status quo due to disillusionment on a matter of issues from healthcare, education, to the environment. It is clear the Greens will have an impact on future Qld State Elections and City Council elections in Brisbane due to the decreasing Labor primary vote.
It is concerning that regional Qld or North Qld did not gain any electoral success for Labor. There was a considerable number of swings, yes, but Labor does not hold seats outside of SE Qld while contrast to the 2007 federal election Labor had won 4 seats federally. This shows that while Labor has an identity issue on climate action and environmental issues in SE Qld with the competing Greens vote in metropolitan areas it faces backlash in the rural-urban areas that are more industrial reliant on the resources, and mining sectors and agricultural.
These will be issues that the Albanese government need to tread carefully in the lead up to the 2025 federal election, while providing for jobs in new industries and sectors while curbing carbon emissions. People are keen to see a better standard of living but also acutely aware that we live in more unpredictable times with extreme weather events and growing antagonism from powers in China and Russia. These are not easy issues but those that the new Labor federal government must face with determination. I would find that a vast number of voters went the way they did because they thought they weren’t listened to, many are disillusioned hence why it’s important that Albanese is a man to his word by uniting all of Australia and restoring integrity. I believe there is a great deal of honesty to Albanese and his intentions, but a lot can happen in 3 years, hopefully by then to his word we are all better off for it and a “Better Future” prevails.
Recommendations for Qld Labor:
- Re-engage with the youth vote, particularly on environmental issues and climate action
- Include dental within wider health care measures
- Re-engage on public housing measures and expand it addressing the rental crisis
- Arrange an agreement with the Greens to retake Brisbane City Hall
- Address ways to win back North, Central Qld voters in the mining industry, especially as mining moves towards 2030, and 2050 carbon emission targets
- Implement ways to encourage Young Labor to be more skills and policy orientated, there is a disconnect between retaining long term members from Young Labor due to the toxic culture in previous years, the party needs to guide our youth so that we can also find ways for them to connect with people their own age, this is how we re-engage with youth
- Reconnect with community-based issues in Bonner it was the “Save Kougari” sports fields, there was not enough of this in Qld Labor campaigns, it needs more grassroots tactics
- Preselect candidates early in the parliamentary cycle to advocate Labor policies and organize media releases in targeted areas in central and north Qld divisions, without a presence early the vacuum is filled by PHON, KAP, and Greens, or Independents.
- Coordinate a structure for volunteers to assist campaigns early so that branch members, as well as new volunteers from the community, can all contribute to a campaign and its many successes along the way, without a structure or planning this can go wayside quickly, find tasks particularly suited for certain volunteers not everyone can contribute the same way as others, don’t knock back help either, harness skills that all can bring.
- Organize funds early with targets and donations to ensure funds can be used on expenses.
Figure 1 [Save Kougari – Sports Ovals in Wynnum 2022]
Figure 2 [Bonner Phone Polling April – May 2022]
Figure 3 [Redland City Bulletin – May 25, 2022]
Callen Sorensen Karklis
Bachelor of Government and International Relations
Callen is a Quandamooka Nunukul Aboriginal person from North Stradbroke Island. He has been the Secretary of the Qld Fabians in 2018, and the Assistant Secretary 2018 – 2019, 2016, and was more recently the Policy and Publications Officer 2020 – 2021. Callen previously was in Labor branch executives in the Oodgeroo (Cleveland areas), SEC and the Bowman FEC. He has also worked for Cr Peter Cumming, worked in market research, trade unions, media advertising, and worked in retail. He also ran for Redland City Council in 2020 on protecting the Toondah Ramsar wetlands. Callen is active in Redlands 2030, Labor LEAN, the Redlands Museum, and his local sports club at Victoria Pt Sharks Club. Callen also has a Diploma of Business and attained his tertiary education from Griffith University.
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