By Denis Bright
The LNP probably hoped to creep back into government by a series of strategic photo opportunities and staged events like the Regional Forum in Rockhampton. Just what is the state of play in those 23 seats in Queensland which could make the differences between a real Labor landslide as in 1983 and a quite modest majority?
Even the staged release of the LNP’s plan for Regional Australia in Rockhampton became a flat and divisive event for the Coalition. Its rhetorical superlatives were summarized on the National Party’s Queensland site:
- Strengthening the economy to deliver more jobs, more apprentices and working towards unemployment below four per cent.
- Tackling cost of living pressures through a reduction in fuel costs, increasing housing affordability and reducing tax for regional workers and their families
- Greater investment in regional infrastructure that will create long-term opportunities and growth to underpin regional prosperity
- Building a better health system that will provide more GPs and health specialists in our regions and towns where they are needed.
- Bringing back manufacturing to Australia that will reduce Australia’s reliance on others while creating local jobs in regional communities.
Even these motherhood statements were offset by differences between Scott Morrison and Matt Canavan on the issues of climate change as reported on Channel Nine News on 27 April 2022.
Capricornia MP Michelle Landry rebuked Senator Canavan as she spoke alongside Mr Morrison in Rockhampton after the Queensland Senator suggested net zero targets were “dead” and should be abandoned.
Ms Landry said Capricornia was “one of the biggest coal mining electorates in the country” and claimed energy and farming industries in Far North Queensland were behind Mr Morrison’s carbon reduction goals.
When asked if Senator Canavan was being unhelpful, Ms Landry quipped: “Pull your head in, Matt.”
The Coalition appears to be splitting on climate change, with Senator Canavan describing 2050 net zero targets as “dead” just hours after Mr Morrison was forced to defend his government’s “absolute” commitment to it.
Large parts of regional Australia are now protected by those substantial majorities from the 2019 election result after distribution of preferences from far-right minor parties.
This election’s focus on wages and living standards might restore some normalcy to our electoral geography. However, these trends maybe offset by the diversionary politics of the far-right parties in Regional Queensland. Of the Queensland regional federal seats, Leichhardt (4.17 per cent margin) is currently the most marginal followed by Flynn (8.66 per cent margin).
The selective release of YouGov/Newspoll data keeps everyone guessing until the Murdoch press releases marginal seat data to sell papers during the final days of the campaign after Scott Morrison’s campaign launch in Brisbane on 15 May 2022. Brisbane is an obvious location for the campaign launch with the LNP currently holding 23 seats across Queensland and six near Brisbane seats. Voxpop which monitors the ABC’s Compass election surveys has not been able to supply details of trendlines in regional seats.
The state break-down of seats is a fairly meaningless figure because it misses out on the state of play in the marginal regional and outer metropolitan seats. The most recent Morgan poll offers a state-by-state breakdown:
The state breakdowns, which cannot be directly compared to last week’s due to the change in the preference calculation, have Labor leading 51.5-48.5 in New South Wales (a swing to Labor of about 3.5%), 61-39 in Victoria (about 8%), 57.5-42.5 in Western Australia (about 13%) and 62.5-37.5 in South Australia (about 12%). The Coalition leads 53.5-46.5 in Queensland (a swing to Labor of about 5%) and 60-40 from the tiny sample in Tasmania. The poll was conducted Monday to Sunday from a sample of 1401.
Hopes of wedging the regional electorates of Queensland in support of new coal mining projects, may have been dashed by the sudden rise to prominence of cost-of-living issues. The LNP’s best offsets against political change come from the diversionary politics of those far-right parties.
Great rhetorical emphasis is placed on neoliberal folklore about the importance of corporate giants for regional development. Waiting for the capital to trickle down to the regions from corporate giants has not occurred on Scott Morrison’s watch according to the latest Reserve Bank (RBA) charts on the multiplier effects of net capital flows into Australia:
Declines in the rates of net capital inflows into Australia occurred well before the COVID-19 crisis.
The LNP’s interference with capital flows on strategic defence grounds has not assisted. It has forced Pacific countries like the Solomon Islands, PNG and Timor-Leste to seek alternative sources of capital investment.
Here the LNP continues to reply on that accumulated trillion-dollar budget to massage economic indicators until after the federal elections when a return to normalcy will eventually prevail.
Across the three LNP electorates of Central Queensland in Dawson, Capricornia and Flynn, mining accounts for less than 12 per cent of overall employment on the Queensland Government’s regional profile. However, the LNP is depending on disciplined preference flows from far-right parties to compensate from the absence of an absolute majority in all three Central Queensland seats.
Paul Murray’s Pub Forum offered a talking point to promote the far-right of Australian politics.
Back in Central Queensland, the achievements of the corporate resources sector, coexists with appalling levels of disadvantage which are evident on recent social security data released through Centrelink to December 2021.
The extent to which social demography can trump the bizarre appeal of the Maverick Three has yet to be tested. Dog whistles from the Mavericks have a record of diverting the attention of voters in the regions away from unresolved local problems.
The Central Queensland seats of Dawson, Capricornia and Flynn host high rates of social disadvantage and dependence on social security particularly in the City of Rockhampton.
In 2019, inner-city booths in Rockhampton like Berserker swung strongly to the far-right. Labor won this booth after preferences despite a 16.77 per cent swing against Labor in 2019.
Some inner-city precincts in Rockhampton with twice the Queensland levels of social disadvantage from the 2016 census have been largely overlooked by years of populist rhetoric on Scott Morrison’s watch.
In Flynn, the LNP is promoting a new candidate who will face the Labor’s Matt Burnett who was a popular Mayor of Gladstone. The margin from 2019 is 7.62 per cent after preferences. This is one electorate which should respond to Labor’s current emphasis on living standards, protection of real wages and criticism of casualization of employment. However, the electorate includes many scattered urban and rural communities which have traditionally supported National Party candidates as shown in the AEC Electorate Map.
Expect YouGov/Newspoll to release its detailed local polling from regional seats closer to election day or even to conceal them from readers of the Murdoch press if the results are too unfavourable to the LNP. Meanwhile, many votes in Regional Queensland continue to be diverted by preference allocations from minor far-right parties who mobilised 26.4 per cent of primary votes in Capricornia in 2019 to ensure a record majority for Michelle Landry MP who is one of Scott Morrison’s local stalwarts.
Let’s hope that more volatility returns to Regional Queensland as in those landslide swings which brought double-digit swings to Labor after years of conservative populism in the past during the political high water marks achieved by great Labor luminaries since the Federation era when North and Central Queensland opted for federal Labor members and senators.
The Sportbet odds are less hopeful with photo finishes in Leichhardt, Longman and Brisbane and a close result in Flynn where both major parties are fielding new candidates.
All ten regional LNP seats except Groom have been held by Labor since John Curtin’s days as Opposition leader in the hung parliament of 1940. Restoring the Regional Labor heartland with needs-based policies will be an ongoing challenge after the election of Anthony Albanese as Prime Minister.
Denis Bright is a financial member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to consensus-building in these difficult times. Your feedback from readers advances the cause of citizens’ journalism. Full names are not required when making comments. However, a valid email must be submitted if you decide to hit the Replies Button.
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