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Seeking the Post COVID-19 Sunshine: Four More Years of Majority Labor Government in Queensland?

By Denis Bright

The release of the YouGov Poll for the Queensland government’s entry into caretaker mode on 5 October 2020: YouGov sampled opinions from 2,000 respondents covering Metro Brisbane, South East Queensland and Regional Queensland.

YouGov’s London based global polling networks with research centres worldwide rely on a new Panel Methodology to collect data for marketing, political polling and wider soundings of public opinion.

In progressive leadership hands this polling can keep corporate and community leaders in touch with the needs on constituents. In the wrong hands, such techniques can lead public opinion in Faustian directions to support involvement in foreign wars as in the Blair-Bush eras with the support of jingoistic drumbeats from both the tabloid and the communication of selective reasoning by elite media units.

Details of the extent to which these innovative sampling techniques are being applied here has been requested from YouGov as it is really important for readers to be aware of new techniques being applied to monitor our thoughts on public issues.

There is an ethical problem if opinion polling becomes so sophisticated that is can lead public opinion in less than democratic directions during times of economic recession, strategic challenges or the current COVID-19 challenges.

The Seductive Influences of Commitment to Corporate Ideology and Upper Income Welfare

The ideals of a state with minimal levels of taxation and with services delivered by corporations on a user pays basis casts a strong shadow over conservative politics at all levels of government across Australia and beyond. It has been like this for generations. Commitment to the Corporate State was popular in conservative ranks during the Inter-War Period (1919-39) when governments of the leading democracies were largely from the dry conservative right until the launch of Roosevelt’s New Deal Programmes (1932-45) which applied Keynesian economics in its most primitive forms but also edged the world’s superpower towards economic nationalism through higher tariff levels.

The federal LNP continues its tinkering with the Australian economy in the most recent budget. On offering are politically tempting tax rebates backdated to 1 July 2020 in the federal budget on 5 October 2020 which are being delivered with bipartisan support in the senate.

 

 

What is not always revealed in eyewitness news coverage is the extent to which wealthy families are able to minimize their incomes with the best advice available from legal consultants and tax minimization accounting firms. Some of the wealthiest Australians enjoy full pensions and youth allowances for their young adult family members at university while others receive the full discipline of current means test arrangements as installed by the federal LNP in 2017.

The limitations of this tax relief during a time of economic recession shows up in the delivery or inadequate Medicare rebates to clinics who offer bulk-billing services and in the delivery of much needed home-care packages for elderly and disabled people. ABC News (7 October 2020) offered this feedback on the consequences of the federal LNP’s commitment to upper income welfare from Linda Sharrock works at the coal face of aged care, managing KompleteCare Community and Home Care service in Adelaide:

“We are absolutely delighted that there are new packages coming in the system, [but] 23,000 really will not make that much of an impact, especially being over four years,” she said.

“There’s 100,000 people waiting for packages at present. So [it’s] really not going to touch the sides.”

To receive funding for entry-level care, the wait time is three to six months, but once a person needs funding for the higher levels of care — the kind that means avoiding going into a home — it blows out to over a year.

In the past two years, 28,000 people have died waiting for their home care packages to come through.

That’s 5,000 more lives than the number of additional home care packages announced in the budget.

 

Package

Care needs Annual subsidy
1 Basic $8,845
2 Low $15,562
3 Intermediate $33,866
4 High $51,335

 

“The sad thing is that we’ve seen people that have passed away while waiting for their package, so they actually never get their package,” Ms Sharrock said.

“So over four years it’s likely that that could happen, that people will pass by waiting for support.”

 

The shadows of the federal LNP’s national economic policies affect states Queensland which receives about half of its total state revenue of approximately $60 billion in federal distribution of GST revenue which is always lowering during recessions and federal grants for the delivery of services like health and motorways. Policy detours by a state LNP government would wave on the conservative agendas during a time of economic stress and a regression towards user-pay principles for services like the use of motorways privatized by the previous LNP Government and sold off by Premier Campbell Newman to the Transurban Network from the Queensland Investment Corporation (QIC).

So how is Labor responding to the new conservative challenges from a combined Scott Morrison-Deb Frecklington Alliance with two LNP governments in control of state finances and a third LNP administration in control of the Brisbane City Council?

Day Two of the Queensland Election

The different priorities of the two major parties were reflected in their choice of major campaign venues during Day Two of Caretaker Mode.

Opposition Leader Frecklington visited Watkins Steel in the safe Labor electorate of Nudgee in Brisbane. Premier Palaszczuk campaigned in Mount Isa and headed off to Townsville from the safe Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) electorate of Traegar.

Opposition leader Deb Frecklington offered reduced power bills for companies large and small at a cost of almost $500 million while Premier Palaszczuk offered to extend the national electricity grid to North West Queensland at a cost of $1.8 billion (ABC News 6 October 2020).

Surprisingly, Caretaker Mode commenced with favourable YouGov polling results. A repeat of the bad polling results in late July would have been a very bad start.

Significantly, Labor’s primary vote has improved by 5 per cent to 37 per cent since the worst of soundings by YouGov on 7 June 2020. This translates to a 52-48 per cent result in favour of Labor after preferences (Images from PressReader Coverage of YouGov Polling):

 

 

This situation still translates into a tight election result as Labor support base has been eroded in some former heartland areas in Cairns, Townsville and parts of Outer Metro Brisbane.

Given the diversity of Queensland’s electoral regions, a 54-46 divide in favour of Labor is desirable with a Labor primary vote closer to 40 per cent is highly desirable. Despite the tailwinds assisting Premier Palaszczuk’s early campaigning efforts, there is always a possibility that polling could drift in Labor’s direction during the campaign (Images from PressReader of the YouGov Polling):

 

 

The maverick factor is of course possible damage from capital intensive campaigning on behalf of Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (UAP) in those difficult regional and outer metropolitan seats with high levels of economic and social stresses. Constituents in difficulties are being encouraged to vote against their real interests in the service of dry corporate ideology by this style of campaigning.

Campaigning in Traeger

With its extraordinary margin in favour of Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) from the 2017 state election, winning the remote regional seat of Traeger is more than a simple campaigning challenge. Images of the Premier’s good reception from mining and community leaders in Mt. Isa rapport with enthusiastic constituents is transmitted statewide on eyewitness news network. The visit to Mount Isa talked up financial commitments to the copper smelter, new road works, the appeal of economic diversification through tourism and trade training courses as well as new high voltage links to the national power grid in Townsville.

Premier Campbell Newman’s government had promised to privatize the Mount Isa rail link to its export terminal in Townsville. These antics added the removal of sleeping cars and dining services on the twice weekly Inlander train service to Mount Isa.

The NW Queensland seat of Traeger is the state’s second largest electorate covering 428,911 square kilometres in the north of the state. It runs along the Flinders Highway from Charters Towers through Hughenden, Julia Creek, Cloncurry to Mt Isa and on to the Northern Territory border. It also includes Burketown, Normanton, Karumba and the Aboriginal community on Mornington Island in the gulf country, as well as the old mining towns around Georgetown.

Here are the voting patterns in Traeger from the 2017 Queensland elections:

 

 

These candidates (below) had nominated by 5 October 2020. Labor has chosen a candidate from Mount Isa with great regional appeal and communication traction across Traegar as shown by comparisons between the three leaders with an interest in this seat. A candidate from the UAP has yet to emerge through the spinifex:

 

 

Traegar is a sunny haven during the cooler months and should be attracting more tourists when state borders are re-opened. Exotic destinations include Lawn Hill Gorge (Boodjamulla), ghost towns in the Cloncurry-Mt. Isa District, historic Charters Towers and Ravenswood, the Doomadgee Community with its splendid facilities for indigenous people, Century Zinc Mine and the vast reservoirs near Mount Isa for water sports.

Air fares are quite affordable to Cairns which has a high frequency of flights even during COVID-19 times. It is a comparatively short distance from Cairns and Townsville Airport to the exotic locations further west during the cooler months.

Bus Queensland operates excellent regional bus services with state subsidies and these need to be extended to cover the Mount Isa to Normanton route which is currently served by Trans North Buses to Cairns. Bus Queensland offers a $250 pass for ten days of travel which can and should connect more smoothly with existing train and bus services.

If many Australians knew of the ecological treasures awaiting them in Northern and North West Queensland it would become a real alternative to overseas travel during this COVID-19 times.

One enthusiastic supporter of James Bambrick’s campaign in Trager decided to table some strategies to offer more affordable public transport to such exotic North Queensland tourist destinations at a Town Hall Meeting in Townsville on 8 October 2020.

Fans of regional economics and statistical databases should take a look at the Regional Database which has been developed by Queensland Treasury. This site will generate a full economic and social profile on the electorate of Traegar and any other state electorate in seconds with statewide comparisons or other regional or local authority areas. The data can only be as recent as the 2016 Australian census. However, the results challenge some stereotypes about the extent of disadvantage which is actually much higher on the outskirts of large Queensland urban areas:

 

 

Do take advantage of this incredible resource from Queensland Treasury which needs to be extended to other states and territories where this product is not available. It is a vital resource for teachers at secondary and tertiary levels. It is available through Queensland Regional Profiles.

For better political analysis, it should also be extended to federal electorates to challenge some of the rhetorical interpretations offered by both elected leaders and some of the trite data which is publicized in opinion polls as feedback from the community on social reality.

Mining had assisted in containing social disadvantage in North West Queensland when the resources boom was still in vogue at census time in 2016.

The election of the Palaszczuk Government saved the privatization of the Mount Isa to Townsville freight line.

Now Premier Palaszczuk has left Mount Isa with a commitment to the diversification of its resource and tourist base. There were promises of support for the Mount Isa smelter and the connection of Mount Isa to the National Power Grid.

 

Image: The North West Star 7 October 2020 – (L-R): ALP Traeger candidate James Bambrick, treasurer Cameron Dick, Incitec Pivot’s Peter Ware, premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Glencore’ Matt O’Neill.

 

These visits not only help good local candidates like James Bambrick of Mount Isa. The Premier’s heroic efforts are conveniently also transmitted by eyewitness news networks to more winnable seats across the length and breadth of Queensland.

Raising Labor’s profile with a primary vote of over 40 per cent requires big existential effort as the Premier moves to localities with highly marginal seats.

Anecdotes about the antics of one term LNP Governments are always helpful in reminding voters about the political detours which caused disasters under the LNP one-term governments of Premier Arthur Moore (1929-32) and Campbell Newman (2012-15).

Political rhetoric is not a valued commodity in regional and outer metropolitan areas under social and economic stresses. I saw the audience warming to old Queensland songs to cheer on a member of the Ryan family who was celebrating her 100th birthday at Caboolture in January 2020.

The Labor Police Minister Mark Ryan joined in the singing of Beautiful, Beautiful Queensland on behalf of Sheila Lynch who had lived with her family near that new Tinaroo falls Dam and Mareeba-Dimbulah Irrigation District in the early 1950s when Labor had a state-wide primary vote of 53.21 per cent at the 1953 election.

There is no shortage of music for Bluetooth sound systems at BBQs and speaker vans to revive the old Labor spirit at a time when 80 per cent of Queenslanders were members of trade unions.

I looked through the You Tube repertoire and picked out some other Queensland classics to add a touch of frivolity to a heavy article about life in difficult times

Diverse Musical Genres: Better than a Million Words of Campaign Rhetoric: All Accessible Through YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/watch? (Torres Strait Music)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AW1JkjK8nlE (Torres Strait Music from Parramatta SS Cairns)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKodav_AZaE (Indigenous Music)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nN-542IYoE0 ( (Didgeridoo Music)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTG7HOVIahs&list=RDUTG7HOVIahs&start_radio=1 (Ian Moss favourite)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZ-P_unvrFs (Sunlander song from Slim Duty)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05Dsq9xmz-s (Life is Great in the Sunshine State 1959 Version)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zn_vz2yJ2jM (Beautiful Queensland with Tex Morton 1940 Version)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g86j_ud6ZUk (Queenslander Anthem)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqtttbbYfSM (Waltzing Matilda with Slim Dusty)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7TrRqv-flU (G’Day from the late Slim Duty)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wP1_7Ljlnb8 (Slim Dusty Medley)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdu7krSkCLY (Slim Dusty with Lights on the Hill)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TY8PFgCPyx4 (Moreton Bay Folk Song)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBnVUL5gjWQ (Standard Lyrics of the Gundagai Song)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7ANgTJDNsk (Song for Bundaberg and Bert Hinkler)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glIEEIijDJQ (When John Bradfield Designed the Sydney Harbour Bridge to be Opened by Premier Jack Lang in 1932)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_835ZddBvc (Story Bridge Song)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bIJV8gaBK4 (Pub with No Beer with Slim Duty)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSgv3fYG8FY (Marching Back to Dusseldorf 1815 Version to the Tune of Marching Through Rochester and remarkably like the Waltzing Matilda Beat).

Denis Bright is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to citizen’s journalism from a critical structuralist perspective. Comments from insiders with a specialist knowledge of the topics covered are particularly welcome.

 

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10 comments

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  1. Daphne

    A bit of harmless nostalgia for a heavy topic.
    Hope Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk receives a thumping majority to continue her work.

  2. Pablo

    Queensland is well equipped to survive the current lock-down because of the diversity of its employment base with a new emphasis on tourism, retirement and interstate migration.

  3. Alpal

    “What is not always revealed in eyewitness news coverage is the extent to which wealthy families are able to minimize their incomes with the best advice available from legal consultants and tax minimization accounting firms. Some of the wealthiest Australians enjoy full pensions and youth allowances for their young adult family members at university while others receive the full discipline of current means test arrangements as installed by the federal LNP in 2017.”

    Truth, except for word playing “eyewitness news coverage” instead of “Mainstream Media” (aka Murderoch!)

  4. New England Cocky

    Dirty Debbie Freckles suffers from political irrelevance when compared to the decisive actions taken by AP during this COVID-19 pandemic. Queenslanders still remember the cut slash & burn ideological policies of the Nazional$ Liarbrals under Campbell Newman and few would look forward to a repeat performance under Fuhrer Freckles.

  5. Leila

    Denis seems to welcome favourable opinion polls. What would have happened if the results of the June poll 2020 were repeated as so many expected.

  6. Tessa_M

    Good start to the campaign in Mount Isa. Thanks for the update Denis.

  7. James Robo

    With international destinations off-limits Queensland is the place to spend the winter.

  8. wam

    It will take a lnp miracle to defeat labor with such bullshit budget to laugh at!!!!
    Miracle???? Oops where is boobby and brandt???

  9. Ivy

    Denis, thank you for a great well-researched article.

  10. rubio@coast

    Campturing the Queensland Spirit and extending it to include indigenous and torres strait island communities is so important
    there in local politics.

    There is a similar challenge here in NSW. Many from the new generation are completely unaware of the exploits of
    Paul Keating, Bob Carr or even Jack Lang. So many are proudly non-voters and not even enrolled to vote.

    Our state Labor leaders in NSW gave decades of stable government with the delivery of best practce in transport, health, low cost housing and affordable electricity with a commitment to on the job and TAFE training in workplaces.

    I like the intrusion of music over those miles of political rhetoric. Popular lyrics for the opening of our Harbour Bridge brought the event into every household.

    Sydney never got its extensive Northshore railway extensions in the 1930s after the sacking of Jack Lang by the autocratic NSW Governor Sir Philip Game in 1932 before his promotion to Commissioner of London Police in 1935.

    At least Folks from Manly Gay got favourable mention in the Harbour Bridge song on the play list provided in Denis’ article: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glIEEIijDJQ: A good musical option for your next fancy-dress BBQ or evening gathering.

    MPs like Anthony Albanese, Linda Burney and Kristina Keneally now carry on Labor’s traditions in a new phase of troubled times while the LNP at all levels wants a return to boring normalacy with elites in control in the style of Sir Philip Game of old.

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