As Beattie continues into a fourth term in a victory most commentators are describing as a two-term, questions are being asked within the Coalition camp as to how it all went so wrong.
Conventional wisdom held that this election should have been that with trouble in key portfolios such as health and water, Labor would have been on the nose. They had lost three seats in by-elections (the Brisbane seats of Chatsworth and Redcliffe and the Gold Coast seat of Gaven) held in August 2005 and April 2006, suggesting widespread discontent with the ALP. The Bundaberg hospital scandal, where overseas-trained surgeon Dr Jayant Patel had been found by a public inquiry to be guilty of gross incompetence and responsible for the deaths of 13 patients, also significantly damaged the Government’s public perception, while a recent referendum result in Toowoomba and public anger in Gympie and Noosa suggested the Government’s water plans were in trouble.
However, a series of missteps and gaffes plagued the Liberal/National coalition’s campaign. Problems within the coalition itself – including uncertainty as to the precise coalition arrangements and the ousting of the popular Liberal leader a week before the campaign was declared did not help their attempts to promote themselves as an effective alternative government.
Early in the count, the ABC rather enthusiastically declared several candidates as the minor rural and hospital booths reported their results.
In the end result, it appears Labor have reversed their by-election losses, and made gains in unexpected areas. Most commentators are predicting that Labor have won between 59 and 61 seats out of 89 in the single-house parliament. They have only lost the Sunshine Coast seat of Kawana at this stage, and are ahead on counting in inner-urban Clayfield, a seat divided between wealthy and working-class areas not unlike the Perth federal seat of Swan.
Independents haven’t done too well this time around. Former Labor MP Cate Molloy in Noosa, and ex-One Nation two-term MP Elisa Roberts in Gympie (whose notable contribution to this campaign was changing her mind repeatedly as to whether to run or not) lost their seats to the Nationals, while Dolly Pratt in inner-rural Nanango narrowly fought off a challenge from John Bjelke-Petersen (son of Joh) in his home town. Only One Nation’s Rosa Lee Long in the (Atherton) Tablelands seat picked up a swing.
Meanwhile, two possible ALP seat gains must carry the sweet taste of revenge – Gladstone, held by Independent Liz Cunningham who in 1996 handed government to the Nationals’ Rob Borbidge, and Robina, until this election held by former Liberal leader Bob Quinn, who had retired.
Both Lawrence Springborg, the Opposition Leader, and Bruce Flegg, the Liberal leader, offered concession speeches. Figures within the Liberal and National parties told ABC radio that there will be considerable soul-searching in the following week as to why the Nationals failed to pick up the protest vote. Elisa Roberts’ speech was both shorter and less political in tone – openly acknowledging she wasn’t wanted by the voters and announcing her intention to write a book which would “make The Latham Diaries look like Play School”. Peter Beattie was gracious in victory, acknowledging that it probably wasn’t so much an endorsement of his government as a decisive last chance to fix Queensland’s problems.
The ABC election computer, as with most state campaigns, was excessively referred to in ABC coverage, a fact not lost on the South Australian blogger behind Adam’s Diary, providing a fitting and amusing graphic to wrap up this bizarre 26-day campaign.
(Originally written for perthnorg)