Queenslanders will finally head to the polls on Saturday 25th November after months of speculation about the election date. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk visited Government House yesterday to call the election and kick the campaign off. Both Palaszczuk and Liberal National Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls have already made their initial pitch to voters.
Their election platforms can best be described as vague. Palaszczuk said she wants to focus on uniting Queenslanders and providing business certainty. She has used every opportunity to reminder voters of the Campbell Newman government of which Tim Nicholls was the Treasurer which was turfed out after one term.
Tim Nicholls has responded by saying the Liberal National Party has learned from the mistakes of the past and is focusing on a positive agenda of jobs, support for small businesses and investment in education and infrastructure. He has accused the Palaszczuk of being a do-nothing government which is beholden to the trade union movement.
Through the rhetoric of both leaders they are eager to ignore the One Nation factor this election. One Nation through the various opinion polls of the last year have polled on average in between 15-20% of the primary vote. Many commentators are predicting One Nation could hold the balance of power post-election and neither Labor or the Liberal Nationals would be able to govern in their own right.
Both leaders are refusing to do any deal with One Nation with regard to preferences and to form government. Annastacia Palaszczuk has claimed the alternative to Labor is a “cobbled-together LNP-One Nation government that will cut frontline services, sack frontline staff and sell our electricity assets”.
Both the Coalition and One Nation know the damage that can be done by appearing to work together. The preference deal One Nation struck with the Liberals in the Western Australian state election was seen to disadvantage both parties.
Although many believe One Nation to be a right-wing party and the natural partner of the Liberals and Nationals this is not the view of those who vote for One Nation. Its voters include many working-class Labor voters who thought the Western Australian deal was a betrayal of One Nation’s position as an anti-establishment party.
One Nation Steve Dickson has also made the party’s initial pitch to voters with its key commitments building a new coal fired power station in North Queensland and the construction of a new dam. They also want to abolish the Safe Schools program in the state and reprioritize infrastructure projects to regional Queensland.
One Nation federal leader Pauline Hanson has called Annastacia Palaszczuk cowardly for calling the election while she is out of the country, given that the presence of Hanson on the campaign trail would have likely increased One Nation’s support.
Seems a cowardly Anna Palaszczuk decided to wait until I was out of the country to cancel on her grandma & call a snap election-PH #qldpol
— Pauline Hanson (@PaulineHansonOz) October 28, 2017
However their state campaign has been bolstered with ineligible One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts now being the party’s candidate for seat of Ipswich which is in One Nation heartland.
Steve Dickson also stated that Palaszczuk’s decision to call an election when she claimed she wasn’t planning to have left One Nation with less candidates than it would have hoped for and it will not be able to stand in all 93 electorates. In the lead up to the election campaign it has lost several candidates which has not helped.
But despite these setbacks for One Nation and the effort by the major parties to make the minor party invisible in the campaign they should never be underestimated. The party won 11 out of 89 seats at the 1998 Queensland state election although it was not enough to hold the balance of power.
It is going to be a close election with both leaders and their policies not giving voters much to be inspired about. With nation’s energy crisis still a prominent issue Labor is still proceeding with its investments in renewable energy and a 50% renewable energy target, but as we have seen this is still not satisfying the left who want her to stop the Adarni coal mine and are making a concerted effort to interpret her events on the campaign trail. The Liberal National Party seems to have abandoned prudent budget management as it won’t take the axe to the public service which has once again become bloated under a Labor government.
It may be in this state election more than ever that both major parties will feel the wrath of voters and if they really want to take power they will have to deal with the fact that many people voted for an alternative in the form of One Nation and that its party policies need to be considered.