The guessing game is finally over, with Queensland Premier Campbell Newman, today calling a snap election for Saturday 31 January 2015
. The Premier’s announcement not only caught the Opposition off-guard but many of his own team, who scrambled to return from holidays.
Acting Governor Chief Justice Tim Carmody agreed to the Premier’s request to dissolve the 89-seat Legislative Assembly and issue the writs for what will be a short 26 day election campaign.
In his pitch for a second term, Campbell Newman said the Liberal National Party had a ‘Strong Team with a Strong Plan for a Stronger Queensland’. The LNP will use the election to seek a mandate to lease the State’s power and port assets which it says will provide financial certainty into the future and funds to improve vital services and build essential infrastructure.
Newman led the LNP to a historic victory in 2012, with the Party now holding a massive 73 seats in Parliament, down from the 78 seats it initially won. During its first term, three MPs – Ray Hopper (Condamine), Carl Judge (Yeerongpilly) and Alex Douglas (Gaven) – defected, while MPs Chris Davis (Stafford) and Scott Driscoll (Redcliffe) resigned. The Labor Party then won these seats with swings of 17 and 18 per cent against the LNP in what were considered historic by-election victories.
After being reduced to just seven seats in 2012, Labor now goes to the election with nine seats after Redcliffe and Stafford by-election wins. Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk, who has been buoyed by recent opinion polls showing Labor neck-and-neck with the Government, welcomed the announcement of the election, saying “Labor is ready, we will be focusing on jobs and jobs creation.”
The minor parties
Katter’s Australia Party (KAP) currently hold three seats in Parliament following the defection of Hopper from the LNP – he will contest the neighbouring LNP electorate of Nanango, with his son Ben endorsed as KAP’s candidate in Condamine.
Despite also securing LNP defectors Douglas and Judge, the Palmer United Party (PUP) goes into this election with no seats and will be led by John Bjelke-Petersen, son of Queensland’s longest serving Premier, Sir Joh. Bjelke-Petersen will contest the electorate of Callide, currently held by Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney.
The Greens will focus on the inner city electorates of Brisbane Central, Mount Coo-tha, South Brisbane and Indooroopilly, where they have traditionally polled well.
Rounding out the list of prominent candidates, Pauline Hanson will make another attempt to re-enter Parliament, contesting the LNP-held seat of Lockyer.
Despite polling showing the major parties heading into the election are at 50:50 on a two-party preferred basis, Labor needs to win 36 seats to govern in its own right; it would take the loss of 32 seats for the LNP to lose its majority.
It’s fair to say that the leafy Brisbane electorate of Ashgrove will be closely watched. Held by Newman (5.7%), the Premier will again square-off against former Bligh Government Minister Kate Jones, in what polls are indicating will be a tight race. Asked about his chances of retaining his seat, the Premier said today ‘I won’t be winning Ashgrove if we don’t win the State - and vice versa.”
Labor will focus its efforts on key seats lost in South East Queensland in 2012, including Bulimba, Waterford, Lytton, Yeerongpilly, Greenslopes, Nudgee and Sandgate. It’s also expected to target former heartland seats in north Queensland, such as Cairns, Cook, Townsville and Thuringowa.
The LNP will attempt to hold as many seats as possible, with several first time MPs impressing the party organisation with their campaigning skills during the term. The Government will also seek to regain seats lost to PUP and KAP defectors, including Gaven, Condamine and Dalrymple.
Now that the campaign race has officially begun, Queenslanders can expect a fast and furious sprint to the finish line. And if Queensland history repeats itself, voters can expect some surprises along the way.
In the tradition of renewal, both the Government and Opposition will farewell some of their most experienced members at this election, including “Father of the House”, Howard Hobbs, who was elected in 1986 as a member of Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s National Party team. Other retiring MPs include:
- Ted Malone MP, Assistant Minister for Emergency Services (Mirani, 10.6%)
- Vaughan Johnson MP, Chief Whip (Gregory, 27%)
- Rosemary Menkens MP, Senior Whip and Party Room Secretary (Burdekin, 17.1%)
- Peter Dowling (Redlands, 20.9%)
- Dr Bruce Flegg (Moggill, 23.9%)
- David Gibson MP (Gympie, 27.3%)
- Howard Hobbs MP (Warrego, 30.1%)
- Desley Scott MP, Deputy Opposition Whip and Shadow Minister for Community Services and Child Safety, Mental Health, Women and Seniors, Multicultural Affairs (Woodridge, 5.45%)
Several Labor MPs who lost seats in the 2012 LNP landslide will again run at this election. Despite facing criticism from the LNP that Labor was “reforming the gang”, Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk, has welcomed their possible return saying they are essential to Labor’s future.
Former Attorneys-General Cameron Dick and Kerry Shine will run again, with Dick moving from his former inner Brisbane-based electorate of Greenslopes to the safe Labor seat of Woodridge on the city’s outskirts following Desley Scott’s retirement. Shine will again contest Toowoomba North, a seat he previously held from 2001 to 2012.
Former Infrastructure Minister Stirling Hinchliffe – who held Stafford for two terms – will contest the neighbouring seat of Sandgate, previously one of Labor’s safest seats until it was won by the LNP’s Kerry Millard with a 15% swing.