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Long wait for voters unhappy with Bligh

By Graham Young - posted Tuesday, 15 December 2009


Assuming Anna Bligh's government runs its full term, the 2012 Queensland election looks like being the second act of this year's state poll.

Bligh narrowly survived Act I, but the omens are that she and many of her supporting cast will perish by the time the curtain falls.

It is shaping to be one of those finales where the prevailing order will be swept away, judging by the views of the 679 Queenslanders who responded to our latest What the People Want qualitative poll. In Queensland the times are definitely out of joint.

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The Labor vote has fractured since the election and while it is difficult to tell how big the swing may be on the basis of a qualitative sample, like-on-like results infer about a 5 per cent swing against the government. They also show that only 50 per cent of those who say they voted Labor last election would do so again at the next election, with 28 per cent defecting to the Greens.

A swing of this magnitude would transfer 19 seats to the opposition. You have to look back to before the Goss election of 1989 for a paradigm shift of the kind we can expect next time. That puts about another eight to 10 seats within reach of the opposition.

In 1993 Paul Keating won his “sweetest victory of all” because John Hewson's opposition successfully made itself the issue through its GST policy and because Keating promised “L-A-W law tax cuts”. Later, when Keating broke the tax promise, voters felt they had been taken for mugs. They couldn't wait until 1996 to replay the election and get it right.

This year Bligh did something similar. She went into the last week of the election apparently behind, which encouraged voters to think about the opposition as government. Labor produced a string of ads targeting then opposition leader Lawrence Springborg. Electors decided the opposition was too big a risk.

Bligh made many promises to buy electoral support. She would retain the 8c a litre Queensland fuel rebate and would borrow and spend to see the state through the financial crisis.

But once elected Bligh suddenly discovered that financial matters were much worse than she had imagined. Courageous borrowing was off the table; the fuel rebate abolished and state-owned assets were tagged for sale.

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Just as there was little doubt all through 1994 and 1995 what voters would do to Keating in 1996, there is little doubt that Queenslanders are just waiting to do the same thing to Bligh. The baseball bats have come back out of the cupboard.

Bligh knows this and this week tried backpedalling by promising to lease, not sell, assets and to make shares in Queensland Rail available to residents. These manoeuvres are likely to be in vain because, as with Keating in 1996, she has lost the trust of the electorate.

Several themes came through strongly in our research. Those who most disapproved of Bligh cited her “lies” and their perception that she was arrogant and “doesn't listen”.

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First published in The Australian on December 12, 2009.



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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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