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Peter Beattie's big chill

By John Black - posted Tuesday, 13 September 2005

Demographic profiling of the by-election results in Chatsworth and Redcliffe shows the average 12.1 per cent anti-Labor net swing masked even more fundamental re-alignments of the state and federal Labor votes in Queensland.

This was no normal by-election where about 5 per cent of voters register a protest against an incumbent.

Instead, the research shows that the state Liberals tapped into Smart State voter disenchantment with Team Beattie's seven years of failure to deliver basic services to Queenslanders. The Labor campaign was only marginally effective in countering this swing by exploiting blue-collar opposition, presumably to federal Liberal moves to change industrial relations laws.


The research - by Australian Development Strategies - began with a sample of 23 comparable booths, in the combined electorates.

The key political variables were the primary ALP votes and the primary anti-ALP votes. In 2005, the primary Labor vote ranged from 26.4 per cent at Bally Cara, in Redcliffe, to 59.1 per cent at Tingalpa, in Chatsworth, and the primary vote anti-Labor swings ranged from a low of 4.92 per cent at Tingalpa (the strongest Labor booth) up to 18.64 per cent in Belmont, Chatsworth.

It's worth noting that the biggest anti-Labor swing, in Belmont, took it from the 15th-strongest ALP booth out of the 23 in 2004, at 50.8 per cent, to second last, in 2005, on 31.4 per cent.

Belmont was also the biggest booth in the sample, recording more than one-fifth of the Chatsworth booth votes and there are demographically identical booths all over southeast Queensland, in the outer suburbs and north and south coasts.

Belmont was the last booth in the seat to be counted on by-election night, and tipped the outcome to former Liberal councillor Michael Caltabiano, who polled a primary vote of 62.2 per cent.

This was a primary vote 4 per cent higher than fellow federal Liberal Ross Vasta received at the federal poll last October, when a Coalition Queensland vote of 49.2 per cent translated into 22 out of 28 federal seats.


The reason for the enormous disparity in primary votes, between federal and state Labor in Queensland, of 34.8 per cent and 47 per cent respectively, has been the Smart State Labor voters who deserted the state Liberals in 2001 after One Nation imploded, but stuck with John Howard's Liberals.

On August 20, at the Chatsworth and Redcliffe by-elections, there was an average anti-Labor primary swing of 12.1 per cent and the correlations between these anti-Labor swings in the 23 by-election booths is like a demographic who's who of Smart State voters.

They are professional and para-professional men, skilled clerical women (typically personal assistants), graduates and postgraduates, the highly paid, architects, university students, owners of homes with high mortgages, workers in property and finance and lots of Cantonese and Mandarin speaking Chinese, from Malaysia, Hong Kong and China, along with Greeks and Italians.

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First published as 'Numbers up' in The Courier-Mail on September 7, 2005.

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About the Author

John Black is a former Labor Party senator and chief executive of Australian Development Strategies.

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