The big issues, new voting rules, and why Pauline Hanson’s One Nation could hold the key to power.
Queensland’s 3.16 million voters go to the polls today to decide if incumbent Labor premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will be returned after one term of minority government or if it will swing back to the Liberal National Party (LNP) led by Tim Nicholls.
The Pauline Hanson / One Nation factor could decide the outcome of the 2017 State General Election. If, as expected, there is a tight result dependent on preference flows, it could be weeks before a new government is declared.
1. Will One Nation win more seats?
With Ms Hanson’s party polling strongly and no major party expected to get a clear majority, One Nation along with Bob Katter’s Australia Party (KAP) could well hold the key to power.
One Nation is polling up to 30 per cent in some electorates and is expected to win seats. Pundits have generously tipped that up to 11 seats could go to One Nation, which would match the 1998 election result.
The party is directing preference away from sitting members from both major parties in most seats, which is expected in many cases would still favour the LNP. The KAP currently holds two seats and could pick up a third.
2. Where are the key seats?
Both Labor and the LNP fear they will lose seats to One Nation, with voters disillusioned by the Brisbane-centric politics of the parties. Labor must try to hold onto coastal seats and pick up others to form a majority government, but polling shows regional tradition strongholds are weakening.
Labor is reportedly on track to retain one its most marginal seat of Mansfield and possibly take Whitsunday and Gaven from the LNP. One Nation is polling strongly in Labor’s most marginal seat Bundaberg, while also recording almost 30 per cent in Labor-held Ipswich West and Thuringowa and preferences could deliver them to the LNP.
3. What are the key issues?
High unemployment and cost of living pressures especially outside the south-east of the state are a particular focus but one issue has dominated the campaign from the start: the proposed Adani mega-coal mine in central Queensland.
Adani promises jobs, especially to the central and North Queensland region which have been in the economic doldrums since the end of the mining boom. Opponents warn of the environmental impact from burning the low-grade coal it would produce and its contribution to climate change. Opinion polling shows most people oppose Adani receiving $1billon in taxpayer funding for its railway line, which saw Labor vowing to veto such a loan from the federal government.
Recent figures show Queensland is enjoying the strongest growth in employment in Australia. Cost of living issues largely centre around the price of electricity. Under both Labor and the previous LNP government power charges have gone up.
4. How has voting changed this year?
There are two significant changes to the electoral process, the introduction of compulsory preferential voting introduced by Labor and a wide-ranging redistribution of the electoral boundaries.The shift from optional to compulsory preferential voting means voters must now number every box on the ballot paper or it could be ruled informal.
This change introduced by Labor last year to allegedly benefit from Greens preferences now gives One Nation its strong hand in deciding the next government. A redistribution has increased the size of parliament by four electorates taking it to 93 seats and the renaming and redrawing of boundaries has seen many long establish electorates demographic upended.
For more details of local boundary reviews and how to vote, visit the Electoral Commission Queensland's website.
5. One to watch: Cynthia Lui
The first Torres Strait Islander elected to an Australian state or federal parliament could win in the tradition Labor stronghold of Cook. Cynthia Lui is the daughter of veteran Islander politician Getano Lui Jnr and is running for Labor in the seat that takes in Cape York and the Torres Strait. It is the electorate with the largest number of Indigenous voters in the state, making up more than 30 percent of the roll.
And that's not all:
- Queensland’s most multicultural seat is Stretton, in the south-east of Brisbane, where half the population was born overseas. Stretton has traditionally been held by the government of the day for the past two decades.
- The Greens could secure their first ever seat in Queensland by ousting incumbent deputy premier Jackie Trad through a backlash over Labor’s support for the Adani mine.
- Buderim is the only seat currently held by One Nation through the defection of Steve Dickson from the LNP earlier this year but it is expected to be won by an opponent from his old party.
- Lockyer is expected to be the seat most likely for One Nation to win. The sitting LNP member has retired and only just defeated Pauline Hanson in the 2015 poll.