Malcolm Turnbull

Shorten fights hard to capture Qld hearts

Bill Shorten spends significant election campaign time in Queensland, reflecting how important the state is to Labor's efforts to win government.

Just in case anyone got the wrong impression this week: Bill Shorten does not, repeat not, want to be Queensland premier.

But given that a state election campaign typically runs for three weeks it's entirely possible that by July 2 the federal opposition leader could well have spent as much time on the trail north of Tweed to have run for the job.

Mr Shorten broke the usual fly-in, fly-out mould of federal election campaigning this week with a four-day trek through northern and central Queensland, working hard to win over voters in a string of must-win seats for Labor.

Indeed he only left the state for a debate with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in western Sydney, after failing in his effort to have the debate held in Townsville, and has promised to be a frequent visitor over the next seven weeks.

His rival could hardly be said to have ignored the state either, Mr Turnbull spending two days in southeast Queensland at the start of the week.

But it's something of a lopsided contest: Mr Shorten needs to win seats in Queensland for Labor to win government, Mr Turnbull just needs to hold them.

Labor holds just six of the state's 26 electorates, making it an obvious place to pick up a large chunk of the 19 seats it needs to win the election.

But Griffith University politics lecturer Paul Williams warns that with 12 of the LNP's 18 seats held by a margin of more than six per cent, Labor will probably fall short of its ambitious goal to win a dozen seats in Queensland.

"There are so many seats that Labor can theoretically pick up but a lot of them are over that six per cent mark, which makes me think Labor might fall short," he said.

And he questioned whether Queensland was any more significant to the election result than states like NSW, South Australia and Western Australia where Labor also hoped to pick up seats.

"Queensland is obviously an important state but the same case can be made elsewhere."

However, Labor can still expect to make up at least some ground in the Sunshine State, including Capricornia in Central Queensland and Petrie in Brisbane's outer north which are both held by a margin of less than one per cent.

Dr Williams also expects the party to pick up the Townsville-based seat of Herbert - where Mr Shorten spent two nights this week - despite it being held by the conservative side of politics for 20 years and incumbent Ewen Jones sitting on a margin of 6.2 per cent.

"Herbert is definitely winnable. I expect that to fall to Labor," he said.

"It's an area that is facing very significant challenges and there's a mood for change."

The Coalition is also under threat in the seat of Brisbane, where sitting member Teresa Gambaro is retiring, while Labor is hoping to pick up the southeast Brisbane seats of Forde and Bonner, both of which it won in 2007 and lost three years later.

But Dr Williams said Labor couldn't take the seats it already held for granted, despite reports sitting MPs in the state would be left to their own devices.

The first stop on Mr Turnbull's tour through the state was Brisbane's Rocklea markets, in the seat of Moreton, which Labor holds by less than two per cent.

"Labor figures will need to be spending time in seats like (Moreton)," Dr Williams said.

And he said the shaky Queensland government, albeit led by a popular Labor premier in Annastacia Palaszczuk, wasn't doing the party any favours ahead of July 2.

"Because the tide is out for the LNP, Labor should increase its margin in seats like that but they are vulnerable because you've got a state Labor government that isn't winning hearts and minds, and a federal Labor leader that isn't winning hearts and minds."

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