Revenge Of The Banana Benders

That’s how people in other states of Australia refer to Queenslanders. The state election on March 24, resulting in the biggest electoral loss for the Australian Labor Party in any election since the Second World War, says much about the people of this very enigmatic place, but has profound implications for Labor federally, and democracy in Australia more broadly.

The government of Premier Anna Bligh, which after the 2009 election held 51 of the 89 seats in the Brisbane parliament, have been reduced to a rump of probably only seven seats (currently eight, but Bligh herself resigned from parliament after the election, forcing the voters of her seat of South Brisbane to an immediate by-election, which Labor is sure to lose); a figure so low that under Queensland electoral law, they no longer even qualify as a political party for electoral purposes, starving them of funds at the next election. The Liberal-National Party (formed in 2008 by the merger at state level of the two parties which form the federal conservative Coalition), led by 48-year old former Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman, have made a near clean sweep, winning 78 seats, or 88% of the vote; to all intents and purposes, that’s a one-party state.

“Can-do Campbell” as he became known during his mayoral term, an ex-army major and the son of two former federal government ministers from Tasmania, took the daring and unprecedented step of resigning the Lord Mayoralty and assumed the leadership of the state Opposition while not holding a seat in parliament. Spurning the safe LNP seat of Moggill in Brisbane’s south-west, he instead nominated for pre-selection of the neighbouring seat of Ashgrove, held by Labor’s Kate Jones with a margin of over 7%. This meant that potentially, the LNP could win government but Newman himself would be left out of parliament, and in fact out of politics entirely. As it transpired, Newman took Ashgrove comfortably, with a swing against Labor of 13.8%.

Victorious: new Queensland Premier Campbell Newman

Historically, Labor have themselves to blame for the current civic arrangements. The Queensland Parliament, founded in 1860, was like all other states a bicameral parliament. However, the upper house (the Legislative Council) was viewed in the early days of Federation (more or less correctly) as a vehicle for patronage and the tool of wealthy landowners, in a state slightly larger than Alaska, or seven times larger than the United Kingdom. Having gained an upper-house majority for the first time in 1919, Labor Premier “Red Ted” Theodore organized his famous “suicide squad”, who in 1921 voted the Legislative Council out of existence. Despite entreaties of other political parties to the British government (specifically, the Colonial Secretary, Winston Churchill) it was decided the matter of Queensland’s constitutional arrangements was “essentially one for determination locally”. This resulted in Queensland becoming Australia’s first (and to date, only) unicameral state parliament (the territorial parliaments of the ACT and NT have always been unicameral).

This has important consequences arising from the electoral result in Queensland. Historically, in Australian state elections where one party has won a large majority in the lower house (Legislative Assembly), voters have tended to temper their enthusiasm with a more balanced vote in the Legislative Council. In the next Queensland parliament, however, Newman’s word is going to be uncontested law, for the next few years at least. The upside of this is there will be absolutely no legislative gridlock in the Sunshine State for the foreseeable future, enabling the LNP’s reformist platform to be implemented swiftly and effectively.

On the other hand, it has opened the way for calls for action on more controversial matters outside the LNP platform; matters which probably could only be seriously aired in a circumstance such as this. For example, there are calls for Newman to establish a full Parliamentary Inquiry into the Heiner Affair, about which LibertyGibbert will have more to say later this year. Further out, others, sensing a window of opportunity, are calling for issues like the re-introduction of the death penalty to be put on the legislative agenda—not that there’s any prospect of that happening. The emergence of the slightly embarrassing Katter’s Australia Party, which won two seats from Labor (one of which, the mining town of Mt Isa, was won by Katter’s own son) ensures that noise, if not pressure, on these types of issues will continue, at least until 2015.

Parliament House, Brisbane: Australia's only unicameral state parliament

According to all polls and surveys, the Queensland election was decided on a mixture of state and federal issues. At a state level, voters punished the Bligh government for misleading them prior to the 2009 election on the issues of fuel rebates and asset sales. If for no other reason, lying to the electorate is a sin which has terminal repercussions for the Gillard government in Canberra. It would be over-egging the issue to say that the Queensland election was predominantly a referendum on Gillard’s Carbon Tax and Mining Super Profits Tax, but the fact remains that, along with Western Australia, Queenslanders stand to bear the brunt of these two undemocratic imposts, and have let their feelings be known in no uncertain terms. Labor’s power base in Queensland is overwhelmingly concentrated in the small urbanized south-east corner covering Brisbane and the Gold Coast, but in reality, primary industry still forms the backbone of Queensland’s economy, and the majority of Queenslanders work in these sectors or their support industries. The end result could be seen a mile off. After all, the Maroons are a passionate bunch:

This is the stark arithmetic reality facing Labor. Last week, ABC TV’s resident psephologist Antony Green projected the Queensland results onto the 2013 federal election. This is actually a complex exercise as state and federal electoral boundaries do not match and a best estimate must be compiled on a booth-by-booth basis. Green concluded that, were Queenslanders to repeat their voting patterns in next year’s federal election, Labor would win ZERO seats; all eight of Labor’s federal Lower House members from Queensland, including Treasurer Wayne Swan, former PM and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Trade Minister Craig Emerson, would be out on their arses. Labor wouldn’t be decimated, it would be completely wiped out—finished, for all time, as a political force in Queensland.

The reasons are many, and I have detailed them last year back here; but now many intellectuals of the Left are saying the same thing. Rodney Cavalier, former NSW state Education Minister and historian of the Labor Party, said as much following the equally disastrous 2011 NSW state election. So did leftist Professor Robert Manne in a surprisingly eloquent essay in The Monthly recently. Labor is crumbling from the bottom up. Whereas once every small town and suburb in the country had a branch of the ALP, by 2012 the majority of them have either closed or are functionally useless, being mere puppets of the state and federal executive. Pre-selection battles are a sham that Labor no longer even tries to disguise, being either rorted by branch-stacking or over-ruled at the executive level. Unless or until Labor once again becomes the grass-roots organisation it began as, and re-discovers its core beliefs, it will become a spent force in Australian politics—a profoundly dangerous development in our democracy, as I have argued previously. Nature abhors a vacuum, and the void left behind by Labor seems certain to be filled by a party which is effectively a coalition of unreconstructed Communists and the wackiest fringe of the Lunar Left. Behold the coming of the Little Green Men.

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11 Responses to Revenge Of The Banana Benders

  1. Helen A says:

    Maybe the death of the Tree of Knowledge a few years back was indeed an omen. The ALP was formed by striking shearers in 1891 under the shade of this tree, located in Barcaldine, QLD . So QLD was the birth and maybe the death place of the ALP.

    G’day Helen and welcome to LibertyGibbert. You might very well be right – Oz

  2. Mark says:

    My first reaction was relief although by the time we got to the ballot day there was no longer any doubt about the outcome, just the numbers.
    But I was relieved that the Qld’ers had maintained the rage and sought to punish a government that was only in power because it had previously and cynically lied in a previous election. This has now become almost the modus operandi for Labor. We saw it with Bligh and the 2009 election, we saw it with Keatings L-A-W tax cuts, and most famously we’ve seen it with the CO2 tax ‘promise’.
    My feeling is that the Labor leaders have nothing but contempt for their main constituency, being the working class, which was of course its raison d’etre in the golden age. Ever since Richardson convinced Hawke to go after the ‘green’ vote, Labor has been pulled between two competing groups and trying to keep all the balls in the air. But in those days (mid 1980’s) the Labor leadership still had an affiliation with the workers and, through Hawke, a genuine affection for them.
    Now, the Labor leadership is made up of people who have no understanding of the working class, and have themselves come out of a university/middle class background and instinctively align with the green side of their conundrum. They know they need to hold the workers in order to remain relevance but, they don’t respect those who aspire to a McMansion and 2.3 kids.
    Because they don’t respect them they think they can con them…that they can get away with pulling the wool over their eyes. You’d have thought they would have learned their lesson from the L-A-W issue in ’96 but they convinced themselves that Howard’s win was due to other factors. Carr on the other hand, won a series of elections by telling a series of smaller lies, promising this and that road/rail link etc, over and over and still able to win. But he knew the jig was up and got out long before the faecal matter hit the cooling device. But his success reinforced the view that, if you just did whatever it took to win, you could paper over the lies later.
    So Bligh had no real compunction against blatantly misleading Qld’ers in 09. It was, in their view, the thing to do. It’s a relief that the electorate first of all felt the rage of being taken for fools and then maintained it for 3 years because this type of thing needs to be excised from the Australian body politic.
    Although not in the same league, I’d say that at least part of the fury against Howard in 2007 was to do with him implementing Workchoices without seeking a mandate.
    One would hope that, if the electorate maintains the rage all the way through to the end of next year vis a vis the CO2 tax, then an entire generation or two of pollies will have finally learned a lesson that will benefit the entire nation for decades to come.
    If, on the other hand, Gillard pulls it off and stays in power, an alternate lesson will be learned and absorbed not just by the left but also by the Liberals and elections will cease to have any meaning other than as a contest between talking heads…Australian Idol in macro.
    So well done to the Qld’ers and let’s hope that the rest of the nation emulates them whenever we finally get the Labor/Green alliance to face the music.

    Excellent analysis Mark; one with which I suspect the more perspicacious Labor analysts would agree, and will reveal itself with relentless certainty over the next twenty months – Oz

  3. Kitler says:

    What I don’t understand is why the Labor party is so intent on electoral suicide, is 2012 the end of the world and they don’t care? A smart politician would ask themselves okay we screwed up on Carbon tax etc so best to go before the electorate beg for forgiveness tell them you listened and repeal it thus under cutting the opposition. However it will be the usual suspects power, money and control and pride stopping them from seeing what they are doing wrong.

  4. Well I’m not surprised. So, like Kitler I have to ask the same question?…..If 2012 really is the end of the world, do I have time to book a luxury cruise on a liner that doesn’t have an Italian captain?

    Cunard run down here at least once a year. See the picture at the top? Take a look. Then book – Oz 😉

  5. I am no stranger to Cunard Oz. The QE2 was a grand Liner (not a cruise ‘ship’, like the Italian flat bottom floating hotels……. A Liner.) But the new queens are grand ships, and I enjoyed the Mary two…..If its the end of the world, you will find me on an appropriate deck, looking forward. Forging ahead with a glass in my hand…..(Dolphins leading the way, would be nice.)

  6. Kitler says:

    I wonder what big event stripped out the vegetation up to 50 ft to 70 ft along that coast line the colour of the vegetation is a giveaway. Must have been a big Tsunami that did that.

  7. Kitler says:

    I wonder if a cyclone could do the same damage?

  8. farmerbraun says:

    Finally, some signs of the return of sanity to the mainland:-

  9. Mark says:

    If it really is the end of the world then the dolphins won’t be frolicking at the head of your cruise to oblivion. Being the second most intelligent creature on earth, they will have skipped the planet after offering a polite thanks

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