Kevin Rudd’s leadership tilt won’t make a difference in the Queensland election

Kevin Rudd may not have the power to swing his home state. AAP/Kym Smith

During his campaign to wrest the Labor leadership from prime minister Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd has repeatedly made reference to his home state of Queensland.

With the Sunshine State set to go to the polls next month, and Labor premier Anna Bligh facing spirited opposition from a Campbell Newman-led LNP, it’s been suggested the tussle for the federal leadership could affect the outcome of the Queensland election.

But will Queenslanders change their minds and votes to support a local boy? As QUT’s political expert Clive Bean told The Conversation, it may not be that simple.

Both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have invoked the Queensland election in their press conferences about the leadership crisis. Will the current leadership crisis have any bearing on the result in Queensland next month?

It will have a bearing in the sense that it is providing a drag on the ability of Queensland Labor to campaign effectively. That albatross around the ALP’s neck in Queensland needs to be removed in order for them to move on with their campaign and have it focus on state issues.

What we need to consider, though, is the extent to which it would make a difference to the possible outcome of the Queensland election if the matter were resolved, particularly if it were resolved in favour of Kevin Rudd.

There has been some speculation that it would lead to a significant boost for Labor in Queensland, to the extent that it might help them win the election. But all the indications are that Labor is so far behind the LNP in the Queensland election that the effect of resolving the federal leadership, even if it were in Kevin Rudd’s favour, would be simply to remove the drag effect. It’s only one factor that’s causing a drag to the Queensland Labor campaign. It wouldn’t provide a significant boost to their standing, it would just help remove one factor that is helping to drag them down.

Kevin Rudd makes a lot of his status as a Queenslander, but is he as loved in his home state as he implies?

I think that’s an important question. To some extent he’s achieved a sympathy vote stemming from the manner of his dismissal as prime minister in 2010, so I think he garners sympathy for that. But whether that sympathy woud translate into support for him if he became prime minister again is an open question. I suspect it would be reduced because once he had that job again there would be no need for the sympathy support, it would really be a matter of whether people wanted him as prime minister or Labor leader or saw him as a good politician in his own right.

The other factor we need to consider is the extent to which some of the support that appears to be coming to him is from people who are cynical about the Labor Party and not necessarily supporters of the Labor Party.

By that I mean Queensland voters who actually might support the LNP. Sometimes a political leader gets more sympathy from those who don’t have a strong interest in supporting them one way or the other. They’re really for the other side of politics, but one way of showing their disapproval of the party they don’t admire is to support members of it who are down, rather than those who are up.

How important a part will Queensland play in 2013 federal election, and will the leader of the Labor Party be a factor in how the state swings?

Queensland will play an important role, as it has over a number of elections recently. When Labor did well in 2007 it was helped along considerably by winning quite a few seats in Queensland. It lost many of them in 2010 and if we go back before that to elections earlier this century, lack of support in Queensland has been a drag on Labor. If Kevin Rudd were to win the leadership, that would help Labor in Queensland at the federal level, but it would probably only help in terms of stemming the tide rather than providing a major boost that would see them win a lot of seats.

Why has Rudd been playing the Queensland card? Read Robin Tennant-Wood’s take on his tactics.