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Queensland votes: how the numbers are falling for Labor

Led by Annastacia Palaszczuk, Labor has come back from near annihilation in 2012 to be on the brink of securing a majority in Queensland’s parliament. AAP/John Pryke

With 70.6% of the Queensland state election vote counted, the ABC is giving Labor 44 seats to 33 for the Liberal National Party (LNP). Two Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) and one Independent have also won seats. Counting of votes resumed on Sunday.

Unfortunately, there are problems with the current ABC count because the ABC computer uses the results from the Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ), which has selected the wrong two candidates in Gaven for preference vote counting. Labor actually looks likely to have won 43 of 89 seats, with 40 for the LNP, two KAP and one Independent. Three seats – Whitsunday, Mansfield and Maryborough – are genuinely still undecided.

If Labor wins 43 seats, it would represent a massive 34-seat gain from the pre-election parliament – and a gain of 36 seats from the 2012 election, when Labor was reduced to just seven seats out of 89. (Labor won two by-elections last year.)

The primary votes are currently 40.8% for the LNP, down 8.9%; 38.1% for Labor, up 11.5%; 8.4% for the Greens, up 0.9%; and 5.0% for Palmer United Party (PUP).

As declaration votes come in, I expect Labor’s overall vote to drop and the Greens and LNP to slightly increase their vote shares. Postal votes tend to heavily favour the conservatives, but polling day absent votes have shown a clear tendency to favour the left. Most pre-poll votes were counted on the night.

As a result, the major party primary votes will probably end up fairly close to the LNP’s 41-37 margin predicted by the final polls.

A major surprise was that the Greens outperformed their polling; the Greens had underperformed at the last Victorian, Tasmanian and federal elections.

The pollsters’ estimate of a narrow but clear 52-48 LNP win after preferences was wrong, partly owing to the high Greens vote, but mostly because preferences were clearly much more favourable to Labor than at the 2012 election.

A clear illustration of this point is that the LNP is leading on primary votes in 51 seats to Labor’s 35, yet Labor is leading after preferences in 45 seats to 41 for the LNP. Given optional preferential voting in Queensland, it is remarkable that Labor is currently winning 10 seats from behind on primary votes; in 2012, Labor won no seats when trailing on first preferences. The “put the LNP last” campaign was a major success at this election.

Premier Campbell Newman lost Ashgrove by a 54.1-45.9 margin, a 9.8% swing to Labor’s Kate Jones. Primary votes in Ashgrove were 44.4% for Jones, up 7.8%; 44.0% for Newman, down 7.9%; and 10.0% for the Greens, up 0.8%. Contrary to pre-election polling, Jones only just leads on primary votes, but a stronger flow of Greens preferences gives her a decisive margin after preferences.

In the 78 Labor vs LNP classic contests – where the final two candidates are Labor and the LNP – the average swing to Labor was just over 14%. If that swing is the same in the non-classic seats, Labor would have about a 51-49 win after preferences, though this is likely to come down on declaration votes. Unfortunately, the ECQ does not do Labor vs LNP two-party counts in non-classic seats, so we will only be able to estimate the final statewide two-party vote.

The biggest swing to Labor happened in Bundaberg, home to Police Minister Jack Dempsey. Labor gained a 23.8% swing, erasing the LNP’s 18.2% margin.

Other seats that swung more than 20% to Labor were Woodridge, Redlands, Pine Rivers, Ipswich and Bundamba.

Barring late counting surprises, the three undecided seats are Mansfield, Whitsunday and Maryborough. In the first two, Labor is currently neck-and-neck with the LNP, but I expect the LNP to move ahead as declaration votes are counted.

In Maryborough, primary votes are 29.2% for the LNP, 25.6% for Labor, 22.1% for Independent Chris Foley, 12.6% for PUP and 7.1% for One Nation. Labor leads the LNP on the preference count by 52.4-47.6, but there is a chance that Foley could beat Labor into second place on One Nation and PUP preferences. I think this is unlikely and that Labor will win Maryborough, and thus a 44th seat.

If Labor wins 44 seats, they should win the support of Nicklin Independent Peter Wellington, who supported Labor in similar circumstances following the 1998 election.

If Labor finishes with 43, then the two KAP members would have the balance of power. On Sunday, re-elected member for Mount Isa and state KAP leader Rob Katter said his party was ready to negotiate.

What this election has shown is that, in today’s political climate, being obliterated at an election does not mean that a party cannot win the following election. Voters are far more volatile today than they were 20 years ago. Queensland Labor has come back from a slaughter to be on the cusp of victory and federal Labor has an emphatic poll lead after being thumped in 2013.

Read more of The Conversation’s Queensland election 2015 coverage.

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