Queensland, the third most populous state, goes to the polls tomorrow.
The stakes are big for the incumbent ALP and the LNP challenger in the 93 seat Parliament.
What makes Queensland unique, compared with any other state, is that it is the most decentralised in Australia. Over 45% of the population lives outside the South East Corner in the far-flung state from the Coolangatta to Cairns and from Brisbane to Birdsville in the West.
Understanding the demographics of the urbanised south east corner and the rest of the state is the key to unlock the pathway for either parties’ victory to the treasury benches.
This October 31st election is the story of two different drivers, South East Queensland versus the regions.
For four days I have been on a road trip from Cairns to Mackay through 11 regional seats. Many of these seats are must wins for the LNP if it is to be in striking distance of closing the 9-seat majority currently held by the Palaszczuk Government.
In the north, the case for change is real (although complicated by a resurgent Katter Party) and the unpredictability of preference flows and a diminished One Nation vote.
The closed border policy in the South is crippling the tourism industry in the North and there is a feeling that law and order is out of control. The ALP's ambiguous position on the resources sector compared to former ALP Deputy Premier Jackie Trad’s position in South Brisbane is a real negative.
Getting out on the road makes you appreciate the size of Queensland and the diversity of the State. My travels took me to the rich agricultural cattle country of Mareeba on the Atherton Tablelands to the cane lands of Cairns, Proserpine and Tully. From the tourist towns of Mission Beach to the Whitsundays, to the major resource/defence cities of Townsville and Mackay.
I have no doubt the LNP will pick up a number of seats in the North, from Barron River to one or two in Townsville and potentially The Whitsundays, which stretches all the way to the northern suburbs of Mackay. Whether seats like Cook, Cairns or Mirani change hands from the ALP is debatable and there are a few wild cards like One Nation losing Mirani to the ALP and the ALP losing Cook to the KAP.
Either way a gain of 4 or 5 seats to the LNP in the North, including Keppel, may well be offset by losses in SEQ.
The Premier's position on strong border closures in the South has proven to be popular in Brisbane and ironically on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts were both tourism sectors have been smashed. It seems enough for over 65’s who are traditionally conservative and may change their vote and endorse the Premier’s tough stance during COVID-19 under the mantra of “keep Queensland safe”.
The irony is that whilst the North will mark the government down on the border policy, in the south the ALP may get an unexpected endorsement and win a number seats off the LNP on the Gold Coast, Bribie Island and maybe even on the Sunshine Coast.
Likewise, final counting in Brisbaneon marginal ALP seats, such as Aspley and Mansfield, are on a knifes edge and might not be known for days.
A hung parliament is a real possibility, with The Greens most likely picking up South Brisbane and KAP holding the balance of power.
Four days on the road re-enforces the two speed economy and the broad spectrum of thought from the left in Inner Brisbane to the right in the North.
Never a dull moment in politics.