By Malcolm Mackerras

In the second week of February 2015 came a remarkable series of political decisions about which I wish to comment. By far the most important was the first, made on the morning of Monday February 9. It was the decision on the federal Liberal Party’s “spill” motion. The remaining decisions affected the government of Queensland. On the afternoon of Tuesday 10 February, Campbell Newman resigned his commission as Premier. At noon on Friday 13 February came the completion of the state election results with the winners declared for all 89 electoral districts. On that same Friday afternoon, the Queensland Governor, Paul de Jersey, met with the two leaders in turn, Lawrence Springborg of the Liberal National Party and Labor’s Annastacia Palaszczuk. On the morning of Saturday February 14 Palaszczuk was sworn in as the new Premier.

The Liberal Party “spill” motion was put on the Monday morning and the result was 39 in favour and 61 against. While technically that was a win for Tony Abbott, the reality is that Malcolm Turnbull won. I predict Turnbull will be Prime Minister by Christmas. Abbott’s term, therefore, will be recorded in the history books as having been for a period of about two years. 

Readers may have gathered my opinion of Abbott from my public conversations with Peter and from my articles on this website. However, before I started to write articles here I was fairly regular in making contributions to “The Canberra Times”. It is from one of those articles that I now quote. The article was titled “Lessons from elections past” to which the editor added these words: “With three out of four predictions intact, Malcolm Mackerras goes for two more: an Abbott victory, but a short-lived one”. The article was published on Monday February 11 2013. I quote these passages:

“For two years now I have consistently been making four confident predictions. First, the next election will be in September 2013. Second, there will be no by-election during this, the 43rd Parliament. Third, Julia Gillard will lead Labor into the 2013 election. Fourth, Tony Abbott will lead the Coalition into that election . . .

“Clearly Abbott will be Prime Minister come September. The question is: how successful will he be?

“As a piece of history it is true of the period since Canberra became the national capital in 1927 that every conservative elected prime minister has come into office on a landslide.

“Joe Lyons in December 1931, Bob Menzies in December 1949, Malcolm Fraser in December 1975 and John Howard in March 1996 all swept to office in landslides and remained prime minister for more than seven years, winning three or more consecutive elections.

“I do not expect Abbott to have a landslide win. Not that it matters. Even if the landslide-prone electoral system for the House of Representatives gives him a large majority in seats in the lower house he will have a disaster in the Senate election.

“That is where Abbott is sure to differ from Lyons, Menzies, Fraser and Howard, each of whom scored well in the Senate election at his first win.

"Consequently I predict Abbott will be the least successful conservative elected Prime Minister since Canberra became the capital.”


To what extent did I stick to those predictions? I would say: fairly consistently, but not totally so. There was a brief period in April last year when, struck by the extraordinary success of the Liberal Party in the Western Australian Senate election on April 5, I wondered aloud in a public conversation with Peter as to whether I may have under-estimated Abbott. Then came the budget in May and I reverted to my long-held and underlying view.


I have listed above six predictions and only one was proved wrong: Julia Gillard did not lead Labor into the 2013 election. The other five have been proved correct – or will be proved correct.


Now to Queensland: for the past six months I have been making three confident predictions about their elections and post-election situation. First, Campbell Newman would be defeated in Ashgrove. Second, Lawrence Springborg would be the new leader of the Liberal National Party. Third, Springborg would succeed Newman as Premier. For more detail see my article “The Queensland election and some advice for the Abbott government” published on this website on January 15. 


It is now known that the first two predictions have been fulfilled but not the third. However, but for the decision of Peter Wellington, member for Nicklin, my third prediction would also have been proved correct. Nicklin is a seat the LNP would always have won in the absence of Wellington. He took it from the National Party in 1998 – and immediately installed Labor’s Peter Beattie into the office of Premier. Now he has installed Palaszczuk into that same office. A good and consistent Labor supporter is Queensland’s Wellington, but one who could only ever win Nicklin as an independent, never as a declared Labor candidate.


The above being so, I rate my Queensland predictions as having been better than those of any other pundit. To the best of my knowledge no recognised independent pundit ever put into print a prediction that Palaszczuk would be Premier. I have listed above nine predictions made by me of which only two have been proved wrong. Emboldened by such a good record I now go for three more. First, there will be no by-election for Ferny Grove. Second, the 2015-18 term of the Queensland Legislative Assembly will run for the full three years. Third, Palaszczuk will be Premier for the entire three-year term.



(Malcolm Mackerras is a visiting fellow at the Australian Catholic University’s Canberra campus.