By Malcolm Mackerras

The Queensland forecast*

At present there are 73 LNP members of the Queensland Legislative Assembly, nine Labor and seven others, three of whom are LNP defectors, two elected as Katter’s Australian Party candidates and two elected as independents. Those two are Elizabeth Cunningham in Gladstone (who has held that seat since July 1995) and Peter Wellington in Nicklin (who has been the member there since June 1998). Cunningham is retiring and her naturally Labor seat will go back to Labor. Wellington will easily be re-elected. The electoral district of Nicklin is located in the Sunshine Coast region and is named after a former premier.

My prediction is that the new Legislative Assembly will have 55 LNP members, 29 Labor and five others. The five will be three elected under the banner of Katter’s Australian Party, plus Wellington and, I believe, one other. Who? My tip is Chris Foley in Maryborough. He was first elected at a by-election in April 2003 and was re-elected in 2006 and 2009 before being narrowly defeated in 2012 by the current LNP member Anne Maddern.
My prediction has Labor at 29 seats. They are the nine currently held plus Gladstone gained as a consequence of Cunningham’s retirement, Yeerongpilly from one of the LNP defectors, Ashgrove from Campbell Newman and 17 others gained from the LNP I shall not name.

It may seem bold to predict that Newman will win the general election while losing his own seat. That is without precedent in Australia but my prediction is supported by both the opinion polls and the betting odds. Note this point. There have been cases of Australian prime ministers and premiers losing their own seats but, in all such cases, the government itself was defeated. That is what is unique about Newman’s predicted situation. Consequently I believe Springborg will be the post-election premier.

Some electoral system advice

Now to another subject. It is fashionable for pundits to give advice to the Abbott Government so I shall join the fashion. Since, by general agreement, there MUST be some reform of the Senate electoral system I give two pieces of advice. The first is to pass legislation this year. Do not leave reform until next year when the election is in the offing. Second, when you do present legislation, listen to me. Turn a deaf ear to anyone who gives advice inconsistent with mine.

By near-universal agreement the party registration provisions must be made tougher than at present. Do that. The other change you should make is to the ballot paper. I have in front of me the most recent Senate ballot papers for New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. All four have these words on the top under “Either”. Just below that it reads: “Above the line by placing the single figure 1 in one and only one of these squares to indicate the voting ticket you wish to adopt as your vote”.

For New South Wales we have: “Or below the line, by placing the numbers 1 to 110 in the order of your preference”. For Victoria it is “the numbers 1 to 97”. For Western Australia it is “the numbers 1 to 77” and for the Northern Territory it is “1 to 27”.

The above is an unreasonable choice to offer the voter. It intimidates many voters into an above-the-line vote when they really want to vote for favoured candidates below the line. My advice is to leave the words above the line unchanged but to make changes below the line as I recommend.

For each state I say the words should be: “below the line, by placing the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 in the order of your preference. You may, if you wish, vote for additional candidates by placing consecutive numbers beginning with 7 in the squares opposite the names of those additional candidates in the order of your preference for them”.

For each territory I say the words should be: “below the line, by placing the numbers 1 and 2 in the order of your preference. You may, if you wish vote for additional candidates by placing consecutive numbers beginning with 3 in the squares opposite the names of those additional candidates in the order of your preference for them”.

During the year I shall return to this subject and tell readers about the ideas others have and why I reject those ideas.
 
*Malcolm Mackerras will appear on Switzer TV on Wednesday January 28 to give Peter Switzer his final tips for the Queensland election.


(Malcolm Mackerras is a visiting fellow at the Public Policy Institute in the Australian Catholic University’s Canberra campus. malcolm.mackerras@acu.edu.au)