Normally the weekends are a very quiet affair in terms of politics, whether it be local, state or federal developments. Saturday and Sunday are usually the domain of our newspapers in the realm of politics, debating and discussing the major events of the week, as well as the occasional under-reported event that doesn’t make the headlines on any given day. This weekend, as with a few over the term of the 43rd parliament at the federal level has been the exception to the rule. Couple that with council elections across Queensland and a by-election in the seat of a former Premier and you have all the trimmings for digestion of a full political meal in the 48 hours that are usually relatively free of politics and the political process.
On Saturday night the LNP, fresh from an astonishing win at the March 24 state election, where they won 78 seats of the 89 seat parliament and Labor just 7, the LNP Lord Mayor Graham Quirk and his team fought a campaign to remain in the mayoralty and to keep a majority of councillors in the City Hall chamber.
Last night Graham Quirk and his LNP Council colleagues did just that, winning both the race for mayor in Brisbane and the contest to maintain a majority of wards won by former Lord Mayor, now Premier Campbell Newman.
The LNP Lord Mayor of Brisbane City in two-party terms has achieved nearly 70% of the votes on offer against just over 30% for ALP mayoral hopeful Ray Smith. This result means approximately a 2.5% swing to the LNP Mayor on top of the previously strong vote for the very popular former Lord Mayor Newman.
In terms of winning wards, the LNP last night won an additional three seats in the council chambers with their victory last night to now control at least 18 of the 26 Brisbane City Council areas, a strong majority.
Elsewhere, the South Brisbane by-election, for the seat occupied by former Premier Anna Bligh was also run last night, but as yet has not been won, or at least not yet conceded. The contest sees Labor’s Jackie Trad ahead at present with just over 52% of the two-party-preferred vote compared with Clem Grehan of the LNP on just under 48% of the vote. The Labor leader in the parliament last night claimed victory for the ALP, but as yet Mr Grehan of the LNP has not conceded defeat.
It appears that the ALP will reclaim the seat, a normally very safe Labor seat, with a margin prior to the March state election of 15%. But it should not provide for much celebration in Labor circles. The LNP have come very close, albeit in a by-election which are notorious for going the other way, to claiming a sensational victory.
But if that was an ordinary night for Labor electorally in Queensland, Sunday for the federal ALP has been extraordinary in the saga that is the Craig Thomson and in the realm of the recently emerged allegations against the Speaker, Peter Slipper.
Today, weary Australians awoke to the news that there would be a press conference where Craig Thomson, the member for Dobell subject to a Fair Work Australia investigation which has now concluded would announce that he would ask the ALP to temporarily suspend his membership of the party and he would move to the crossbench as an Independent MP.
This move came after over 3 years of investigation in the matter and just as much time spent by the Prime Minister and the ALP putting their support behind the MP from NSW.
But just how much will the temporary move, meant to clear some air for the Prime Minister and her party actually mean? The answer frankly is none. The MP, for as long as he can remain in the parliament will undoubtedly continue to fully support the Gillard Government in every policy and political move it makes and importantly also for the Labor Party, in matters of supply and no confidence motions.
As if that wasn’t enough drama to base an epic political drama on, or comedy as you could just as easily argue, the Prime Minister also indicated that now, after days of saying the opposite, the Speaker, facing criminal and civil allegations should remain out of the chair until all the allegations have been resolved.
This move will see Anna Burke, the Deputy Speaker of the parliament and ALP member sitting in the Speakers seat when parliament resumes on May 8th for the handing down of the budget by Treasurer Wayne Swan
These two moves were just mere political opportunism, a smokescreen, a reactionary decision in the face of what seemed more and more likely to be a permanent loss of the Speaker if the matter went unresolved until parliament resumes on budget day.
Labor federally and in Queensland will certainly be hoping it can all be up from here, but as they have proved, that is far from certain to the extent that it is extremely unlikely.
The ALP in Queensland were absolutely walloped in the state election held on March 24th, just weeks ago. Like a “dumper” wave, the ALP were tumbled and smashed against the stand and swallowed a lot of water whilst almost drowning electorally. The parliamentary Labor Party, led to the Queensland election by Premier Anna Bligh were reduced to a mere 7 seats out of the 89 seat unicameral legislature in George Street.
Shortly after the humiliating result, the outgoing Premier Bligh who led her team into electoral oblivion announced that she would be vacating the seat and leaving the ALP to search for a candidate to put up in a by-election.
On election night, for a short time the result in South Brisbane was in doubt according to voting projections displayed during the early part of the telecast. Like the statewide trend, there was a swing against Ms Bligh, the Premier in her seat, one which she held by a margin of 15%, a virtual mission impossible for the LNP to take.
But alas, the seat of South Brisbane, did prove beyond the reach of a resurgent LNP led by former Lord Mayor Campbell Newman and represented in the electorate by Clem Grehan. Anna Bligh did take a huge swing away from her of 9.8% but in the end nothing near the swing of 15.6% away from Labor statewide which if replicated, would have seen marginal victory for the LNP.
As we know though, by-elections can be a completely different story and the LNP would have definitely been rubbing their hands together in the anticipation of an entirely possible victory in the return to the polls. The public do not generally like having to return to the polls and have been known to deliver an emphatic electoral message to state their disdain for having to go back and vote again.
The situation though is different here, with the poll being held on the same day as the council elections around the state, saving the sometimes reluctant voter from having to hit the local school or community hall three separate times in one year.
For some time it looked a promising get for the LNP given the situation and the history of by-election results. But this has now seemingly all changed with the most recent poll, conducted by ReachTEL for the electorate of South Brisbane indicating the ALP through their candidate Jackie Trad have managed to achieve a primary vote poll swing toward the Labor Party since the March 24 election of 5.3%.
The 2PP vote in the electorate according to the poll stands at 58% for the ALP compared to 42% for the LNP, a swing on this basis of 3% to Ms Trad.
Aside from the electorate being a very safe ALP division, it appears according to the same survey that the size of the majority that Queensland has delivered to Campbell Newman and his team is making voters in the seat reluctant to side with them in the vote on Saturday.
Asked if the LNP result at the state election made them more or less likely to side with the party in the by-election 45.2%, almost half stated that it made them less likely to vote for the LNP candidate Clem Grehan. A further 21.% of voters indicated that their voting intention was unchanged, likely pushing the Labor vote well into the 50s on a two-party-preferred basis, seeming to mirror the two-party results.
So tomorrow it seems, amongst all the pain that the ALP will have something to celebrate, even though the current margin sits at only 4.7%, no matter how small the victory in the scheme of an 89 seat parliament with the ALP forming a mere single digit Opposition.