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.
This Saturday the 28th of April the people of Queensland will go to the polls again. No, not in a run-off election to decide for certain which side won the recent state election, we already had that burnt on our retinas. No, it’s not to decide the President in a second round election which has been a popular occurrence recently, with East Timor going to a run-off poll and France headed that way next month. Give up? You could almost be forgiven, even if you’re a Queensland local for doing so. This Saturday marks the running of the Brisbane and other city and regional council election’s. As elections go, these local government polls have been part of a barely seen and just as rarely heard campaign.
The vote this weekend will see the people of Queensland return to the polls just over a month after the state sent the most brutal of messages to a long-term ALP Government so on the nose that barely a shadow of the former Queensland parliamentary Australian Labor Party remains in the parliament and even this situation could be bettered this weekend for the LNP with the by-election for the state seat of South Brisbane, vacated by former Premier Anna Bligh well within reach for a buoyant LNP machine that has felled almost all before it.
But the main game this weekend will be the council elections to be held for every council across the state this weekend. The local government elections have lacked in the visibility that the state government election did, with outsiders drawn in to comment and dissect the extraordinary 5 weeks of the historic campaign and the very short election night wait for the result, which was almost not even required, a waste of broadcast time almost.
Advertising for the council election seems to have been almost non-existent, with television campaigns only really ramping up in recent weeks with the two main mayoral candidates, the incumbent LNP Councillor Graham Quirk, the serving Lord Mayor and the ALP mayoralty hopeful, Ray Smith the focus of television commercials.
On the letterbox drop side of the advertising coin there has also been limited material to digest, though “digest” may be the wrong way to characterise what people generally do with political propaganda that finds its way into our letterboxes, forest-by-forest during a political campaign. This may well be a good thing as limited letterbox drops equal less spending on material most people don’t read.
Another feature found to be lacking during the council election campaigns has been the “boots on the ground” campaigning in the ‘burbs by party volunteers and operatives sitting close to the signage of their party’s candidate so as to not breach electoral law. These people appear to have been nowhere near as visible as they were during the recent state campaign nor any other in recent electoral history in Queensland.
Even speeches by the two major players, Lord Mayor Quirk and Ray Smith seem to have been few and far between, although, judging by media releases of announcements by the candidates, perhaps they have been a victim of a weariness toward political lobbying for votes so recently after the endurance race that was Queensland Votes 2012. Though local media did host one of these events today, just 5 days out from voting day.
These circumstances combined scream out that the population of Queensland are weary of elections, that having one so soon after the state voted to oust the ALP Government, people for the most part just will not care for having more politics thrown at them after having en masse delivered the ALP in Queensland absolute mass devastation.
The lack of seriously vigorous and visible campaigning also points to the result not being a good one again for the Labor Party in Queensland. There just doesn’t appear to be that energy for change in City Hall, that thirst for delivering the reins of council to an alternative power.
Surely too, the recent electoral tsunami across the state has had a strong role in dissuading a struggling Labor brand to commit to fighting a very hard, energetic and tangible campaign.
Party finances so soon too after a highly publicised campaign in the state election have also led to the party coffers for both sides of politics to be drained sufficiently to render any real media blitz severely dehydrated.
Though it may be easy, given the lack of attention, don’t forget to vote in this hide and seek poll in reverse where the winner will be the one that didn’t end up hiding very well from the spotlight. Oh, it could also be the incumbent in situations like this.