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.
Peter Slipper, the Speaker of the House of Representatives stands accused of both civil and criminal wrongdoing, with claims of sexual harassment of a staffer being aired, coupled with accusations of rorting Cabcharge vouchers. The Gillard Government has moved from trouble to trouble during its short tenure from mid 2010 to the present day but the ALP minority government has rarely looked like it would be allowed to crumble, either by their own actions or by those MPs who have agreed to support it for a full three year term in parliament.
The Prime Minister and her government in the time shortly after the accusations were levelled at the scandal-prone refused to withdraw support for Peter Slipper to continue in the Speaker’s chair in the Lower House. The tenuous situation of the 43rd parliament made it necessary for political survival, whether right or wrong to stand by the man that both sides of politics knew could drag them into trouble.
Shortly after returning from a trip, Mr Slipper did the right thing offered to stand aside while the criminal allegations are investigated by police although he did not extend the self-suspension to also cover the prosecution of the civil proceedings against him by a staffer who alleges sexual misconduct on the part of Peter Slipper.
After the Speaker stood aside, the Prime Minister on behalf of her party admitted after the fact that Slipper standing aside was the right and honest thing to do, a strange change of heart.
Thanks in large part to the strong support of the two rural Independent MPs, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, Prime Minister Gillard and the ALP have been able to maintain a fairly stable government regardless of the very tight numbers on the floor of the House of Representatives.
However, in recent days, it would appear to the naked eye that cracks in that support are appearing, with Mr Oakeshott, the MP for the electorate of Lyne leaving the door ajar at least for the possibility of a no confidence motion on the floor of the Lower House chamber.
Also trailing closely behind Mr Oakeshott in his thoughts on the matter, Mr Windsor, the Independent MP for the seat of New England has today indicated that he would like Speaker Slipper to stand aside until both the criminal and civil proceedings have been investigated and prosecuted to an exhaustive end.
The distinct possibility of a no confidence motion appears to be growing, hour by hour, day by day in this dramatic period in the history of parliament in Australia with the New England MP appearing to suggest that the besieged Mr Slipper stand aside until both matters are concluded or he would potentially face a vote on the floor of the parliament.
The Labor Government, under a new Speaker, likely Anna Burke, would stare in the face an even more unstable majority of just 1 vote in the House of Representatives chamber.
Theoretically, a vote against Mr Slipper could be used by the government and its supporters, particularly Mr Windsor and Mr Oakeshott to take some of the focus off the government which is slowly drowning as stagnant polls, hovering around the same numbers for some time seem to show.
A vote of no confidence in the Speaker could be brought by the government or any of those MPs it relies on for support to remove some of the stench that lingers around the Labor caucus, a middle ground of sorts to show to the naked eye, the untrained political eye, that Gillard and her party are willing to take on some of the rot eating away at the parliamentary party.
But alas, the rural Independents are not the great illusionists that they think themselves to be. Any “compromise” move would be as obvious as having a brick strike you in the head.
But it would ameliorate some of the dead-weight that is slowly but surely pulling the government, strapped to its numbers so firmly.
The Opposition obviously, as an other would be in this situation want the government down and out and removed and will put as much pressure on the government as they can, on any issue of contention, to try and make this happen. That’s the reality of politics and the ALP would certainly be reacting to crises in the same way were they in the position the Coalition is.
All the while, the government, by removing Slipper will have deflected some of the attention away from the other major distraction they face, the allegations against Craig Thomson, the former HSU official and now Member for the seat of Dobell. Gillard and her government have continued to support their own MP to the fullest while the allegations have been investigated.
By no means will acting on the Slipper allegations fix the electoral mortality of the Labor Government, but to perform some feat of illusion will serve to nullify one point of contention and in the process keep the Gillard Government on track to go full term, unless and it is entirely plausible, another allegation of wrongdoing or some other unforeseen mishap or misadventure decides to rear its head.