UPDATE (24/4): ReachTel has published an automated phone poll for South Brisbane, and while the sample is small (300), the result is good news for Labor, putting their primary vote at 44% (up five on the election) with the LNP down three-and-a-half to 34.5% and the Greens up one to 19%. Tellingly, 56.5% say the size of the LNP’s majority makes them less likely to vote for them (against 19.5% more likely), with “size of the LNP’s majority” ranking second on a list of six issues rated as most important (less happily for Labor, cost of living ranks first). A ReachTel poll on the lord mayoralty will follow tomorrow.
Another trip to the polling booth for Queensland voters next week, this time to vote in local government elections and, for the lucky residents of the capital’s inner south, to choose a successor to Anna Bligh in South Brisbane, one of just seven seats in which Labor was spared defeat on March 24. Bligh survived a 10.3% swing to hold on by a margin of 4.7%, her primary vote down from 48.4% to 38.6% with the LNP up from 27.9% to 38.1% and the Greens up from 17.5% to 18.1%.
South Brisbane follows the southern bank of the Brisbane River from East Brisbane through South Bank, Woolloongabba and Dutton Park, also extending southwards to Stones Corner. Electorally speaking, it can be roughly divided into three parts: inner-city West End, where the Greens scored about a quarter of the vote, Labor about 40% and the LNP about 30%; the more conventionally working-class south-east of the electorate, where Labor and the LNP were slightly higher and the Greens vote was in the mid-teens; and East Brisbane, more affluent and less bohemian than West End, where the LNP vote was at around 50% compared with a little over 30% for Labor and a little over 10% for the Greens. It was the Labor heartland area of the south-east that swung most heavily at the election, and since these booths reported earliest, the ABC’s early swing projections made Bligh appear in more trouble than she was. The map below shows two-party preferred results by polling booth, with the size of the numbers varying according to number of votes cast (from below 500 to approaching 3000).
The by-election has attracted eight candidates, in ballot paper order: Jason McKenzie (who says his piece in comments), Penny Panorea (Daylight Saving Party), Penny McCreery (Family First), Jo-Anne Bragg (Greens), Clem Grehan (LNP), Liam Flenady (Independent), Jackie Trad (Labor) and Robert Wardrop (Katter’s Australian Party). Grehan, Bragg, Wardrop and Flenady were all candidates at the state election, respectively polling 39.2%, 18.1%, 3.4% and 1.9% to Bligh’s 38.6%. Jackie Trad is the party’s assistant state secretary and a former staffer to Anna Bligh, who reportedly had long groomed Trad as her successor. Trad won Labor preselection without opposition, after defeated ministers Andrew Fraser and Cameron Dick promptly declared their lack of interest in using the seat to return to parliament. Clem Grehan boasts that his “career has progressed from labourer and chainman to surveyor to lecturer to construction planner to project manager”. Jo-Anne Bragg is “director of a non-profit community legal centre that helps people with advice on planning, pollution, nature conservation, mining and gas”. Antony Green offers details on the other candidates, and much more besides.
Then there are the council elections, which are uniquely interesting in the case of Brisbane City Council owing to the municipality’s size, the extent of its powers and the partisanship of its electoral contests. They are also quite unlike elections at higher tiers of government in that voters separately elect an “executive” (the lord mayoralty) and a “legislature” (the council), as as the American custom, with victory in the former not ensuring control of the latter. Like the South Brisbane by-election, this election will also offer an interesting case study of voter psychology in the aftermath of an unprecedented electoral landslide. It’s worth remembering that Campbell Newman came to the lord mayoralty in a surprise win a few weeks after the Coalition parties were trounced at the 2004 state election (although conversely, the Nationals lost the state seat of Surfers Paradise to an independent at a by-election when Rob Borbidge quit parliament in the wake of the 2001 bloodbath).
The incument in the lord mayoralty is Graham Quirk, the former councillor for Macgregor ward who succeeded Campbell Newman in April 2011. Labor’s candidate is Ray Smith, chief executive of television production company Cutting Edge. Former Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett is running for the Greens, and the unregistered Australian Sex Party is behind the candidacy of independent Rory Killen. Labor goes into the election off a low base, Campbell Newman having been re-elected in 2008 with 60.1% of the primary vote compared with 29.0% for Labor’s Greg Rowell, following what had been a fairly desultory Labor campaign. At that time, Newman was famously the most senior Coalition politician in the country, with all federal, state and territory governments in Labor hands. The LNP won 16 of the 26 wards with the remaining 10 won by Labor, although one Liberal councillor, Nicole Johnston in Tennyson, has since quit the party to sit as an independent. The most interesting of the ward contests to lay observers is that for Labor’s most marginal ward, Central, which is being contested by Peter Beattie’s wife Heather. As for the others, the indefatigable Antony Green has come good with a ward-by-ward guide.