Greens breakthrough expected in Queensland election

Amy MacMahon is standing for the Greens in South Brisbane. Photo: Queensland Greens / Facebook

There are strong indications that the Queensland Greens will increase their parliamentary representation after the October 31 election, which is also seen as a referendum on the Labor government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

The Labor government has been leading in the polls and is likely to be returned. Even the anti-Labor Courier Mail, which carried a poll on October 6, said “Backing for Labor has surged past its 2017 election winning number — and support for Ms Palaszczuk herself has boomed, thanks to her handling of the COVID crisis”. But it described the poll result as a “shock”, and there’s little doubt it plans to push to change that over the next few weeks.

There are no guarantees and a hung parliament is a distinct possibility.

In July, a YouGov poll showed the Liberal National Party opposition ahead 52–48 in a two-party preferred race. This margin was an increase from January.

But Queensland’s lockdown retains majority support and is an important factor in Labor’s popularity. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is hanging her reelection around this. “First and foremost [my job] is about keeping Queenslanders safe,” she said. “You only have to look at what’s happening around the globe, the rise of second waves of coronavirus now in Europe and, of course, in the US.”

On October 7, Palaszczuk reiterated that Queensland would not open its borders to New South Wales on November 1, as she had previously indicated, unless there are no new community infections in NSW over 28 days. The government thinks this policy is a winner.

There can be no doubt that the government’s more cautious approach to public health has contributed to Queensland’s relatively low COVID-19 caseload.

But the government’s record on keeping people safe is arbitrary, as shown by dubious use of "health" provisions to restrict campaigners protesting the detention of refugees at Kangaroo Point Hotel. Health restrictions were also never applied to the mining corporations that were allowed to deploy fly-in fly-out workers for what was deemed “essential” work.

Labor’s pro-capital stand is also revealed by its craven support for Adani. Just days before the official start of the campaign, the government finalised a royalties deal.

While the government says “Adani will pay every dollar in royalties ... with interest”, the fact is that Adani has been given a huge subsidy for an unpopular mine which, if not stopped, will boost Australia’s already high per capita GHG emissions.

Greens councillor Jonathan Sri pointed out that Queensland would probably not receive any royalties from the mine once it starts operating. “Looks like Labor’s plan is to, effectively, give the coal away for free.” He said it is “pretty common in Queensland for mining companies to be sold to shell companies and then the shell company declares bankruptcy to avoid any outstanding debts”.

This Labor government has frozen the wages of public sector workers but given an extra $624 million to the police. About 250,000 workers will not receive a pay rise this year — this has not happened since Campbell Newman was premier.

In contrast, the Greens are proposing some good policies and for that their support is rising. Their platform includes: free public transport; free school meals; free access to sporting clubs for under- 18s; and more rights for residents ahead of developers.

Socialist Alliance is not contesting these elections and is instead urging support for the Greens. Rob Pyne, Socialist Alliance councillor in Cairns told Green Left that, in these elections, the Greens have the best policies and “some good left candidates”.

The party’s chances of winning more seats improved — especially in South Brisbane — when the LNP announced on October 6 it would preference Labor last in every seat. Greens candidate Amy MacMahon narrowly lost South Brisbane in 2017 to then-deputy premier Jackie Trad. Since then, polling indicates the Greens’ vote has increased. The Greens believe they could win up to seven seats.

Greens MP Michael Berkman is staring down a right-wing dirty tricks campaign, and is on track to rewin his seat. Kirsten Lovejoy is polling well in McConnel.

Labor is also resorting to dirty tricks, claiming that the Greens have done a preference deal with the LNP. The Greens have rejected this, saying the party is putting the LNP second last and One Nation last in every seat because of the LNP’s support for job cuts, privatisation and cuts to essential services.

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