By Jim McIlroy
BRISBANE — The result of the Queensland state election hung in the balance on July 16, following a huge swing against Labor. The swing of 5.5% statewide shocked observers, who had generally predicted a moderate protest vote against the Goss government.
The state may face a hung parliament, with Liz Cunningham, the newly elected independent member for Gladstone, holding the balance of power.
However, at close of counting on election night, computer predictions had National opposition leader Rob Borbidge as the new premier, with a majority of just one seat. A final result will probably not be known until postal and absentee votes are counted this week.
At close of counting, the Coalition was likely to win 39 seats. The ALP held 38, with one independent and 11 seats in doubt.
The unpopular Gold Coast tollway was likely to cost Labor at least three seats, including the Springwood seat of environment minister Molly Robson. Other tollway losses include Mansfield and Redlands, with other southern Brisbane seats in doubt.
Robson, who won notoriety by describing VETO protesters against the South-East Tollway as "rent a crowd", described the result as "pretty sad".
Cunningham will be the first unaligned independent in the Queensland parliament for more than 20 years.
"I am not for sale", she said on July 15. "I was elected by the people of Gladstone to serve one term as an independent, and I'll be doing just that. I have definitely not joined any party."
A delighted opposition leader Rob Borbidge said on election night that there was a "quiet anger in the community which the ALP did not recognise".
Premier Wayne Goss told the tally room crowd that the Coalition campaign had been successful in "cultivating a culture of complaint". He admitted that the Labor Party would need to "have a good look at ourselves and our priorities".
Nevertheless, there was little sign that the ALP leadership was capable of understanding what had happened: the Queensland people were lodging a massive protest against an arrogant and unpopular government, which had failed to respond to their basic needs.
Retiring minister Anne Warner described the swing as a "combination of NIMBY protest votes", thus failing to confront the real message.
Federal MP Wayne Swan, amazingly, saw no real lessons for federal Labor in the result. "The poll was fought mainly on state issues", he commented.
As for Mike Kaiser, the ALP state secretary widely criticised for Labor's pathetic campaign, he said that the result "won't affect my ambitions" in politics.
Queensland Greens spokesperson Drew Hutton, who gained nearly 25% in the Brisbane seat of Mt Coot-tha, said that the Greens had "influenced the agenda even before the election itself".
He said the overall Greens average vote of 8.6% in the 28 seats contested was an excellent result.
Referring to his party's controversial decision to allocate preferences to the Coalition in four key marginal seats, all of them likely losses for Labor, Hutton said, "We made a rational evaluation of the major parties.
"Whichever party wins government, they are going to have to be scrutinised over their conservation policies."
The divisions which emerged within the conservation movement over attitudes to the Labor government and the opposition prior to the poll are expected to produce a vigorous debate in the post-election period.