Fluctuating poll results indicate that the imminent Queensland election is an open contest between the Annastacia Palaszczuk Labor government and the Liberal National Party (LNP) opposition. Strong campaigns by the Greens and One Nation could also see newcomers into the state parliament from both left and right.
Socialist Alliance is contesting the seat of McConnel in the election. Candidate Kamala Emanuel told Green Left Weekly the Alliance's campaign is focusing on stopping the Adani coalmine, winning abortion rights in Queensland and social welfare measures such as expanded public housing.
The latest ReachTEL poll of 4000 voters indicated the Labor government would struggle to retain power. However recent Newspoll and Galaxy polls show Labor maintaining a two-party preferred lead. The election is expected any time, but theoretically could be as late as May.
Almost certainly, the formation of the next government will be influenced by the results of the minor parties and independents. It is unlikely that Labor or LNP will be able to govern in their own right.
Mainstream commentators focus on the prospect of Pauline Hanson's One Nation re-entering Queensland parliament because they know that even critical discussion in the media boosts its profile and support. The establishment would prefer that dissatisfaction with the major parties be expressed on the right rather than the left.
One Nation has a strong record of voting with the federal Coalition government, so even though they make kooky contributions to political debate, they are no threat to the status quo.
One Nation has been polling 15%–18% in recent months which is potentially enough to win seats and possibly form the balance of power.
The current parliament includes three independent members, on whom the minority Labor government relies for support, and two members of Katter's Australian Party.
The Queensland Greens are also waging a strong campaign, hoping to win seats in the state parliament for the first time.
The Labor government has a mixed record, having introduced some progressive reforms, such as reintroducing civil unions and equalising of age of consent for LGBTI people, attempting to bring in legislation against land-clearing and partially restoring the cuts in public sector employment made by the unpopular Campbell Newman LNP government. On the other hand, they have devastated progressive supporters by toadying up to the Adani corporation with uncritical support for building Australia's biggest coalmine in the Galilee Basin.
In this context of a disappointing Labor government but with strong memories of the draconian record of the previous LNP government, people are looking for alternatives.
To add to the sense of unease with the status quo, Rob Pyne — the only clearly progressive independent in the parliament — has successfully initiated a massive expose of corruption in several local government areas. This has resulted in a Crime and Corruption Commission report recommending 31 changes, including a ban on developer donations.
One Nation has attempted to tap into the sentiment of opposition by vowing to block coal seam gas (CSG) mining in Queensland's channel country. However, the shallowness of this opposition is exposed by the fact that it explicitly supports coal power and oppose renewables.
Further, Queensland Conservation Council coordinator Tim Seelig said One Nation was actually ignoring the real threat in the channel country — shale gas extraction — which is opposed by an alliance of farmers, conservationists and Traditional Owners.
Seelig said CSG mining and shale gas extraction are “two different processes in two different areas of the ground”.
“The difference is important … because I don’t think CSG is any imminent threat in the areas we’re talking about, the Cooper Creek and the floodplains.”
Emanuel told Green Left Weekly the disappointments from the establishment parties and the challenge from the far right gives greater importance to building a genuine movement for socialist change. “'Business-as-usual' is not working and a better world has to be built now.”
[Alex Bainbridge is a national co-convener of the Socialist Alliance.]