House of Representatives

Considered by most a key battleground at this election, Queensland has a number of seats that both parties will be aiming to win in order to form government on May 18. Home to many of the most marginal seats in the country, the election result will be influenced by what happens in Queensland.

The major parties have recognised this, with both leaders spending a significant amount of time in the sunshine state. This attention has culminated with a leader’s debate being held on 3 May and Labor holding their official campaign launch on 5 May, both in Queensland.

Just one look at the margins that seats are held on and it becomes clear why Queensland is viewed to be so important by the Liberal National Party, as they currently hold eight seats in Queensland held on margins of less than 4% (Forde, Capricornia, Flynn, Petrie, Dickson, Bonner, Dawson and Leichhardt).

Of these seats, Forde and Capricornia are the most marginal, both held on slim 0.6% margins.
Mr Bert Van Manen MP, the current member for Forde, will be under significant pressure, when he attempts to retain the ultra-marginal seat of Forde against Labor’s candidate Mr Des Hardman. This will be Mr Hardman’s third attempt to win the seat from the Liberal National Party, having contested the seat for the Labor Party in 2010, 2016 and now again in 2019.  A number of commentators believe it will be a case of ‘the third time’s a charm’ for Mr Hardman, with many commentators and bookies predicting a victory for Labor in Forde.

Labor’s greatest challenge in Queensland will be retaining the seat of Herbert, which Ms Cathy O’Toole MP won at the 2016 election by just 37 votes. The seat, which encompasses the North Queensland centre of Townsville, has been a hub of attention with Ms O’Toole facing a challenge by Mr Phillip Thompson OAM of the LNP.

The key to who will win this seat appears to be how the preferences from the United Australia Party (UAP) will flow to the major parties, with the most recent polling predicting that the UAP will receive approximately 14% of the vote. The Liberal Party has since done a deal with the UAP where the UAP will preference the Liberal Party highest on UAP how-to-vote cards and vice-versa. This has resulted in Ms O’Toole to be considered the underdog in the contest by the bookies.

Promising for the Labor Party is the fact that at the 2013 Federal Election, the preference flow from the Palmer United Party (a previous incarnation of the UAP) to the Liberal Party was not very strong, with only 55% of Palmer United Party votes flowing through preferences to the LNP in QLD.  If a similar preference flow to 2013 would occur, the contest in Herbert would come down to the strength of the first preference results of both major parties.

Elsewhere, Labor will also be looking to retain the seats of Longman and Griffith, which are both held on margins less than 2%. However, the general feeling is that these seats are not in as much danger as Herbert and are yet to receive much attention from either of the major parties.

Senate

As with all states, the people of Queensland vote to elect six senators at a half-Senate election. These elected senators will serve a six-year term.

However, at the 2016 Election, there were 12 senators elected, with six senators only serving a three-year term. This is because the 2016 election was a double dissolution election, in which all Senate positions were required to be filled, and in order to reset the electoral cycle, the last six elected senators were to serve a three-year term.

At the 2016 Federal Election the elected senators consisted of four Labor senators, five LNP senators, two One Nation senators and a Greens senator. If a result identical to the 2016 election was to be repeated at the 2019 election, there would be two LNP senators, two Labor senators, a One Nation senator and a Greens senator elected.

At the 2019 election the following senators will be facing re-election: Senator Ian Macdonald (LNP), Senator Larissa Waters (Greens), Senator Barry O’Sullivan (LNP), Senator Chris Ketter (Labor) and Senator Fraser Anning (Independent). Senator Claire Moore (Labor) was also up for re-election this year, however, she has announced her retirement at this election, ensuring that there will be at least one new face in the Senate after this election.

One Nation comeback

Senator Fraser Anning, the replacement for Mr Malcolm Roberts, who was found to be a dual citizen at the time of the 2016 election, only received 19 first preference votes last time he stood for election and there is a general consensus that it is highly unlikely that he will retain his Senate position. This has not stopped Senator Anning from establishing his own party called Fraser Anning’s Conservative National Party, adding another option to the already large assortment of parties vying for the votes of conservative Australians.

Mr Roberts has announced that he will be leading the One Nation Senate ticket at the 2019 election, and based on the 2017 Queensland election, stands a serious chance of returning to the Parliament providing that the swing against the Coalition results in Mr Roberts having more votes than the third LNP candidate.

Meanwhile, with the Greens achieving a strong result at the 2017 Queensland state election and their primary vote staying steady around 9-10%, a similar swing to the Greens federally along with the flow of preferences will likely see Senator Larissa Waters re-elected.

A changing of the guard?

On the Labor side, long-serving Labor senator, Senator Claire Moore, has announced her retirement, with the Labor Party preselecting Ms Nita Green for the top spot on the Labor Senate ticket. With Ms Green being the former Chief-of-Staff to the left-aligned Senator Murray Watt, this has ensured that Senator Chris Ketter, of the right faction, will receive the second position on the Senate ticket and will more than likely retain his Senate position.

Meanwhile, the LNP appears to be undergoing a changing of the guard, with Senator Ian Macdonald preselected to the fourth position on the LNP Senate ticket, which is widely considered to be an unwinnable position, with Senator Barry O’Sullivan not even on the LNP Senate ticket. Instead, the LNP have preselected Mr Paul Scarr as their lead Senate candidate, with Ms Susan McDonald the leading Nationals-aligned Senate candidate and is second on the LNP Senate ticket.

This means we are likely to see at least three new faces in the Senate from the Labor Party and LNP combined at the 2019 election.

Palmer looks to return

By this point in the campaign, most people are familiar with Mr Clive Palmer’s campaign advertisements, airing on television for so many months that even we have lost count! However, it took him until April 2019 to finally announce his intention to contest for a Senate position for Queensland. This comes on the back of speculation that he would context the seat of Herbert.

Many people would be familiar with Mr Palmer from his first foray into politics in 2013 when the ‘Palmer United Party’ had a degree of success at that year’s election, with three senators gaining election as well as Mr Palmer, who was successful in his bid to be elected to the House of Representatives, winning the seat of Fairfax at the 2010 election.

However, after three years of instability and criticism, the party all but disbanded, with its leader, Mr Palmer, losing his seat at the 2016 election and three separate parties forming from the senators who were elected under Mr Palmer’s party, most notably the Glenn Lazarus Team, the Jacqui Lambie Network.

The failures of 2013 have not stopped Mr Palmer and his political ambitions from rising again, this time ditching his name from the party branding, and running on a ‘Trump-style’ campaign, an Australia-first platform. Called the United Australia Party (UAP), Mr Palmer is running candidates across many House of Representatives seats and in the Senate, with Mr Palmer put as the lead candidate on the UAP Queensland Senate ticket.

It remains to be seen what chance Mr Palmer has at winning a seat in the Senate, but with the race for the fifth and sixth Senate positions wide open, and the reported strength of his vote in key marginal seats in Queensland (i.e. Herbert, 14%), he has as good a chance as any of winning a seat in the Senate.  The irony is that it is the seat of Herbert where workers have been most affected by Mr Palmer’s business practices in recent years – many will remember the period in which the Queensland Nickel refinery went into administration, with workers left stranded on payments of their entitlements.  Mr Palmer has, during this election campaign, promised to make good the payments to all workers to their entitlements.

Our call: The Liberal National Party and the Labor Party to win two seats each, based on the likely strength of their first preference votes. This will see the re-election of Senator Chris Ketter (Labor) as well as the elections of Ms Nita Green (Labor), Mr Paul Scarr (LNP) and Ms Susan McDonald (LNP).

The race for the fifth and sixth Senate seats will be hotly contested by the Liberal National Party as well as a number of minor parties, with One Nation, the Greens and the United Australia Party, all of which are fighting for two positions.

We’re predicting that the Greens will get up, given the strength of their vote in the metropolitan areas of Queensland and the flow of excess preferences to Labor. This will see Senator Larissa Waters re-elected.

The final spot is therefore going to fall to a candidate from the conservative side of politics with it likely to be a head-to-head contest between Mr Malcolm Roberts, One Nation’s lead Senate candidate and Mr Clive Palmer, Leader of the United Australia Party. This contest is where the preference deal between the Liberal Party and the UAP will be most influential, with both parties relying on preferences from the right-of-centre major party. Therefore, we’re predicting that the UAP will claim the last Senate spot, providing their first preference vote is higher than that of One Nation.

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