Queensland Election Result Analysis and By Election Discussion

I have been holding off writing on the Queensland Election as it has only been the last few days that a Labor majority was confirmed. It always looked like the Labor Party would be the larger party however Premier Annastacia Palaszcuk muddied the waters by saying she would prefer to go into opposition than to make a deal with any minor parties. Now this has become a vogue statement for Parties to make as they try to paint themselves as a party that don’t do deals and rule for themselves while labelling their opponents as desperate to rule by any means possible. What this has allowed the Labor Party to do in both WA and now in the Queensland election is to point out the squeamishness of the Liberal Party on how to deal with the One Nation Party and whether there is an official preference deal. Now in both cases the Liberal Party did not make any official deal with One Nation however they did preference One Nation over the Labor Party in many seats which Labor called out as a deal even though their decision to accept Greens preferences is apparently all above board without any need to be criticised. Now Labor will argue that no deal is present but the numbers bear it out, 80 percent of Greens preferences go back to Labor, One Nation and a lot of other right of centre Independent parties are only going back 50-55 percent to the Liberal Party so the advantage of doing an official deal to shore up that preference split is a lot greater for the LNP than with the Labor Party who get the lion share of Greens votes back regardless.

The current state of play in the Queensland Election is as followed (1). So Labor have hit the 47 seat mark projection wise to the Liberal’s 38 seats, 1 for One Nation, 2 for Katter’s Australia and one Independent with four seats in doubt. Of the four seats in doubt the Liberal Party look set to win one of the seats and Townsville if they do better in postal votes, Katter’s Australia look set to win Hinchinbrook if the preferences flow to them being in second place at the final preference break and the Greens look like winning Maiwar assuming they increase their 4 vote lead over Labor in the remaining absentee votes for second place in which case the other party will preference them over the Liberal Party winning the seat. A good summary of the in doubt seats is found here (3). On the raw percentage numbers Labor would be happy to keep their net swing loss to 2 percent picking up seats in the metropolitan areas and limiting their vote loss in the rural regions. The Liberal Party had a rough night and while their seat loss was limited a swing of 7.6% against them is not a good result, they both lost votes to Labor in the metropolitan seats and then lost votes to One Nation in the rural seats. I think that really sums up my point above that the Liberal Party do have a difficult job right now, go too far to the right and they lose votes to Labor and the Greens but ignore their more conservative base and they can lose votes to One Nation where as I said they struggle to get preferences back afterwards. On to the One Nation Party many people say the result was disappointing and on a raw seats basis they would be right, I think most people thought they’d win 5-6 seats. However that ignores that they polled 13.7% of the vote statewide and that number jumped to (3) nearly 21 percent in seats they fought and 23 percent in rural areas. Now I’m not a fan of Pauline Hanson but you can’t ignore a party picking up over 1/5 of the state vote and it shows that this is not just about “deplorables” voting for a protest candidate because they are racist or insert insult here as some will commentate but there are economic issues that they have that they don’t feel the major parties are sorting out and so they turn to the minor parties. In previous elections that has been the Katter Party and Clive Palmer’s party. The other takeaway from the election is that the Greens continue to build a base in the Capital City and that would be a worry for the current Liberal Member for Brisbane looking at the next Federal Election.

Overall would I say I’m surprised by this result, no. I thought the Labor Party while being mediocre this term had not done anything warranting losing office after one term and their pivot to focus on the metropolitan area of Queensland where 2/3rd’s of the seats were was a smart political move as there were more seats to gain there than could be lost in other parts of Queensland. I think the problem for the Liberal leader Tim Nicholls was that as treasurer of the Campbell Newman Government that got so roundly whipped in 2015 he carried too much baggage to voters to throw out a government after 1 term and as a result it would not surprise me were he to be replaced as leader.

Onto the Federal scene the first of two by elections took place last night in New England where Barnaby Joyce was comfortably returned as member and will now resume his role as Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister. It was always assumed he would win his seat once Tony Windsor said he would not re-contest the 2016 match-up but (4) shows that Barnaby had a 12 percent swing to him which is unheard of for Governments in trouble and that worked out to a very impressive 7% 2PP swing to the Nationals. I think this result shows that the main risk to most country MP’s still come from Independents rather than the Labor Party as the Labor Party continue to pivot their policies in a more metropolitan setting and I would have been intrigued to see if there would have been a more split of the conservative vote had of One Nation or the Shooters and Fishers Party ran as they have caused issues for National MPs at recent election and indeed by elections with the famous Orange bloodbath where the Nationals suffered a 30 percent 2PP loss of vote to the Shooters Party member. I think the return of Barnaby Joyce will also add some discipline to a National Party that has gone somewhat rogue in the last few months with George Christiensen threatening to walk out of the party because of his perceived vision of poor leadership by Malcolm Turnbull (5) and the National’s push for a banking royal commission (6) that Malcolm Turnbull ultimately conceded was a political necessity this week to avoid the embarrassment of losing a vote on the floor of Parliament on the issue.

At this stage at least there is one other upcoming by election due to section 44 of the constitution (I believe that number may raise in coming months with a few Labor MPs and possibly Nick Xenophon Candidate Rebekah Sharkie as well as some Liberal MPs.). Now some Liberal Party MPs were quick to spin last night that Barnaby Joyce’s by election win last night would mean that John Alexander would also be ok in Bennelong. This is wishful thinking as it looks like in Kristina Keneally (7) Labor have a fierce contender who has name recognition as former Labor Premier of New South Wales and also John Alexander has had a difficult gaffe filled by election thus far. Polling (8) suggests that John Alexander has a slight lead over Kristina Keneally however from a 10 percent lead to start off with it is clear a swing is on in this seat and with the government anywhere from 53-47 to 55-45 behind in National Polls this is a dangerous election for the government to endure. Indeed in the last few weeks leadership chatter has begun regarding Malcolm Turnbull and while I think a leadership change now is pointless if John Alexander loses the By Election then it become a more serious conversation.



(1): http://www.abc.net.au/news/qld-election-2017/results/

(2): https://www.pollbludger.net/2017/12/02/queensland-election-live-week-two/

(3): https://twitter.com/AntonyGreenABC/status/934887456402325504

(4): http://www.abc.net.au/news/elections/new-england-by-election-2017/results/

(5): http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/george-christensen-apologises-for-lying-over-threats-to-quit-the-lnp/news-story/bad67acbdbb962e21b0d39ac00af46da

(6): http://www.skynews.com.au/news/politics/federal/2017/11/17/push-for-banking-royal-commission.html

(7): http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-14/kristina-keneally-to-run-in-bennelong-by-election/9147640

(8): https://theconversation.com/bennelong-polls-galaxy-50-50-reachtel-53-47-to-liberal-87725




High Court Decision Analysis

With the high court making their rulings on the Citizenship 7 I have decided to share my brief thoughts on the outcomes of each senator. So the High Court made a split decision in that they didn’t rule all in or all out by ruling that 5 members namely Larissa Waters, Scott Ludlam, Macolm Roberts, Fiona Nash and Barnaby Joyce were ruled ineligible while Senators Matt Canavan and Nick Xenophon were ruled eligible. In making this decision as unanimous in each case it is clear that the High Court ruled in a fashion that was closer to the original Sykes vs Clearly Section 44 case than a more modern interpretation that I think the Government and the Solicitor General had hoped for.

Firstly looking at the ineligible senators:

We can group together Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam who both resigned from Parliament when it was clear to them that they had fallen foul of Section 44 of the Constitution. The Greens have tried to argue they have been the good party in all of this in that they didn’t try to fight their ineligibility but that ignores that they didn’t have the setup in the first place to avoid members standing when they were Dual Citizens and also their attack on the government in particular ignores that Matt Canavan was found to be ok. In terms of their future Scott Ludlam has had some personal issues this term and so he won’t return to Federal Politics which means his seat will most likely go to Jordan Steele-Jones the next Greens senator on the WA Greens ticket (1). Larissa Waters does appear to want to return to Parliament but not straight away so the former Democrats leader Andrew Bartlett will likely take her seat as the next ticketed Greens Senator and then Larissa Waters would seek a Parliamentary return at the next Federal Election.

Malcolm Roberts is a unique case in that he probably was the most likely to be removed under section 44 of the constitution but he tried to argue that he wasn’t a dual citizenship because he believed he was a “True Blue” Aussie. Once the High Court in it’s initial deliberations declared him to be a British Citizen it was clear he was in trouble. (2) Malcolm Roberts is now seeking to run for the Queensland state seat of Ipswich which is home to Pauline Hanson’s fish and chips store, this is despite some rumours that the replacement Fraser Anning is not One Nations ideal choice as replacement and also Fraser facing some issues with Section 44 over possible bankruptcy (3). The state seat of Ipswich is held by Labor by 16 percent but given the popularity of One Nation currently in Queensland and given Malcolm Roberts now has some recognition he will be a face to watch at the next state election.

Fiona Nash who was the Deputy leader of the National Party also was struck out today and unlike Barnaby Joyce has a lot tougher road back to Parliament, the reason for her ineligibility is that she obtain British citizen by descent of her Scottish born Father. She has been a strong Minister for the Nationals and will be sorely missed. The Liberal candidate Hollie Hughes is the next member on the NSW Liberal/ Nationals senate ticket and if she were to resign as Fiona Nash is a National the senate spot would go to another Liberal representative not National, so Fiona Nash would then have to qualify as Liberal Senator and maybe then reclassify as a National once back in Parliament and that seems messy.

The last member to be struck out today and the granddaddy of them all is Barnaby Joyce the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and Nationals leader. He shocked the Parliament when he revealed he was a New Zealand Citizen and his resignations means an untimely by-election for an unpopular government. Now I think Barnaby Joyce will comfortably win his seat and that is particularly the case with Tony Windsor choosing not to stand for election who was the former independent member for New England and kingmaker of the Julia Gillard Government from 2010-2013. What Joyce’s exit means is that the government enters a period of minority government although the state of the Parliament is currently 74 Liberals, 69 Labor, 5 Independents and then Tony Smith the Liberal Speaker who can break any tied votes. So the government won’t fall in the next few months before the December 2nd Election and then the post election before the Election results are officially declared but Labor could move a Inquiry into banks for example and 1 Liberal/National Crossing the floor could cause that to happen. For what it’s worth Cathy McGowan the Independent MP from Indi has also promised to support the government against any No Confidence Motion (5).

As I alluded to earlier two Senators survived their challenges to the Section 44 cases. Nick Xenophon it was determined had a form of citizenship that did not give him enough rights to classify as having allegiance to another nation. This is a bit of a moot point as he plans to resign from Parliament anyway and go and contest the SA lower house seat of Hartley. What it does mean is that rather than the vote going to a recount the Nick Xenophon Party can determine who replaces him and that is then okayed by SA Parliament. It appears that replacement is likely to be a staffer. Matt Canavan the Nationals Senator also is allowed to stay in Parliament and was immediately re sworn in as Resources Minister. It appears and this article explains it well (6) that even though he was an Italian Citizen by one list to be properly eligible for Italian Citizenship Matt Canavan would have had to have actively taken steps to obtain citizenship which according to his story was not the case.  This is one piece of good news for the Government as Matt Canavan is a promising young Senator who has a lot to give to Parliament still.


(1): http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-21/jordon-steele-john-ready-to-take-scott-ludlam-senate-spot/8729536

(2): https://sslcam.news.com.au/cam/authorise?channel=pc&url=http%3a%2f%2fwww.couriermail.com.au%2fnews%2fqueensland%2fqueensland-government%2fhigh-court-citizenship-ineligible-one-nation-senator-malcolm-roberts-to-run-for-queensland-state-seat-of-ipswich%2fnews-story%2f2789bbb510a6f8c705defc1d9e392512

(3): https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/politics/federal/malcolm-roberts-to-run-for-queensland-seat-as-one-nation-tensions-boil-over-20171027-gz9ste.html

(4): http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/nationals-deputy-leader-fiona-nashs-australian-citizenship-called-into-question-20170817-gxysrc.html

(5): http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/independent-mp-cathy-mcgowan-says-she-wont-bring-down-prime-minister/news-story/19a784e0fdbe7cbac41aabe5f11f8543

(6): http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/high-court-citizenship-verdict-nationals-deputy-fiona-nash-falls-but-matt-canavan-clings-on-20171026-gz9aqh.html

Section 44 – Otherwise known as the Australian Senator career destroyer

Yesterday with the resignation of Larissa Waters due to an negligent oversight of having dual citizenship of Canada; Section 44 of the Constitution claimed it’s 4th victim since the 2016 election and 2nd victim in the last week with the resignation of Scott Ludlum due to his dual citizenship of New Zealand. The loss of two highly respected and competent Greens senators in a week has seen for an overhaul of the section in the constitution by many in the public. Before I return to the specific cases of the senators who have been caught out by Section 44 of the Constitution it is worth looking at what the relevant section says.

(1) essentially states that to stand for parliament a Senator has to ensure they don’t do any of the following:
(i) Have dual citizenship or no citizenship of Australia and that where dual citizenship is present they do not make sufficient efforts to renounce their citizenship to a foreign allegiance.

(ii) That the member of parliament has committed treason or if you are current serving time for a criminal offence or are in the middle of criminal proceedings that is longer than one year in length.

(iii) Is currently bankrupt or insolvent

(iv) Is currently working and making a profit from the crown (i.e working in the public service).

(v) That the Parliamentarian is making a monetary arrangement in a Public Service of the Commonwealth of Australia, so for example in (2) Dr Gillespie has faced questions about his eligibility due to the fact that he leased out one of his owned businesses to Australia Post which is a Government owned entity.

So the first element of section 44 of the constitution is what has caused the resignation of Scott Ludlum and Larissa Waters. The reasoning for this part of the constitution is that it is a conflict of interest whether real or perceived to be voting on laws that are passing into land while also having citizenship of another nation. A fictitious example of this would be say we wanted to impose a tariff on the importation of lamb to New Zealand then it could be a conflict of interest to someone who still holds dual citizenship of New Zealand to be debating such a law. I also think that due to the public scrutiny that an elected member of parliament holds any perceived issues of conflict are as bad as if an actual conflict did exist.

Bob Day’s case which interestingly did not receive the same outrage for his removal from the Senate came under two sections of the constitution. Before (3) became an extra constitutional issue Bob Day had already resigned from the senate because of having to claim bankruptcy. However it was later discovered that Bob Day had been leased a building for his electoral office that was already privately owned which is in clear breach of line (v) of section 44 of the Constitution.

Rod Culleton one of the 4 One Nation Senators elected also fell foul of section 44 of the Constitution and his case again did not receive the same outrage that was levelled to the Greens Senators. Again (4) shows that Rod Culleton lost his seat in the senate due to two elements of section 44, firstly he was facing charges of larceny which carried a penalty of over 1 year penalty. He also was declared to be bankrupt when he failed to pay back an outstanding loan.

Line (iv) of the section is something that has not recently been tested. However in 1993 (5) Phil Cleary was ruled ineligible to stand in the by election of Wills which was caused by the retirement of Bob Hawke. Phil won the by election as an independent however because he was public school teacher at the time he was technically a paid member of the crown and therefore was ineligible, this is despite him being on unpaid leave at the time. This could trip up a number of potential parliamentarians although this part of the constitution has been worked around by public servants being allowed to quit their jobs, stand for election and if unsuccessful then be able to automatically reenter their jobs upon the completion of the election.

There are a few added points for me to make on this constitution given the public reaction to the Greens resignations. A lot of people have called for section 44(i) to be scrapped in the wake of the resignations, the biggest issue with that is that because it is part of the Australian Constitution then to change the section we would need a referendum. This of course brings a hefty cost of running the referendum as well as any advertising delegated to prosecuting the cases of a yes or no vote for the question. I have also seen a lot of fingers pointed at relevant Labor or Liberal members who were born overseas by the same people who are upset at the resignations of Scott Ludlum and Larissa Waters, the most noted example being Tony Abbott. I think that is hypocritical and points out that one of the big differences between major parties and smaller parties is that the major parties do a much better job of vetting potential candidates for potential issues that could preclude eligibility of election in comparison to smaller parties. There has also been questions raised as to whether votes taken by members should be excluded and if salary paid to the senator should be repaid. (6) which is another excellent post by the Psephologist Yoda Antony Green points out that the high court has previously ruled that votes taken by ineligible members can not be retrospectively discounted and that the practice of the government is not to push for salary to be chased from ineligible members. The reason for this I suspect is self preservation in that if you chase one senator for returned salary you open the pandoras box of having that come back to bite you if one of your pack are found to be ineligible. I think my last point would be that the Greens are facing some real issues at the moment. Now a lot of the attention has been on the infighting between Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull, however if the Greens were a major party they’d be getting the coverage of a party in crisis. They have now lost two deputy leaders and senators in a week and have a member in Lee Rhiannon who has been excluded from attending contentious party room discussions. This same senator has responded by pulling on her state branch pushing back against that decision and by her calling the current leader a real disappointment. Now the two senators who will replace Ludlum and Waters will still be.Greens members due to the recount of the senate ballots flowing their votes onto the next eligible Greens ticket member but to lose roughly 15 years of parliamentary experience in a group of 10 senators/MPS is a real loss!



(1) http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/Publications_Archive/archive/Section44

(2) http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-07/opposition-intensifies-campaign-against-david-gillespie/8423600

(3) http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-05/family-first-bob-day-election-ruled-invalid-by-high-court/8417204

(4)  http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/rod-culleton-ineligible-to-be-elected-to-senate-high-court-rules/news-story/7eae79c15f652c2d3673c20c11d08c00

(5) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Cleary

(6) http://blogs.abc.net.au/antonygreen/2017/07/scott-ludlam-resigns-what-happens-to-his-senate-seat.html#more