Topics:  councillor, ipswich, labor, paul tully, q&a, queensland election 2012

Labor staring at disaster

David Nielsen

Goodna councillor Paul Tully is renowned as one of the state's top election analysts. Joel Gould grilled him on the battle for Ipswich.

JOEL GOULD: How tough will this election be for Labor and the sitting members in Ipswich to win?

PAUL TULLY: This will be the most difficult election for Labor since 1974, when it dropped down to 11 seats. You can have massive swings and at the moment the polling suggests there is a massive swing on. It could be as high as 20% and more in some seats. There is a fair degree of conservatism in the Ipswich seats and that would be the big risk for Rachel Nolan and Wayne Wendt.

JG: It is often said that Ipswich votes Labor out of course but are you saying that is a cliché?

PT: There is a high degree of conservatism. I don't mean in party politics but more socially. You've got immigrants and Welsh miners. People say it is a strong Labor area but you can't just say that when the Liberals have held the seat of Ipswich and both the nationals and One Nation have held the seat of Ipswich West.

It's not so much the case in the seat of Bundamba. In Bundamba some of the booths can record 70 and 80% for Labor.

JG: Do you see Bundamba being held by Labor?

PT: Probably. Yes.

JG: You are a member of the Labor Party?

PT: I have been since 1975.

JG: So you want to see Labor win this election don't you?

PT: Personally, I would.

JG: Can Rachel Nolan win her seat of Ipswich?

PT: I think she could win her seat, but it will be a difficult challenge.

JG: How can she win when we have seen polling indicate that her support has halved?

PT: Because anything can happen in an election campaign. Don Livingston, when he was the state member for Ipswich West, said Labor in Ipswich has generally run much better campaigns than the conservatives. The media believes that Ipswich is an absolute Labor stronghold. Well, Labor has run very good campaigns over the years.

JG: How will the issues surrounding the 2011 floods affect the result?

PT: As a result of the flood anniversary in the last couple of weeks I think Anna Bligh's popularity will have risen a little. She had a big jump last year after the floods when people rallied around her.

JG: Can Bligh's bounce help Rachel Nolan and Wayne Wendt?

PT: Absolutely. Part of the speculation has been that Anna Bligh is after a long campaign to give the Liberals more of a chance of faltering. The longer it goes the better the chance is of that happening - although she is up against a strong opponent in Campbell Newman. He ran a strong campaign when he ran for Lord Mayor of Brisbane. He based it on his engineering credentials and that he was a mover and shaker and the people of Brisbane warmed to him and he was elected. That was after the Labor party had been caught out in Brisbane in 2003 for keeping flood information secret.

JG: Interesting you should say that. You've been quoted as saying that Seqwater got it wrong and that the Wivenhoe Dam water release was a 'complete stuff-up'. Will that be an issue in this campaign?

PT: Potentially. Because the flood inquiry report is coming out on the 24th of February. But I don't think it will be severely critical of the Labor government. It depends what comes out in the report. There are a lot of issues in this campaign. Leadership is one, as is the handling of the floods generally by the State Government. There is the asset sale sell-off. I also detect an anger in the community that was evident in the 1970s when Gough Whitlam was in power. It got to the point in 1975 where the public just wanted to vote the government out. We are in a similar sphere now. It applies at federal level as well. There seems to be suspicion and anger against government.

JG: So being an incumbent could be a bad thing at the moment?

PT: It could be, yes. But incumbency usually helps the member who has built up a profile.

JG: I was talking to an LNP insider who said in the week leading up to the last state election various members of the LNP cracked open the champagne to toast victory. Is the hubris and confidence of the LNP going to backfire again?

PT: That is the biggest risk for the LNP and Campbell Newman - the cockiness. They are almost starting to show that again. They are getting the champagne on ice again because they think they can't lose. But the public can be very cynical and can be swayed by issues that arise at the last minute. The LNP had their candidate on the Gold Coast the other day picked up for drink driving. It was .07 and the lower end of the scale but they disendorsed him within a few hours. They don't want any whiff of a scandal. When you've got 89 candidates in an election, it is hard to keep them all under control.

JG: Has Newman got a problem in that he has to say one thing to the Liberal voters in Ashgrove and another thing to National voters out bush when he has to travel?

PT: It can be an issue, but at the moment he's not promising a great deal. He's already ruled out any changes to daylight saving even though the Liberals support it and the previous Liberals supported it. The National Party is against it so Newman ruled it out last year for political expediency. Therein rests the problem. If the LNP gets elected it really does comprise two separate groups within the one party.

JG: What is polling telling us at the moment about Queensland?

PT: They are only picking individual seats … but the other thing to look at is the Centrebet odds. They are offering odds on the election and the LNP is down to $1.11 and the ALP is $6.15. That is a big margin of difference. The bookies don't often get it wrong because it costs them money.

JG: Are there any quirks with Queensland elections that might make this closer than some think?

PT: It is not really asState election. It is 89 by-elections so people can build up their own support and following. In 1975 Labor was down to one seat in Queensland in the federal election. Bill Hayden held the seat of Oxley. He'd built up a strong personal following.

JG: Do you see that personal following happening in the seats held by Nolan and Wendt?

PT: I think there is a bit of that. Ipswich is a lot different to Brisbane. Because there is a daily newspaper and multiple free newspapers, if you go around Ipswich and talk about who your federal and state members and councillors are you find a lot of them have that following. But in Brisbane if you asked them who their local councillor is they wouldn't have a clue.

JG: Selling state assets has been a big thing in Ipswich. Has that backfired on the Labor Party?

PT: There is still a lot of anger out there. It has probably reduced a little bit because it is no longer on the front page. But it concerns people. You get it every day. People still talk about Telstra sell-offs and railway sell-offs. The average person thinks that once you've sold the farm off you've lost it forever.

JG: It has been said Labor might win just four seats. Is that plausible?

PT: I don't think it can go as low as that. But the seats of Bundamba, South Brisbane, Inala and Woodridge were mentioned in discussions. It is said that the only poll that counts is the one on election day and that is true.

But statistically and scientifically looking at the figures, if an election had been held mid-January, based on the latest available polling Labor would have won nine seats.

However, there are a couple of months to go until the election. There are two things that you can say about elections. The issues that mark the start of an election are never the issues that are important at the end of the election - period.

And number two - the parties generally come closer together the closer you get to election day.

I think it will be a very hard election for Labor but parties have won unwinnable elections before.



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