There’ll be a lot to watch on Saturday

There’ll be a lot to watch on Saturday more besides Turnbull versus Shorten

The stakes for the Nationals in the seat of New England are extraordinarily high. Lukas Coch/AAP

Apart from the main game, watch for the drawcard contests on Saturday night.

Among them will be the performance of the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT), the battles in the Nationals’ seats of New England and Cowper, where high-profile players from the Gillard hung parliament are trying to come back, and the fate of Labor frontbencher David Feeney, being pressed by the Greens in Batman.

Nick Xenophon is looking at getting three South Australian senators and possibly one from some other state.

The big question is whether NXT will be able to break into the House of Representatives. Newspoll has NXT in South Australia at 27%, just behind Labor’s 28%, with the Coalition on 32%, while a poll done for the party has it at 24%, Labor on 26% and the Liberals at 36%.

NXT has been breathing down the neck of former minister Jamie Briggs, who had to quit the frontbench over an incident in a Hong Kong bar involving a public servant, and it is also doing well in the sprawling Liberal seat of Grey. With such high state-wide numbers, NXT is a potential threat in other seats.

If NXT did take Mayo or Grey it would be eroding the Coalition’s numbers, giving the government less of a buffer against Labor. A lower house win would mean NXT would become a player in negotiations in the event of a hung parliament.

In New England, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is the favourite against former independent member Tony Windsor.

The stakes for the Nationals in this seat are extraordinarily high. The strength of the minor partner in the Coalition depends substantially on the personal clout of the leader. So, if disaster struck Joyce, the party would be in serious disarray. Joyce only recently took over the leadership; there is no trained-up understudy waiting in the wings.

The New England contest has become willing and dirty. Windsor declared his wife was “deeply upset” by a Nationals ad that, he claimed, suggested he was having an affair (it didn’t, unless you had a pretty strange mind). The Australian reported someone he went to school with accusing Windsor of whipping him with a riding crop.

Earlier, Windsor sought to explain comments from a one-time supporter, who is now backing Joyce, by alluding to the man’s Vietnam war-related breakdown (subsequently Windsor apologised to the man).

The fight has become a honeypot for activists – from GetUp!, the maritime, teachers and nurses unions as well as the CFMEU, Animals Australia, and opponents of coal seam gas.

Joyce, who as leader has had to split his campaigning inside and outside the electorate, is spending most of the final week there.

Windsor announced his New England challenge early. His close ally in the hung parliament, Rob Oakeshott, left his declaration that he would run in Cowper until the very last minute.

Oakeshott, also an independent, was formerly the member for Lyne; like Windsor, he did not stand in 2013. He has followed the transfer of his home town of Port Macquarie to Cowper. The Nationals sitting member Luke Hartsuyker hasn’t been helped by being dumped from the ministry earlier this year.

At first Oakeshott’s candidacy was brushed aside, with some suggesting he was just lured by the public funding. But on recent polling the Nationals, given Oakeshott will get a good flow of preferences, are taking it seriously.

The Victorian regional electorate of Murray, vacated by the Liberals’ Sharman Stone, is a contest between the Liberals and Nationals. The Nationals are running former footballer Damian Drum, who left the Victorian parliament to contest the seat; the Liberal candidate, Duncan McGauchie, is a former adviser to the Baillieu government.

The neighbouring Indi, which former Liberal member Sophie Mirabella is attempting to reclaim, is generally regarded as safe for the incumbent, independent Cathy McGowan.

In the early part of this campaign a lot of attention centred on the Greens threat to a handful of Labor seats. Now that the Liberals are directing their preferences to Labor, the ALP seats are shored up. But Feeney’s Batman is considered still in play. The Greens already hold Melbourne.

Also worth watching out for on Saturday is the NSW seat of Eden-Monaro, which borders the ACT. Liberal Peter Hendy, one of those at the centre of the Turnbull coup – last-minute number-counting was done at a meeting in his Queanbeyan home – is trying to fend off Labor former member Mike Kelly. Eden-Monaro has been in the hands of the government of the day at every election since 1972, but there is speculation this could be the election when it loses that prized “bellwether” status.

Its raining money on Cowper. I wonder why?

By The Contrarian

It is 28 June 2016 and recently I have been noticing a flood of money being showered via promises from the Federal Government and from the local federal MP Mr Luke Hartsuyker himself. Well they are being sold as core promises but are they non-core promises?

And remarkably I’ve noticed that this has occurred in just the last two or three weeks.  I’m trying to figure out why there has been this sudden shower of benevolence.  Is it because the Government has come over all kind and caring?  Is it because the “debt and deficit disaster” is no more and the magic money fairy has fixed that for good?

I’ve been told there is a federal election campaign on at the moment although until recently around these parts you wouldn’t have noticed.  There sure as heck were next to no posters, stuff all advertising and next to no profile at all from any political parties.

So what has brought on this veritable shower of largesse aimed at ‘work programs’, surf club refits and university expansions and buildings to name but a few?  I’ve even noticed leaflets from the national Party arriving claiming that they have been benevolent like this forever.  It’s just that being the ungrateful wretches we are we haven’t noticed apparently.

Am I being far too cynical in thinking it might just have something to do with the fact we now have a high profile independent running for this seat by the name of Rob Oakeshott and his entry into this campaign has caused the tightening of sphincters in the National Party both federally and locally?  Is it because seat polls here in Cowper are showing for the first time since Lazarus was a cowboy things are close in a federal election here locally?

Surely it couldn’t be that?  Surely it couldn’t be something so cynical?

But if it is that and if the threat to what was one of the safest electorates in Australia has called a thousand banks to burst and shower largesse on us then what does this tell us?

Does it not tell us that turning and keeping this seat marginal under the current two party preferred system is not necessarily a bad thing?  Doesn’t it tell us that genuine competition in politics is a good thing and just like elsewhere in the broader socio-economic world is to be encouraged in politics too?

If, like me, you find yourself answering yes to those last two questions then I reckon we might just need to keep the pressure on come election day this Saturday.  For some of us that might mean changing the voting habits of a lifetime.

I’ve never seen this place seem as optimistic as it has in the past few weeks.  Keeping it going would be no bad thing in my opinion.  Stuff it I finally feel like its time for a change.

I’d be saying exactly the same thing if I lived in a seat where the ALP had a huge majority forever too and genuine opposition came along.

Coalition panics at possible return of Rob Oakeshott in seat of Cowper

Federal election 2016: Coalition panics at possible return of Rob Oakeshott in seat of Cowper,

deploys Malcolm Turnbull

Election 2016: What if no one wins?

The election has always been tipped to be close. So what happens if neither side wins enough seats to form Government?

Election 2016: What if no one wins?

The election has always been tipped to be close. So what happens if neither side wins enough seats to form Government?

Rob Oakeshott could be on the verge of a dramatic return to Parliament.

We don’t take any seat for granted. We are working very hard in Cowper and we’re confident we will get there.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

Coalition strategists appear to have hit the panic button in the NSW seat of Cowper, mobilising Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in an attempt to protect former National Party minister Luke Hartsuyker against the late challenge by the independent.

Independent Rob Oakeshott appears likely to win the seat of Cowper, held by the Liberals since 2001.Independent Rob Oakeshott appears likely to win the seat of Cowper, held by the Liberals since 2001. Photo: Andrew Meares

In an unusual move for a Prime Minister in the last week of an election campaign, Mr Turnbull cold-called a small ABC radio station on Tuesday morning to go into bat for Mr Hartsuyker who is in danger of losing his seat despite a handsome 13 per cent margin to the Nationals in that seat.

ABC Radio’s mid-north coast presenter Michael Spooner was stunned when a media adviser for Mr Turnbull called at 7.46am offering him a rare one-on-one with the PM.

In a 15-minute interview over the phone from Brisbane, Mr Spooner put it to Mr Turnbull that he was concerned about losing Cowper.

Former National Party minister Luke Hartsuyker could lose the seat of Cowper in a late challenge by the independent Rob ...Former National Party minister Luke Hartsuyker could lose the seat of Cowper in a late challenge by the independent Rob Oakeshott. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

“Well, we want to hold on to every seat but we have a great member there in Luke Hartsuyker and are very determined that he is returned,” Mr Turnbull responded.

“He’s a local, he’s very committed. He understands the north coast and the mid-north coast. He’s a very, very passionate representative.”

Mr Spooner had not requested an interview with the Prime Minister during the eight-week campaign, assuming the nation’s leader would not have time for the Port Macquarie-based station.

Mr Turnbull has done four other radio interviews in the past week but with larger metropolitan stations, including Triple M in Adelaide, ABC Radio Tasmania, and the Alan Jones breakfast program on 2GB.

National Party director Scott Mitchell played down the significance of Mr Turnbull’s call to ABC Mid North Coast.

“There’s nothing unusual in it. We don’t take any seat for granted. We are working very hard in Cowper and we’re confident we will get there,” he said.

On Tuesday, Mr Turnbull renewed  his warning against voting for independents and minor parties in both houses.

As a result of the redistribution, Port Macquarie, which is Mr Oakeshott’s home town, has moved into Cowper. He famously represented the seat of Lyne during the Gillard minority government.

Mr Hartsuyker, a former minister for  vocational education and skills under Tony Abbott,  has held the seat since 2001 and appears to have been left flat-footed when Mr Oakeshott declared his intention to contest halfway through the campaign.

A ReachTel poll conducted a fortnight ago indicated that Mr Hartsuyker’s primary vote had tumbled from 53 per cent at the last election to 39 per cent up once Mr Oakeshott entered the race.

With the preferences of Labor and the Greens going to the independent, the result is on a knife edge.


Grattan In Conversation with Tony Abbott

Tony Abbott has so far been the low-key team player in the 2016 election campaign. AAP/Mick Tsikas

Just as there is a “good Malcolm” and a “bad Malcolm” so there is a “good Tony” and a “bad Tony”. As the Liberals went into this election, there was some nervousness about which Tony Abbott would be on show during the campaign.

No wonder really. Everyone remembers the 2010 campaign: former prime minister Kevin Rudd, the leaks, the awkward joint appearance with Julia Gillard to try to display a unity that wasn’t there. Equally, everyone also knows Abbott remains unforgiving about what happened to him last September. So the potential for trouble was always there.

To the relief of the government in what has been a tough first half of the campaign, Abbott has so far been the low-key team player.

The cynical point out that Abbott can be the good guy while his former chief-of-staff Peta Credlin, a commentator on Sky and in News Corp tabloids, says some of the more critical things he might think. Possibly, but the fact remains that Abbott is being very restrained and very careful, given his continued strong feelings.

It’s in his interests to be so. If Malcolm Turnbull wins well, Abbott’s legacy fares better if he has behaved. He can argue that, whatever Turnbull might say, a lot of the election policy was a carry-on from his, Abbott’s, time.

If Turnbull holds power only narrowly, nobody will be able to blame Abbott for the poor result if he has been supportive. And his case for a frontbench role would be stronger – though it is unlikely that even a weakened Turnbull would grant him that.

In the wide-ranging interview with The Conversation on Thursday, Abbott:

  • staunchly defended the government’s superannuation policy, which is under fire from some in the party’s base, including donors;
  • opposed the Liberals preferencing the Greens in any seats;
  • made it clear he’d put his opposition to same-sex marriage in the proposed plebiscite but would vote for the enabling legislation if the yes side won;
  • said, when asked about the performance of Bill Shorten as opposition leader, that while Shorten had very bad policy “at least he’s had the guts to come up with a plan”. In contrast Turnbull said in Sunday’s debate: “they have no plan for economic growth and no plan for jobs”.
  • hinted the party would constrain how far a re-elected Turnbull could follow his own path; and
  • hoped that despite their recent bitter rift he and Bronwyn Bishop could one day be friends again.

Below is an edited transcript of the interview, done in Abbott’s Parliament House office.

Michelle Grattan: Tony Abbott, where have you been campaigning and how have you found the mood of the electorate?

Tony Abbott: Mostly in Warringah, Michelle, because I’m running to be the member for Warringah at this election. Most weeks, though, since the campaign has begun, I’ve been out of the electorate for a day or two. This week, for instance, I helped in Deakin where Michael Sukkar is a very strong local member and I also went up to Wide Bay where, as you know, former deputy prime minister Warren Truss is retiring and Llew O’Brien, a terrific country policeman, is the new National Party candidate up there.

So my objective in this campaign is to be a strong candidate for my own seat and to be as helpful as I can in a low-key way around the country.

MG: So are you going where people invite you? Or do you volunteer yourself?

TA: Well essentially where I’m invited. Obviously, there are some people who are keener than others to have me. But I’m available within reason to be as helpful as I can to people who think that I can be an asset to their campaign.

MG: Has HQ asked you to do anything?

TA: Yes they have. I’ve gone to a couple of fundraisers at HQ’s request. I’ve made a couple of little announcements yesterday on the Sunshine Coast at headquarters’ request and, again, without expecting to be front and centre of this campaign, I want to be as helpful as I can be because it is absolutely essential for our country’s future that the Turnbull government be returned.

MG: So how have you found the mood of the electorate?

TA: I think the electorate has been pretty disengaged up until now …

MG: We’re talking generally of course …

TA: Just generally. Yeah, I mean, there are always groups that are passionate about politics. The Green left are passionate about politics and Bill Shorten is more and more pandering to them, particularly with his 50% renewable target and his 45% emissions reduction target by 2030. This 50% renewable target, if the Grattan Institute is to be believed, requires almost a $50 billion over-build of renewable capacity and consumers will have to pay for that.

So, the Green-left activists are being courted by Bill Shorten.

Obviously there are some issues with the superannuation among staunch Liberals, and the point I keep making to them is that we cannot avoid tough decisions. We cannot avoid doing some things that will upset people if we are to boost the economy and at the same time get the budget under control.

So, there’s engagement by some groups but my sense is that the community at large is yet to be passionately engaged in this campaign and I guess that’s got to be good for the incumbent government.

MG: Just before we leave your campaigning – are you going to go to Lindsay and are you going to go to Indi?

TA: I certainly have been talking to Sophie Mirabella about how I can help her because, as you know, Sophie’s a friend of mine. We’ve been mates for 20-odd years. And I was very, very disappointed that Sophie didn’t win Indi in 2013 because I expected her to be a strong member of the Abbott cabinet.

As for Lindsay, look I’ve certainly done a lot of campaigning in Lindsay over the years but Lindsay was the designated donee conference for my [electorate] conference. This time the designation donee conference is Dobell on the Central Coast. So I think you’re much more likely to find me in Dobell than in Lindsay.

MG: And on Indi, you might go there?

TA: Well, it’s really up to the campaign team in Indi but certainly I have a lot of time for Sophie Mirabella. I think it’s very much in the interests of the people of Indi that they have as their local member someone who can be a strong part of a government, rather than an independent who inevitably is going to be a voice in the wilderness.

MG: Barnaby Joyce has said the government will take a haircut – the question is how much. What’s your assessment?

TA: We had a very, very strong result in 2013 and it was always going to be hard to hold onto all of those seats. Nevertheless I have the impression that all of our marginal seat members are working hard.

There’s no doubt that Michael Sukkar in Deakin, for instance, is working incredibly hard. I know people like Andrew Nikolic and the others of the musketeers, the three musketeers in Tasmania, are working incredibly hard. Karen McNamara in Dobell is working very hard. I was with George Christensen up in central Queensland a week or so ago back. He’s working very hard, so look I don’t think there’s anyone who’s not working hard …

MG: But hard work doesn’t always do it …

TA: It doesn’t always do it but nevertheless it means a very great deal. It’s interesting, if you go back to 1998, the marginal seat members who relied on the national campaign to get them over the line tended to lose.

The marginal seat members who had done an enormous amount of grassroots work in their electorates, who’d actually done the hard yards door knocking, phone canvassing, attending to the needs of people who walked in the door of their offices, they were the ones who survived and became in many cases great stalwarts of the Howard government.

MG: Your performance as opposition leader was generally recognised, I think by both sides of politics, as highly effective for its purpose. I wonder how you rate Bill Shorten’s performance, leaving aside the content of what he’s selling, but as an opposition leader.

TA: Well, you should never underestimate Labor. That’s the first point to make. Labor have enormous campaigning skills. Let’s face it, Labor has this permanent campaigning arm – the union movement – which has thousands of organisers on the payroll. It has about a billion dollars a year at its disposal from membership fees and these days the union apparatus is more and more interested in campaigning and less and less focused on the actual workplace. So, we should never underestimate Labor.

As for Bill Shorten, look, he seemed to lose his mojo a bit in the latter part of last year but he’s obviously lifted himself this year. And whether you agree with the policy or not, and obviously I think it’s terrible policy to hit our people with $100 billion worth of new taxes over the next decade given that we’re already over-taxed, I think it’s very bad policy but at least he’s had the guts to come up with a plan.

It’s a thoroughly bad plan but it is at least a plan. It’s a tax-and-spend-and-borrow plan. It’s the most left-wing program that Labor has had probably since Doc Evatt but, nevertheless, it is a plan.

MG: How well does the government need to win for Malcolm Turnbull to have a strong mandate?

TA: Well, a mandate depends not just on the size of the majority, it also depends on the policy platform that you take to the people. I think that our policy platform is a strong one. There’s a company tax cut to boost investment jobs and prosperity. There’s a middle-income tax cut because they’re the people having a go, there’s an absolute determination to throw the book at dodgy union officials and corrupt union governance, which has done so much damage to our country over decades.

And, of course, we are the only people you can trust to keep our borders secure and our country safe. So, I think that if the government is returned we’ll have a strong mandate for all of those policies.

MG: You said previously that Malcolm Turnbull at this election would be campaigning on the Abbott government’s record. Is this turning out to be the case?

TA: Well, there’s no doubt that we can go to the people at this election with a very strong record of achievement …

MG: The Abbott government record?

TA: Well, don’t forget Malcolm Turnbull was a senior member of the Abbott government. He was a member of the cabinet that made all these decisions and effected all these changes for the better.

The boats are stopped. No-one thought we could do that. The carbon tax and the mining tax are gone and everyone thought those taxes were forever. The three free trade agreements that had defied previous governments for a decade are well and truly in place and they’ll set us up for decades to come. We’ve made a very strong start to budget repair, although there’s obviously a lot more work to be done there.

Infrastructure is going ahead massively right around the country except in Victoria and that’s the Victorian government’s fault. And we’ve kept our country safe in the face of unprecedented national security challenges.

So, it’s a very strong record and it’s a great record for the prime minister to build on.

MG: If Malcolm Turnbull got a big majority, do you think or fear he might take the party in a very different direction to the one he inherited from you?

TA: Well, the interesting thing is that as party leader you are very much a product of the party in a way that you aren’t quite when you are simply a senior frontbencher.

As you might remember from my own past, Michelle, at times as a frontbencher, even in government I would strike out on my own a little, sometimes with the tacit encouragement of the prime minister, sometimes without any encouragement.

You become party leader and you don’t have the luxury of a private view anymore. You are there to represent the team to discern what is best for the team, to discern what is going to keep the team together, if you’re prime minister what’s going to be best for the country and what’s going to keep the country united and cohesive, and you’ve got to go with that.

MG: So what do you think will be the nature of the post-election parliamentary Liberal Party? Will it be more conservative or more moderate than we see at the moment?

TA: I think it will continue to have strong voices who are on the more liberal side and strong voices who are on the more conservative side.

MG: So it won’t change much from now?

TA: Not much. I mean, if you look at the people who we’ve preselected for seats that we would expect to hold, we’ve got someone like Tim Wilson in Goldstein, you’ve got someone like Julian Leeser in Berowra. I think it would be fair to say that Tim is probably more on the liberal side. Julian Leeser is probably more on the conservative side.

Someone like [candidate for Tangney, WA] Ben Morton – very smart person – I think a sensible pragmatic conservative. I think we’ve got good new members coming into the parliament or likely to come into the parliament this time and I think one way or another they will all be within the Liberal mainstream.

MG: Will you seek to be an active leader of the conservatives post-election, the conservative group in the party?

TA: Well, my plan is to be as useful as I can be in the next parliament. Now, obviously first and foremost, I’m going to be a strong local member and there are a lot of things that need to be done in my seat.

Obviously there’s the standard representational work that every member does but it’s vital that having worked with the state government to get a new hospital for the northern beaches that I work with the state government to ensure that we finally get the new transport infrastructure that is long overdue for our part of Sydney.

We desperately need a road tunnel under Mosman. The Baird government has it on its medium-term planning list once WestConnex and NorthConnex are truly underway and it will help our area to get that if the local member is someone of national standing.

MG: But nationally, would you seek to be a leader of the conservatives?

TA: Well, look, I want to be as useful as I can be and that will mean standing up for what I think are good Liberal, conservative positions. Those are the positions of our party. Let’s never forget, Michelle, whether we use the broad church terminology of John Howard or the big tent terminology of John Brogden, our party is, if you like, a coalition. It’s a formal coalition with the National Party but within that broad coalition there are a range of different voices and that’s healthy. That’s healthy and I’ll certainly be contributing to that after the election.

MG: Now some of these voices are speaking up at the moment on superannuation. How serious is this revolt? You promised not to touch super, do you think your view has been vindicated?

TA: Michelle, there obviously is some disgruntlement among some people who are normally very strong Liberal supporters. But the point I keep making to them is that superannuation is not about building up your wealth, it’s about giving you a reasonable income in retirement. Now over the years some people have seen it as a vehicle for wealth creation.

The government, quite understandably in the circumstances, wants to return superannuation to its original purpose. The Labor Party, likewise, wants to return superannuation to its original purpose, which is why Labor has some rather similar proposals on the table to ours.

The other point I keep making, Michelle, is that sure, superannuation is going to be less tax-advantaged for people with very large superannuation balances, but there is no way of doing the sorts of things we have to do with company tax without finding the revenue from somewhere.

MG: But you would never have taken this decision.

TA: Well, I went to the last election with a position. As you know, the prime ministership changed and the cabinet took a position as part of the budget process. Now I think there are strong arguments for the position that the government has taken and I’m certainly out there prosecuting those arguments.

MG: And have the people who are in the party, the parliamentary party, who are criticising this, have they tried to enlist your support?

TA: Look, the short answer is we are all supporting the government’s position. We accept that superannuation for a small percentage of people is going to be somewhat less tax-advantaged under our proposals than is currently the case. But if you want to deliver a very important company tax cut that over time will add 1% to GDP and massively boost investment, jobs and prosperity, it’s got to be paid for somehow.

Labor thinks money grows on trees. We know that if you are responsibly to provide concessions in one area, you’ve got to address concessions in another area and that’s what we’re doing, we’re acting in a responsible, prudent way.

MG: Could it change after the election or is it set in stone?

TA: I don’t expect it to.

MG: We’ve been in Melbourne this week in Batman and Wills where the Greens at least have a fighting chance in those Labor seats and if they got Liberal preferences, they’d perhaps have quite a good chance. The Liberal Party at the moment is considering that question – whether to give the Greens preferences. Do you think the Greens should be preferenced in those seats in exchange for a deal that would help the Liberals in outer suburban seats?

TA: Well, Michelle, this is a matter for the lay party.

MG: You’ve had strong views in the past.

TA: Yes, yes. And certainly as a general rule I think that more responsible parties should be preferenced ahead of less-responsible parties and for all the Labor Party’s faults it is, in the end, the alternative government and heaven help us if the Greens were ever the alternative government. So, you can probably draw a conclusion from that if you want, Michelle …

MG: I think I can take that as a no but …

TA: But, in the end, this is the matter for the party organisation.

MG: But I can accept that as a no?

TA: It’s a matter for the party organisation.

MG: What would be the danger of preferencing the Greens?

TA: Well, as I said, we are the party of strong economic management. We are the party of national security and the Greens are the opposite …

MG: But you’d wreak havoc in the Labor Party …

TA: They are the absolute opposite and it’s very important that people understand that the Liberal Party is a sensible, principled party; that the Coalition is a sensible, principled coalition; and we don’t play footsie with people who would destroy our economy and damage our national security.

MG: Now I know you’ve said in the past that the Abbott era is over but it’s always hard to believe that a former leader doesn’t still have the baton in there somewhere and anyway isn’t that a decision for the parliamentary party? You’ve always said you’d serve the party.

TA: But as I said and as you reminded me Michelle, the Abbott era is over. It was a very decisive vote in the partyroom back in September of last year and I just can’t imagine that it will be revisited.

MG: After the election, if the opportunity presented itself, would you like to serve on the frontbench?

TA: This is a matter for the prime minister … I’m not asking for advancement. I’m not expecting advancement. I am running to be the member for Warringah. I’m very happy to be the member for Warringah, should I be returned. There are all sorts of things I can do as the member for Warringah which I think will be a useful contribution to the next parliament.

MG: I think we might take that as a yes. You’ve been really, really restrained at this election. How hard has that been?

TA: Well, again, Michelle, I’ve always tried to be a team player. Now, that hasn’t meant that at times in the past I haven’t tried a few initiatives of my own. But always, always with the intention of strengthening the team, of helping the team and I don’t intend to change now.

MG: But you’ve had breakouts even when you were a senior member of the team and yet we’ve seen nearly a month of this campaign and it’s been very much the “good Tony” hasn’t it?

TA: Michelle, look, as I said, I’ve always been a team player. It is imperative that we return the Turnbull government at this election, absolutely essential for Australia that we return the Turnbull government. Bill Shorten is a clever politician but a Shorten government would be worse than Rudd, worse than Gillard. It would be the most left-wing Labor government in our history and that’s the last thing we need.

MG: You spoke about other ways of serving if you’re not on the frontbench. And it has to be said that Malcolm Turnbull hasn’t given any encouragement to the thought that you would be on the frontbench. So what other ways are there of serving as a parliamentarian?

TA: Well, as I said, Michelle, a local member speaks up for his or her electorate, makes a vigorous contribution to the partyroom, and can have a voice in the debates that our nation faces. And, look, on a whole range of subjects I think I’ve got constructive and useful things to say. I made some constructive and useful speeches over the last few months since leaving the prime ministership and that will continue.

MG: Well there are two very big debates that are coming up. One is the Indigenous referendum and the other is the same-sex marriage debate. On the Indigenous referendum issue – how do you think that’s going and would you be really active in that campaign?

TA: I think it’s now being mulled over by people at a grassroots level. There are the community consultations that Bill Shorten and I agreed upon back in July of last year that are now going ahead. There’s an Indigenous stream, there’s a general stream. They’re taking place.

Hopefully, in the next few months, a proposal will crystallise, a proposal which can unite our country rather than divide our country, and provided it is about recognition and it’s not seeking to do a whole lot of other things that might be more properly be the preserve of the parliament, I see no reason why I won’t be there campaigning strongly for it.

MG: And you think it can be carried?

TA: If it’s about recognition and not about a whole lot of other things, yes I do.

MG: And in the same-sex marriage campaign, which looks as though, if the government is returned, will be this year, will you be campaigning for the “no” case?

TA: Well, again, I have a well-known position on this. I’m a traditionalist on this. I accept that good people can disagree on this and I accept that a position which was almost unthinkable a decade ago is now strongly supported by lots of people in our community.

I think of my sister – the arguments I’ve had with her. She was not interested in this five years ago but now she’s passionate about it, as is her right. But I have a position. It’s been a very consistent position and in appropriate ways I’ll be putting it.

MG: So you would expect individual Liberal MPs – backbenchers – to be able to campaign for “yes” or “no”?

TA: Well, I certainly think that the whole point of a plebiscite is that politicians become less important and people become more important. I mean that’s the whole point of a plebiscite. It takes it out of the hands of the parliament and puts it into the hands of the people and Tony Abbott’s opinion is no more important than anyone else’s opinion.

MG: But MPs would be free to put that opinion…

TA: Well, again, this is a matter for the partyroom to thrash out. But I’d certainly expect that there would be some people on one side, there will be other people on the other side and that will be true of the Labor Party as well.

MG: And some of your colleagues, for example I think Eric Abetz, have suggested that if the “yes” vote got up they would still feel free to vote against the enabling legislation. Would that be your view or would you think that if the “yes” vote got up that would be an instruction to MPs, as it were, from the electorate?

TA: Well, my view is that by putting this view to the people at a plebiscite, we’ve effectively said that the people are sovereign on this matter rather than the parliament.

MG: So you’d vote for enabling legislation …

TA: You’d have to respect the outcome.

MG: Do you undertake to serve a full three years?

TA: I do.

MG: And just finally you’ve got James Mathison, who compered Australian Idol, in your electorate standing against you. He obviously won’t win but do you have any message for the disillusioned young people that might be inclined to vote for him and did you follow the program at the time?

TA: Michelle, first point to make is that I am not complacent about the result in Warringah and I take nothing for granted. I’m certainly campaigning very vigorously in Warringah this time around. There are a range of candidates and the gentleman you mentioned is just one of them. Look, I can remember watching Australian Idol a few years ago and really enjoying the program. But there’s a world of difference between hosting a TV program and being a strong and effective member of parliament.

MG: I know I said that was the last question but perhaps I should add one postscript and that is: you used to be very close to Bronwyn Bishop and as we know that relationship fell apart over the speakership, the helicopter, the preselection and so on. Have you been in contact with her at all since she lost preselection?

TA: No, I haven’t. Look …

MG: Any reconciliation possible there?

TA: I would certainly like to think that at some point in the future the long friendship could be resumed. But there’s absolutely no doubt that the loss of the speakership was a very hard blow for Bronwyn, and I can understand that. And I guess the difficulty with the things that have happened over the last 12 months is that a number of relationships have been strained.

That doesn’t prevent people from doing what needs to be done in the interests of our party and our government and our country but there’s no doubt that things that have happened in the last 12 months have strained some relationships.

MG: Tony Abbott, thank you very much for talking with The Conversation today.


Residents will have an even greater choice of candidates in the forthcoming elections for council. Mr Dick Tatter telepathically announced he will head up a ticket. The other candidates are Mr Con Fusion, Mr Woody Chopper and Miss Take.

Under the banner of “business as usual” this dedicated group will ensure residents will not need to express their needs and desires  group as our group will do it for them. This will save considerable time and be in the interests of all residents said Miss Take.

Mr Dick Tatter believes that he alone can run this city as he has the vision, the abilities and everything else that is needed.  His catch cry is “it is only operational”.  High on the list of  outstanding achievements is the introduction of the new tourist drive through the centre of the city.

Mr confusion enthused that this has been a spectacular success with motorists queuing up for blocks just to get a chance to  glimpse visionary “city hub”.

The Christmas tree in he centre of the offending roundabout  will be dismantled and if  necessary council will reassign Christmas celebrations until such time as the work is completed. Miss Take said there was a distinct financial advantage if council combined Christmas Day and Australia Day as a single holiday for the next year – this would be purely a trial  but if it worked it could become a permanent fixture. Expressions of interest from consultants to explore this option can be lodged with the council administration branch.

Unfortunately the tourist drive misses the greatest attraction of all. The pioneer Park complex is off limits, said Mt Woody Chopper, as staff are trying to locate  the  trees listed for preservation.

Fragments of these trees will be gathered up and donated to the historical museum so that in the future younger residents will know what the trees looked like.

It is expected that the temporary bypass will be finished just as the tourist drive reaches the last day of its operation. At the time the proposed light rail should be ready to kick off and council will be able to “rip up” new installed infrastructure. If all goes to plan this will be a masterstroke of co-ordinated planning and resource management. Council has placed and embargo on heavy rainfall during the (extended) duration of the project.  The City drainage system will be inoperative as the old pipes are lifted and replaced with new drain pipes.

A trial flooding will be scheduled  just before the new pipes are laid to ensure that they will optimally place the pipes to deal with future emergencies.

Businesses have applauded the foresight of council as they are to save money by not having to deal  with those pesky customers. Some will give staff extended holidays. Crime in the City centre should fall foo as the number of people “strolling along the avenue” diminishes.  Enterprising youngsters  wishing to peddle food items to motorists on the tourist drive are reminded that hawker’s licences essential before commencing any “pop-up business.

Whilst full candidate profiles are yet to be lodged Mr Dick Tatter said they would probably ne unnecessary. He has full confidence in his own abilities. In fact He concluded, it probably is not necessary to have an election for council as he will not take any notice of what residents want. The election will just be a waste of money which I can spend somewhere else. “It is after all just operational”.

SCU welcomes $12 million for new allied health building

Southern Cross University has welcomed the announcement of a $12 million investment from a federal Coalition Government for stage one of a new allied health building at the Coffs Harbour campus

Southern Cross Vice Chancellor Professor Peter lee, Federal Member forCowper Luke Hartsuyker, Coffs Harbour City Council Mayor Denise Knight, and Chamber of Commerce President George Cecato

The announcement was made today (June 24) by the federal Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker

Vice Chancellor Professor Peter Lee said it was fantastic news for Coffs Harbour.

“This is an exciting day for the University and the Coffs Harbour community.  This investment would enable us to proceed with stage one of our allied health building, paving the way for new courses and facilities for students and the community,” Professor Lee said.

“We will introduce degrees in speech pathology and occupational therapy and establish the SCU Health Clinic, an innovative model of providing community care and professional experience for our students.”

Professor Lee acknowledged the strong support from the federal Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker and the Coffs community for the project.

“We have a strong vision for the future of Coffs Harbour and a long standing commitment to provide education opportunities for local students. We are delighted we are now able to take this next significant step, which will help fill an increasing need for skilled health professionals.”

Professor David Lynch, head of the Coffs Harbour campus, thanked the Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce, the Coffs Harbour City Council, representatives of the health sector and industry for their strong support for the project.

“Southern Cross University has a strong connection with the community and we have been working closely with a range of stakeholders to bring this project to fruition.  It will provide significant new opportunities for young people in particular,” Professor Lynch said.

“The University contributes around $36.1 million in gross regional product to the economy and this project will bring with it new jobs, in the construction phase and beyond.”

Professor Lynch said the concept for the allied health building was well-developed.

“We are shovel-ready for this project. The funding will enable us to complete stage one and we will continue to look for funding opportunities to complete the additional stages.”

What price a non-binding plebiscite? $160m

Turnbull signalled on Friday that the controversial marriage equality plebiscite, if held, would be followed by a conscience vote in parliament. That gives conservatives an out if the nation votes in favour, raising the obvious question: why have a plebiscite at all?

Turnbull sees no issue, stating that if most Australians voted in favour of marriage equality, MPs would be guided by that result. So that’s a conscience vote where every conservative in the parliament votes yes, you say? Hmm …

Who better to expand on this thinking but the treasurer, Scott Morrison,who earlier this week compared the “hate speech” and bigotry he’d received for opposing same-sex marriage with that experienced by same-sex-attracted people.

Morrison said he would “respect” the result of the plebiscite, but did not clarify whether that meant he’d support the national vote or that of his electorate. Either way, you can see the limits of Turnbull’s approach-in-good-faith pretty quickly, as Murph unpicks here.

Labor’s Penny Wong was not amused, pointing out that Turnbull – a supporter of marriage equality himself, he says – had given its opponents a free vote after the election but not its supporters one beforehand.

And the Greens’ marriage equality spokesman, Robert Simms, accused the PM of subjecting the LGBTI community to an “ugly and divisive hate campaign” merely to appease the conservative forces of his backbench.

“How exactly can the prime minister justify spending $160m on what is in effect a giant opinion poll that isn’t even binding on his own members? … It’s time for some spine from this prime minister.”

Further reading

• Election deciders: the media (Crikey) Not even the mighty News Corp tabloids can make the public care deeply about this election, writes Myriam Robin.

• Warren Entsch rejects Julia Gillard ‘ditch the witch’ poster comparison(Fairfax) Here’s a tip: don’t describe MPs – or any women – as witches!

• I don’t trust Libs on Medicare, says student (The Australian) Labor’s scare campaign seems to be working. Elsewhere in the Oz, Dennis Shanahan says the same.

• Shanahan also has written a weird piece about the PM’s fond memories of the communal showers at the surf lifesaving club at North Bondi:

“Turnbull believes the showers, in the then male-only surf club, were a social leveller with people from every background, including Jewish members from the “schmutter business” – rag trade – indistinguishable in swimmers or naked.”

The case for a four-day week, every week

Imagine if you only had to go through this four days a week...Imagine if you only had to go through this four days a week… Photo: John Phillips

Imagine if every weekend was a long weekend, and every week a four-day week.

In Sweden, a 30-hour week has been shown to benefit satisfaction and health, and lead to a more equal share of housework and childcare between genders. Yet another Swedish experiment found that a decrease in work time by 1 per cent corresponds to an 0.8 per cent reduction in household greenhouse gas emissions.

Australian academics have recently called for our current 38-hour cap to be strengthened in order to improve gender equality. Perhaps we should go further: a four-day work week – for both men and women.

In Sweden, a 30-hour week has been shown to benefit satisfaction and health.In Sweden, a 30-hour week has been shown to benefit satisfaction and health.

In her book The Wife Drought, Fairfax Media columnist Annabel Crabb suggested we’ve been looking at workplace equality all wrong. It’s not just about getting women into work, keeping them there, and paying them well. It’s about getting men to go home.

Of couples with children, the prevailing family structure is loosely traditional: a man working full-time with a partner either working part-time or not at all. About half of all nuclear families look like this.

Things look different for mothers working full-time: less than 15 per cent have partners who work part-time or not at all. This may explain some of the difficulty women have reaching the top in particularly demanding professions.

Labor leader Bill Shorten was criticised for pointing out that “men in Australia rely on the women in Australia to do the childcare”. But it’s true: women do 64 per cent of the childcare in couple families. Factoring in single parent families, this figure would be much higher.

It’s a similar story with housework: in a week, an average Australian woman will clock up 42 hours if she is not employed, and 25 hours if she is employed full-time. For men, the figures are 20 and 16 hours respectively.

Crabb notes that despite women’s considerable shift into work, “the lack of a corresponding shift the other way by men means that combining work and family, for women, is harder than it should be”.

Men find it hard to step back from work, even if they want to: the Diversity Council observed in 2012 that 79 per cent of young fathers would like to try a compressed work week, but only a quarter did. It’s not just fathers. Last year the Australia Institute found that almost half of full-time workers feel overworked and want to work less.

Couples have a limited amount of time between them to earn, care, cook and clean. By capping the days men (and women) can spend at work, couples would be encouraged to shuffle around who does what: a woman might head to work for three days instead of two, while a man takes care of the kids on his extra day off.

The interplay of all these social, economic and environmental effects is complex. But there is certainly enough promise to warrant some thought while you put your feet up.

Madeline White is a freelance writer


Thus Spake Mungo: Airy fairy election promises

Mungo, speechless

Mungo receiving the Echo Award for the Most Underpaid and Over Qualified Australian Journalist at the Echo 30th Birthday bash in Mullumbimby on Saturday.

So we now have competing ten year plans for what will be, at most, a three year parliament. And for this reason alone neither of them is worth the paper it is largely not written on.

When – if – they mature, they will be three elections away, with all the changes that this entails; even in the highly unlikely case that a single government survives that long, there will be retractions, backflips, broken promises and claims that of course the circumstances have altered and therefore the legislators must do the same.

The pie in the sky scenarios being promoted by both major parties are not just wishy-washy – they are totally airy-fairy, pure puffery.

But of course it is far more basic than that. Even that eternal fount of optimism, the commonwealth treasury, has to admit that the future is far from certain, and if things go wrong — as they are more or less bound to within a decade – all bets are off and we will be in deep doo-doo. So the pie in the sky scenarios being promoted by both major parties are not just wishy-washy – they are totally airy-fairy, pure puffery.

Which is, no doubt, why both Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten are talking down their immediate benefits: nothing much will happen in the first four years, leaving plenty of time to more unlikely promises before the next time the voters are dragged to the polls. And both sides reckon that they will deliver budget surpluses in 2020-21.

Well, they might, but if they do it will be a matter of hope triumphant over experience. The last two treasurers, Wayne Swan and Joe Hockey, both promised early surpluses and the targets continued, remorselessly, to recede; the deficit has in fact trebled in the years since Hockey famously declared a budget emergency and became far worse after he announced the end of the age of entitlement. So no-one is likely to lay down the champagne in anticipation of when the figures come around in four years time.

The point is that the forecasts are pointless; they are mere spin, designed partly to inspire confidence, which is not a bad thing, but mainly to pretend to the punters that the situation is totally under control, that there is no reason for alarm, let alone for panic. Because of course if there was, the leaders would have to do something about it, and in the election contest this is simply not on.

While it is highly unlikely that the answer lies in hung parliaments with minor parties and independents cobbled together in hastily formed coalitions, it is tempting to believe that they couldn’t do any worse than that in the last few lots.

So we see Shorten belatedly tweaking spending cuts while Turnbull waffles and Morrison mutters about how something may (or may not) happen after July 2 is safely out of the way. And each side goes along with the fantasy that it, and only it, has the solution and the other is wasting money, attempting to bribe the swinging voters and avoiding the real issues. It is hard to deny that at least a large part of the second contention is right – on both sides.

In the circumstances the public has every right to remain cynical and disengaged; the drift away from the major parties is accelerating, and while it is highly unlikely that the answer lies in hung parliaments with minor parties and independents cobbled together in hastily formed coalitions, it is tempting to believe that they couldn’t do any worse than that in the last few lots.

It is now more than decade since John Howard started hurling the proceeds of the mining boom to any willing voters who asked for them and since then there has no serious attempt to repair the damage. Obviously the GFC did not help, and nor did the decline in commodity prices; but these could have been, and should have been accommodated if properly and honestly structured budgets had become the norm.

Instead, we saw ambushes, broken promises, and a continuation of the handout mentality to the rent seekers from both major parties. Most of them have done very nicely, thank you – until their own largesse was at least partially removed to make way for the next lot of carpetbaggers. And so it has been, and so it is.

This is not to say that some, at least, of the proposals suggested by Turnbull and Shorten are not worthwhile. Company tax cuts are intrinsically desirable, although the contention that they are some kind of economic philosopher’s stone is of course absurd. Education, health and renewable energy are obviously important priorities, and supporting them should be applauded: but equally obviously, their effect on the economy is at best indirect and long term.

To their credit, both Turnbull and Shorten are finally acknowledging that there are problems, and that they are more likely to get worse before, if ever, they get better. But that is about all they are doing; most of the time they are wafting through the marginal seats, distributing beads, mirrors and other trinkets to the eager recipients on the one hand while mercilessly blackguarding the opposition on the other.

It has been a most unedifying election campaign, and we still have the three long weeks of it to endure. Shorten at least keeps telling us that his plan will eventually be fully costed well before the fateful day, in plenty of time for the government’s enforcers to fall on it with shrill screams of outrage and deliver it to the Murdoch press, which, after a brief turn at mildly criticising Turnbull, has fallen (or been pushed) into line to bash Labor and everything it stands for, or that it can be imagined to stand for. Turnbull, when asked about his figures, simply refers doubters to go back to his budget – which is no answer at all, given the way things have developed since and are still developing.

So for the weary voters, it will come back to a simple question: which of the unloved and untrusted leaders can they bear to put up with for the next three years, and is there any point in trying to alleviate the pain with a touch of seasoning from new and untried ingredients? You pays your money, if you have any left, and you takes your choice, such as it is. And in the end, you are stuck with the old truism: whoever you vote for, a politician always gets in. Good luck.

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State of the states: 19 reasons why Turnbull and Shorten keep flying to Queensland

Ahead of polling day on July 2, our State of the states series takes stock of the key issues, seats and policies affecting the vote in each of Australia’s states and territories. We begin today with a look at New South Wales and Queensland.

There are 19 good reasons why Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten have been spending so much time in Queensland. To win government, Labor needs a net gain of 19 seats nationally – and that’s the exact number of marginal seats being fought over in Queensland this election.

Stretching from far north and central Queensland to a cluster in the state’s south-east, there are 12 federal seats with margins of less than 5%, and seven more on margins of less than 8%, which in a Queensland context can be considered marginal. Of those dozen most marginal seats, the Liberal National Party and Labor each have the edge in five, though the LNP is likely to take back Clive Palmer’s seat of Fairfax. Bob Katter holds the other in Kennedy.

Our team at Griffith University chose ten of those key Queensland seats to watch closely and we have developed interactive profiles of each one, drawing on Australian Bureau of Statistics population, income, housing and education data.

Key issues and seats in regional Queensland

Queensland is Australia’s most decentralised state, and the only state or territory where roughly half of its population of 4.7 million lives outside the capital.

To understand why some election promises matter more than others in Queensland – from a now bipartisan pledge to build Townsville a new stadium, to spending more on the Great Barrier Reef – you need to look at the demographics of marginal seats, as we have done.

In May, Bill Shorten restated Labor’s support for a new stadium for Townsville, now matched by the Coalition. Mick Tsikas/AAP

Take jobs and growth. Turnbull’s much-vaunted “economic plan” aims to transition Australia from the mining boom to the new “innovation economy”. But that means quite different things to voters in the north and west of the state, where unemployment is above the state average of 6.2%.

The state’s unemployment highest rate, almost 12%, is in Townsville, which is in the north Queensland electorate of Herbert, held by the Coalition’s Ewen Jones on a 6.2% margin. There, the closure of Queensland Nickel has compounded the mining downturn.

Queensland’s regional unemployment rates.Department of Employment, Australian GovernmentCC BY

Add to that the “double whammy” of negative equity in houses and investment properties bought at the peak of the boom. Those factors can also be expected to impact other Coalition seats: Dawson, which lies south of Herbert and includes the city of Mackay; Hinkler, which takes in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay; and Leichhardt, a seat more than twice the size of Tasmania, sprawling from Cairns north to the Torres Strait Islands.

Both leaders and their respective frontbenchers have made frequent visits to regional Queensland, particularly seats like Capricornia, which the LNP’s Michelle Landry holds by 0.8%. Again proving the power of incumbency, Capricornia, Dawson, Herbert and Leichhardt have all benefited from what the Australian Financial Review has dubbed “the Coalition’s $1.7 billion pork barrel strategy”.

On Monday, after months of local campaigning, Turnbull promised $100 million towards a multi-purpose stadium in Townsville. That matched a Labor pledge from last year.


Turnbull used the same trip to announce a new $1 billion Reef Fund to be spent over the next decade, in contrast to Shorten’s earlier campaign pledge of $500 million over five years for additional reef funding and research. The Great Barrier Reef is a hot topic statewide for voters concerned about the environment and climate change. But in these northern seats, protecting the reef is also about protecting tourism jobs.

Regional Queensland is at the heart of another issue that has been simmering for months, and which is sure to raised again in today’s state budget: disaster relief and recovery.

In 2015, much of Queensland felt the brunt of Tropical Cyclones Marcia and Nathan, especially the electorates of Hinkler, Capricornia, Dawson, Flynn, Wide Bay, Herbert and Leichhardt. But it emerged recently that the federal government has “withheld” $1.1 billion in reimbursementfunding owed to Queensland under the National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.

This issue could gain greater national attention as Queensland, NSW and Tasmania all assess the damage from the east coast low and flooding that claimed five lives.

Key issues and seats in south-east Queensland

In south-east Queensland, which is home to seven out of ten Queenslanders, jobs are also a concern. But it’s a story of stark contrasts.

Unemployment runs as high as 11% in Ipswich (part of retiring Labor member Bernie Ripoll’s electorate of Oxley) to a low of 3.1% in north Brisbane, and between 4.5-6% to the south and west of the city. In these electorates, cost of living looms among the most significant issues. Labor in particular has focused on costs of childcare, public school funding, and the government’s decision to freeze the Medicare rebate for another three years.

One of the most interesting electorates to watch on election night will be Dickson, in Brisbane’s outer north, which Immigration Minister Peter Dutton holds on a margin of 6.7%.

Dutton wrested the seat from Cheryl Kernot in 2001, but this time he is being challenged by Labor’s Linda Lavarch, a former Queensland attorney-general. Lavarch’s ex-husband and former Keating government attorney-general Michael Lavarch held the seat from 1993-96. A national social media campaign is being waged to “ditch Dutton” by the activist group GetUp!; by June 10, it had reportedly crowd-funded $190,000.

On asylum-seekers and border security, as with managing the economy, the Coalition maintains a decisive edge with voters. This may explain why Dutton went so hard, so early, on refugees in the opening weeks of the campaign. But Dutton’s comments may yet backfire on his leader in the inner-urban electorates of Griffith and Brisbane, which the ABC’s Vote Compass shows are Queensland’s two most left-leaning seats.

The LNP’s Trevor Evans (right) at an anti-homophobia ceremony in Brisbane. Dan Peled/AAP

In Brisbane, Teresa Gambaro’s belated decision not to re-contest the marginal inner-northern seat left the LNP scrambling to find a candidate to challenge Labor’s Pat O’Neill. O’Neill, a former Army officer, has been campaigning since he was preselected in June 2015.

The LNP’s Trevor Evans was endorsed in April 2016. Much has been made of the contest between two “openly gay” major party candidates. But it remains unclear whether economic or social issues will be of more concern to Brisbane voters. Expect the Greens’ candidate Kirsten Lovejoy to have an impact, even more so as a result of the Labor/Greens preference deal.

Why Queensland is always a state to watch

Historically, Queenslanders have favoured conservative or Coalition governments – making it fashionable for some on the left to describe it as a “conservative backwater”. But when it comes to politics, the more accurate adjective is “volatile”.

Queensland voters tend to swing harder than elsewhere, which has proved as decisive in turfing out recent Coalition governments as it has in rejecting Labor.

In 1996, Queenslanders were “waiting on their verandahs with baseball bats” to oust Paul Keating’s Labor government, helping John Howard’s Coalition win all but two Queensland seats.

But in 2007, Queenslanders swung more dramatically against Howard’s government than any other state (7.53% to Labor) to elect “Kevin from Queensland”. Labor won seats in the Coalition heartland in the north (Dawson and Leichhardt), as well as central Queensland (Flynn), and around the outer Brisbane mortgage belt in Forde, Longman, Moreton, and Petrie.

In 2010, Queensland voters repudiated Julia Gillard and played a major role in driving Labor into minority government after just one term: 9 of 18 seats Labor lost in that election were in Queensland.

At the last federal election in 2013, Queensland turned decisively to Tony Abbott. Labor achieved a primary vote of 29.8%, winning just six out of 30 lower house seats.

Then, almost as if to prove how volatile Queensland politics can be, came last year’s state election, in which the LNP went from winning a record majority in 2012 to losing power.

Whether Queensland’s unpredictable behaviour at the ballot box will be repeated on July 2 remains to be seen. With two-and-a-half weeks of campaigning to go, there doesn’t appear to be the kind of mood for change that usually accompanies big swings in Queensland. And Labor’s low base in Queensland, plus the slight margins held in traditionally Labor electorates like Lilley (1.3%) and Moreton (1.6%), makes it an uphill battle.

There is also a developing consensus that the national swings reported in published opinion polls are not translating to the seats that matter. This, and historical experience, may explain why the Coalition looks less anxious in Queensland than some might have anticipated.