Thanks, Bob Brown, You Helped Labor Lose The Unloseable Election

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Queenslanders don’t like being told how to vote, and even less how to think, writes John Mikkelsen.

Still trying to figure out how Labor lost another unloseable election? The pollsters got it wrong, the bookies got it wrong, the punters got it wrong the ABC and most of the mainstream media got it wrong.

And obviously Bill Shorten got it very wrong.

Bob Hawke got it right when he said, “Never underestimate the intelligence of The Australian voters”. He probably should have added, “Especially in Queensland”, where Labor lost two seats and the LNP shored up their margins even in Peter Dutton’s Dickson, where Labor and GetUp put in a huge effort.

We even saw the spectacle of another ex-Labor PM Paul Keating, shakily urge voters to “drive a stake through his dark political heart”.

Why did they all get it so far off the mark? Well Queenslanders don’t take kindly to a bunch of ratbags from the south telling them how to run their economy and create jobs. So Bob Brown’s Anti-Adani Convoy couldn’t have come at a better time for the LNP. Waving banners shouting “Coal Kills” and “Block Adani” floated like a lead balloon over a State which reaps billions from coal exports.

This folly combined with Shorten’s fence sitting and the Palaszczuk Government’s stalling over issues such as the numbers of a common bush bird, the black-throated finch. Anastacia must be worried she’ll be next. She denies the Adani project is linked to Labor’s trip down a deep dark pit, but If she really believes it, she’s already lost the next State election.

The LNP increased its vote substantially in the previously very marginal seat of Flynn, which was high on the Labor wish list. Centered on the major coal port of Gladstone and held by Ken O’Dowd since 2010, it also takes in an extensive agriculture and beef area including the North Burnett region.

Rockhampton’s Michelle Landry increased her LNP winning margin in neighbouring Capricornia and in Dawson, centred on Mackay, the so-called Member for Manila, George Christensen, gained another big unexpected win. Further north in Townsville, Labor’s Cathy O’Toole was out-gunned by war veteran LNP candidate, Phillip Thompson. In all these centres, jobs and the economy were major factors.

Labor leader Bill Shorten concedes defeat at Saturday’s federal election. (IMAGE: SBS screencap)

Combine all that with Labor’s big taxing agenda, its hit at self-funded retirees, negative gearing, Capital GainsTax, the blank cheque it sought for an un-costed, over-ambitious climate policy (including a controversial push for 50 percent electric vehicle sales by 2030), and the result in Queensland and most other States is not surprising.

Trying to get votes echoing Whitlam’s “It’s Time” rally with “Vote for Change, Vote for Change” was also a late mistake by Shorten, when Scott Morrison was facing a hostile Canberra Press Gallery in the National Press Club. Some people do remember that Whitlam had a huge loss in the election following his dismissal for sending the country broke with grandiose, big spending agendas.

Add the arrogant advice to retirees and investors from Labor’s Treasury spokesman and candidate for the top job, Chris Bowen, “If you don’t like it, don’t vote Labor”.

Good advice. So the voters said it’s not time to risk Shorten, we’ll stick with Scott Morrison and a stable economy.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, declaring victory on Saturday night.

But why did the pollsters not read the obvious feeling throughout the electorate? One academic who got it right has an interesting viewpoint. Griffith University data expert, Professor Bela Stantic, believes social media could provide a more accurate indicator of voting intentions. Professor Stantic’s method included analysis of two million social media comments and led to his prediction that Labor would not get the swing it needed.

“I am able to assess the opinions of people through their social media… other polling has a much smaller sample,” he said.

Sky News commentator and co-host of the Outsiders, Rowan Dean, was another lonely voice predicting a Morrison win for months. Now it looks likely Morrison will gain an absolute majority and enjoy a major opportunity to grow his influence over the coming term.

As Morrison said on election night, “I believe in Miracles…”

Me too.

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John Mikkelsen

John Mikkelsen is a former journalist and served 15 years as the editor of the Gladstone Observer. He now lives on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

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