February 25, 2017.
Early 2017: Current state of play in Queensland leading up to the Queensland Election late in 2017 (or early 2018).
89 seats in the Queensland Legislative Assembly.
ALP: 42 seats.
LNP: 41 seats.
Katter: 2 seats.
One Nation: 1 seat.
Independents: 3 seats.
After this year’s, or early next year’s, Queensland Election, the number of seats in the Queensland Legislative Assembly is set to increase to 93 - meaning a total of 47 seats will be required to achieve a working majority in the Queensland Parliament.
It looks incredibly likely that no single party will achieve this threshold as currently the ALP needs to pick up 5 seats, the LNP needs to pick up 6 seats, Katter’s Australian Party needs to pick up an incomprehensible 45 seats and the returning ‘star’ of Queensland politics, One Nation, needs to pick up a surely impossible 46 seats!
A look back to 1998 - the last time One Nation made a significant showing in a Queensland Election might well be instructive here - as recent polls show One Nation polling perhaps as high as 25% state-wide.
Pauline Hanson’s road to be Queensland Premier
Pauline Hanson - Next Queensland Premier?
At the 1998 Election the Labor Party under Peter Beattie received just under 39% of the vote and won 44 seats (down 1 seat), the Liberal/National Coalition (still two separate parties at that stage) scored just over 31% of the vote and won 32 seats (down 11 seats) while One Nation received nearly 23% of the vote and won 11 seats with 2 seats won by Independents enough to see Peter Beattie re-elected as Premier.
A repeat showing by One Nation this time around, or perhaps even a slightly improved performance given the widely regarded greater maturity of the party, could lead to the party receiving perhaps 25-30% of the vote at the State Election, and with the expanded size of the Legislative Assembly One Nation could win as many as 20 seats at the Election.
A One Nation with a 20 seat block would certainly prevent either the ALP or LNP winning a majority of seats in the Assembly. If one splits the seats approximately equally between the two major parties that could mean 35 or so seats for each of the ALP and LNP leaving Queensland with a more divided Parliament than for many years.
93 seats in the Queensland Legislative Assembly
ALP: 35 seats
LNP: 35 seats
One Nation: 20 seats
Katter: 2 seats
Independents: 1 seat
At this point in time the question clearly becomes, who forms Government? Well the fact is it will be either an ALP or LNP led-Government (most likely decided by which party edges it and wins the most number of seats), but who do they take on a a junior coalition partner?
Three possibilities are evident.
An ALP-One Nation coalition (Most unlikely).
An LNP-One Nation coalition (Perhaps the most likely outcome - but not the right way to go for One Nation).
Or an ALP-LNP coalition - a partnership between the two traditional major parties? Is this likely? Probably not, but why shouldn’t it be.
Eventually the decision on which coalition forms Government will be governed by a crude political calculus - who can gain most benfit out of being the junior partner in a coalition and who would gain the most from becoming the official Opposition?
It is here that I believe One Nation must take the opportunity to push the two major parties together and refuse to join any coalition Government and therefore become the official Opposition.
The history of Coalition Governments - including the recent examples of the Labour-Greens semi-coalition under former Prime Ministers Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd showed the Greens actually went backwards at the next election after taking the role of the junior partner.
The Greens received 11.8% of the vote at the 2010 Australian Election in the House of Representatives and 13.1% in the Senate - winning 6 Senate seats, whereas at the 2013 Australian Election the Greens received 8.6% of the vote in the House of Representatives (down 3.2%) and the same, 8.6% (down 4.5%) in the Senate and winning only 4 Senate seats.
As one can see, the Greens were slaughtered due to their close association to the Gillard-Rudd Governments and nearly four years later have yet to recover.
A more extreme example is provided in the United Kingdom with the union of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats after the 2010 UK Election produced a hung UK Parliament.
The Conservatives won 306 seats in the 650 seat Parliament - a full 20 seats short of a majority. Labour won 258 seats, but were obviously never an option for a coalition agreement, and the traditional third party the Liberal Democrats were the only other party to win more than a handful of seats, winning 57 seats - enough to give a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition a working majority of 363 seats in the Parliament.
So do a deal they did. Conservative Leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg signed a coalition agreement and five years down the road Clegg’s signature on that deal was effectively responsible for the electoral wipeout of the Liberal Democrats.
At the 2015 UK Election the Conservatives managed to increase their proportion of seats to 330 - an increase of 24 - and enough for a majority in the Parliament in their own right. So what happened to the Liberal Democrats? They took the fall for all the policies of the Coalition Government that didn’t excite their core supporters and they were completely marginalised.
The Liberal Democrats received nearly a quarter of the vote at the 2010 UK Election - 23% - very similar to One Nation’s performance at the 1998 Queensland Election and their best performance for nearly 30 years since 1983 - winning the LDP 57 seats.
Five years later the Liberal Democrat’s vote plunged to only 7.9% (down a stunning 15.1%) and the LDP won only 8 seats - level with the Democratic Unionist party of Northern Ireland! The LDP’s vote was down so much they finished more than 1.4 million votes behind nationalist protest party UKIP and with more than 4.4 million fewer votes than they received in 2010!
In other words, a total disaster!
It was the Liberal Democrats’ worst performance in a UK Election since 1970 when they received only 7.5% of the vote and won only 6 seats. Clearly, the kiss of death to being a junior partner in a Coalition Government is a real danger and this is why should One Nation emerge as a strong third party following the Queensland Election they would be well-advised to refuse to join the Queensland Government and force the ALP & LNP to form a grand alliance against them.
This will play into their hands leading into the next Queensland Election which will be held in either 2021 or 2022. After this election the Queensland Parliament switches into line with all other Australian States and Territories by embracing four year Parliamentary terms.
And what is the primary reason that One Nation should refuse any partnership that brings them the poisoned chalice of junior partnership in a coalition? Because they have an incredible ‘Trump’ card to play leading into the next Queensland Election.
Pauline Hanson - afterall, the full name of the party is Pauline Hanson’s One Nation.
Hanson’s current Senate term is due to expire in 2022 at the conclusion of six years and coincidentally the Queensland Election after the next one is due in early 2022, although it is of course possible it could be held in late 2021.
Nevertheless, a Queensland Election in early 2022 dovetails nicely with the ending of Hanson’s Senate term and allows for a triumphal return of Pauline Hanson to the Queensland political scene and potentially lead her party in Government in 2022.
Assuming the current malaise against so-called establishment politicians is still in evidence - and there is no reason to believe that a backlash that started in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis nearly a decade ago will dissipate over the next five years - and also potentially in the wake of a President Trump’s successful re-election in late 2020, Hanson could well ride this feeling into office if she, and the One Nation team in Queensland, play their cards right over the next half-decade.
By forcing the ALP & LNP into a fractious governing partnership One Nation would naturally assume the role of the official Opposition - allowing it to take aim at both the ALP and LNP in equal measure, sparing neither from the righteous criticism that one is allowed from the Opposition benches.
By riding this wave, and Queensland’s unique demographic situation - more than half of the population of Queensland (approximately 52%) lives outside the capital city of Brisbane (48%) - a clear difference between Queensland and the four other mainland Australian States - One Nation’s ceiling in seats is most definitely higher than the floor for either the ALP or LNP.
Perhaps One Nation would fall short of winning a majority of seats in the Queensland Parliament, but, if One Nation on the back of a return to State politics by their emblematic leader Ms. Hanson, could attract a sufficient proportion of the vote to grab the largest amount of seats in the Queensland Legislative Assembly the Governor would be obliged to ask Ms. Hanson to have the first shot at forming a new Government - ironically - perhaps even with LNP support!
If either the ALP or LNP refused to work with One Nation one can only imagine that would drive further support to One Nation in protest at the obstinacy of the major parties to refuse to reflect the will of the people - so one would assume one or other of the ALP or LNP would take the chance to join One Nation in Government lest they were blamed for another election and the expenses that would entail.
A potential 2022 Queensland Election result could look something like this….
One Nation: 32 seats
ALP: 28 seats
LNP: 28 seats
Katter: 2 seats
Independents: 3 seats
And what does that mean? It could well mean Premier Pauline Hanson if she plays her cards right……..