As is usual with elections, there has been a lot of coverage on the personalities and the contest and not so much on the policies and issues. Still, the unusual strategy the Liberal-Nationals have adopted of having their leader and proposed Premier campaigning from outside of Parliament has invited an even greater focus on Campbell Newman himself and also on the seat of Ashgrove which he is contesting.
Regardless of the unpopularity of the Labor government or the policy options put forward by Labor or the LNP, if it appears plausible that Campbell Newman might not win Ashgrove then the whole LNP campaign could very quickly unravel. (Although even mentioning policy options assumes the Liberals do actually start putting forward some sort of firm policy platform, which there hasn’t been much sign of to date – they seem to be very focussed on the small-target strategy which is common practice these days amongst oppositions aiming to surf into power on the unpopularity of the current government.)
A poll released today has been reported as showing that Campbell Newman’s lead in Ashgrove is narrowing and that it may now be a close contest for the seat. It’s true that the poll shows the contest is becoming closer, but as Antony Green explains, given Queensland’s optional preferential voting system, if Campbell Newman’s primary vote is actually at 49 per cent, he is a long way from being in a position where he might lose the seat.
Still, the trend shows a narrowing and there are still six weeks to go – technically the election hasn’t even been called yet. Nominations for the seat will not close for a couple of weeks and it is likely there will be a sizeable field of candidates, even though only four people have declared they are running to date – the ALP, LNP, Greens and a Katter Party candidate. But despite the prospect of a large field of candidates, the ferocious focus on the Kate versus Campbell contest is likely to suppress the vote that would normally be expected to go to the Greens and others.
From the Greens perspective, it’s an example of the frustrations of being a third party. The Greens candidate for Ashgrove, Sandra Bayley, is a high quality candidate – long-term resident, active and well-respected in the area, presentable and articulate – and there is an active branch behind her. But despite a much stronger campaign compared to three years ago, the chances of the Greens even maintaining their primary vote from 2009 is fairly slim – unless there is a sudden increase in voters’ understanding of and willingness to use the benefits of the preferential voting system to send a message to both the larger parties by voting 1 for the Greens and then using their number 2 vote to indicate who they prefer out of Kate or Campbell.