It might not seem like much, but when there’s been three years of media coverage consisting mostly of pre-emptive obituary stories, seeing a headline that says “Poll favours Democrats for Senate” in the Sunday paper – albeit above a small story on page 9 – can come as rather a surprise. Even though it was amonst the Australian election coverage, it had been so long since I’d seen a headline like that that I still had to check to make sure it wasn’t about the US Democrats and the US Senate.
Even Malcolm Mackerras in a separate story, while still not predicting any wins for us, said “I believe that Andrew Bartlett in Queensland has a chance and will put up a strong fight.” Even getting an admission that I have a chance seems like a victory of sorts when one has had to repeatedly face barely concealed disbelief whenever I’ve tried to insist to journalists that I do actually have a genuine chance of winning, despite repeated polls throughout the year which show this.
The Sunday Mail story related to a Galaxy poll of Queensland voters. Rather than being asked who they would vote for in the Senate, they were asked which minor party they would prefer to hold the balance of power in the Senate, which is of course a related but slightly different thing. 34 per cent of voters said they would prefer the Democrats, 31 per cent said the Greens, 16 per cent said Family First and 12 per cent said Pauline Hanson, with 7 per cent uncommitted.
This question doesn’t address the issue of the major parties, who will still get the majority of Senate votes, and indeed also doesn’t address the possibility that there is a chance that no minor party will be elected to the Senate at all in Queensland, leaving the major parties sharing all 12 Senate seats between them.
However, it does clearly show that Queenslanders would much rather prefer a progressive voice in the balance of power role, rather than the extremism of Pauline Hanson or Family First who have supported her with a preference deal.
It also shows that the Democrats and Greens are fairly closely poised when it comes to the Senate in Queensland, something which has been shown in a series of Morgan Senate polls. If I can poll ahead of the Greens and thus get their preferences, it would put me in a strong position to stop the major parties to get a clean sweep of the Senate seats and ensure a progressive voice from Queensland is part of the Senate balance of power – indeed a stronger chance than the reverse situation, as ironically I would gather Hanson’s preferences ahead of the major parties, which won’t happen if the Greens poll ahead of me.
It may all turn out to be wrong of course – we’ll all know soon enough – but receiving further independent evidence that the Democrat campaign in Queensland does have significant support this close to polling day is a welcome sign.