It’s 91 days until the Queensland state election and the Palaszczuk Labor Government is in a reasonable position heading into the campaign.
Some of the positives for the Palaszczuk Government include management of the border closure and related issues. The Premier’s leadership and steadfastness on the border closure during an intense period of pressure from the media, the opposition, tourism businesses and others has been vindicated by the outbreaks in Victoria and NSW. The very low number of active cases in Queensland will be marked up by the voting public.
Some media outlets have previously accused the Premier and the government of being too risk averse or too measured. In the case of this evolving health pandemic - it’s paid off.
Queensland will be the first state or territory to go to a general election since the COVID-19 outbreak. When looking at some international examples, we can see a reluctance on the part of voters to change governments during a crisis.
In Poland the conservatives, while scandal plagued, were narrowly re-elected before a second wave surge in cases since the election. Likewise, Serbia went to the polls on June 21 as one of the first countries in the world since the outbreak began. The result was a landslide 67 per cent of the vote for the incumbent party. Since the election, the country has witnessed a second wave of infections which has included dozens of deaths daily and a hospital system that is crumbling under the pressure. The country has since been rocked by protests and substantial drop in support for the government.
In the US, President Trump is down by at least eight points across most polls against Democratic rival Joe Biden, and his dissatisfaction numbers are up as the death toll climbs. When compared to war-time deaths, there are a number of studies which show that when the death toll rises in a particular districts or area, people tend to punish the government of the day. In the US context this can be seen in election results from the Civil War and Vietnam War right through to the most recent Iraq War. This same pattern is repeating itself as the pandemic ravages communities from rural Wisconsin to the urban centres of Florida where nationally the virus has claimed more than 150,000 lives.
Closer to home in Victoria, we’ve seen the Andrews Labor Government suffer a double digit drop in support since last month due to the handling of quarantined individuals, the spike in cases and a second Melbourne-wide lockdown. The government in Victoria has the benefit of time on its side with an election not due until November 2022.
The lesson from these examples is that right now voters care about two things immediately: whether they have access to the health care they need, and job security and the economy.
In the first instance, all jurisdictions from both sides of politics are delivering and our health system is coping so far. On the issue of job security and the economy, payroll tax exemptions, support for small businesses and the aviation industry and the indirect jobs it supports will all help the economy recover. As has been noted in the latest CommSec State of the States report, Queensland has the second-best jobless rate at 7.7 per cent and third for population growth and retail trade.
A secondary but important issue is lifestyle. Queensland, particularly during this winter, is the envy of southern states. We’re able to go to the beach, enjoy the warm weather up and down our beautiful coastal towns, and are back to living our lives as unhindered by restrictions as we can be. Any secondary lockdown, whether it’s the governments’ fault or not, will certainly turn our mood against the status quo as it has in Victoria.
While it’s certainly looking better for the government than it did at the start of the year, three months is a very long time in politics. We saw at the last federal election how quickly fortunes can drastically change as it did for Federal Labor at the time.
There is a stable path ahead for the re-election of the Palaszczuk Government. Competent management of this crisis together with some luck in terms of community transmissions could be rewarded by a cautious voting public looking for stability and a return to relative normality. Now if the situation in Queensland remains stable and the Broncos start winning – the government would be a shoo-in.