Modia Minotaur

Trawling the airwaves to spare you the agony!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

A Queenslandslide

Queensland's Peter Beattie has been returned to government with a result that not only maintains the status quo but may still lead to an increased majority. Seats won so far include three previously lost to the Government in by-elections which at the time were heralded by some as the beginning of the end for the Beattie Government. However, Minister for Information Technology Chris Cummins has lost her seat. Meanwhile in the seat of Nanango, the political career of John Bjelke-Petersen - yes, son of you-know-who- looks to have been nipped in the bud with a narrow loss to Independent Doroty Pratt.

This landslide comes as a surprise to many, who expected a protest vote over the government's handling of health and infrastructure matters - but not to me. Though my understanding of issues affecting particular seats isn't very fine-grained, I simply couldn't see any reason that Beattie wouldn't be returned to power, especially against an Opposition in such disarray. The NSW Government, who has been watching the election north of the border closely as an indicator of their own chances next March, can expect to see a similar result. The people of Queensland may have been disenchanted, but evidently, they didn't trust the Opposition to do a better job, and it's very unlikely that they'll feel differently in NSW.

We now find ourselves in a period of extraordinary political stability in Australia - not a single government has changed hands since September 11th. A lot has been said recently about the growing power of incumbency. What exactly feeds this power? Periods of international instability - wars, for example - traditionally lead to voter timidity. Yet are we in such a period? I've long argued that the war on terror is a good way of convincing citizens that times are precarious, but I think it goes beyond this. As a society, we are currently taught that everything is dangerous. How can we entrust government to anyone who might not be as clever at holding back the torrent of trouble that awaits us just beyond the straining walls of the dam? But what issue could be big enough to cause such a change? Governments at all levels have successfully seen off issues which, in past days, would have been the death of the incumbent. Perhaps what we are witnessing, in an age when people are less politically engaged than ever, is the idea of personality politics taking hold in Australia - voting for people rather than issues. This week's meeting between John Howard and state and territory Liberal leaders would indicate as much. It's difficult to think of anything that could unseat any of the incumbent governments in Australia today, though I have a feeling that if one falls, it will be more likely that others follow.

As always, the ABC's Antony Green provides the ultimate guide, with further analysis at the Sydney Morning Herald. ABC Radio's AM will also broadcast a special Sunday edition tomorrow to analyse the implications of the results.


At 11:42 am, Blogger Minotaur said...

I apologise - in fact, the last time a government changed was in 2002. I'll fix this as soon as I get the chance.

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