Queensland ~ Always a Very Interesting Place

by Dr Mark Hayes

Whose ‘water’ let him down badly on the probable outcome of the Queensland election, and begins to explain why below.

I freely admit it.

I got the Queensland election outcome wrong, and even my ‘water’ let me down.

I was expecting a significant swing to the ALP, of the order of about 9% – 11% two party preferred state wide, with some ‘traditional’ Labor seats returning to the fold, possibly some interesting tussles over local issues such as coal seam gas and new coal mines planned for agricultural land, but with the LNP returned, minus Campbell Newman, with a much reduced, but workable, majority, so it could implement its Strong Choices neo-liberal revolution.

I was expecting the usual faux contrition from LNP heavyweights about ‘listening more to the people’, and ‘we’ll do better in the future’, but also resolution to press ahead with Strong Choices.

But none of the mainstream polls or analysts got the election result anywhere near right either.

The first indication something was seriously afoot surfaced on Channel 9’s Galaxy Exit Poll, promoted by an apparently stunned Shane Doherty about 4.15pm. He didn’t Tweet any details, but what he’d seen was enough to get me to watch commercial TV news at 5.00pm. Hadn’t watched commercial TV news for anything for many years, but this was serious…

Wow!

And then, of course, the ABC fired up from South Bank at 6.00pm, with an enthusiastic Matt Wordsworth welcoming viewers from outside, and walking in to the Election Night set in the foyer, all the while explaining what was going to happen, and this viewer willing him not to trip or walk into something or somebody as he did so. Brave man doing this kind of lengthy walking welcome Live on national television too.

Then it was On, with the redoubtable Antony Green and his large touch screen, Wayne Swann and Tim Nichols having at each other, and Jessica Van Vonderen, calmness and control personified, anchoring the gig. What’s an Election Night Special without Kerry O’Brian anchoring, one might have wondered beforehand, but Jess and Co didn’t need him or his gravitas.

As entirely expected, the ABC and ABC Queensland in particular, demonstrated yet again how to do this kind of broadcast properly. And a Shout Out too to the bunch of QUT Journalism students tucked away to one side monitoring social media on the night and feeding their efforts into ABC Radio’s parallel broadcast.

The usual padding, palaver, sober projections generated on SFA votes counted, Antony Green gesturing and tapping on his large screen as he explained trends and bellwether seats, and what not.

Then the Serious Data started to come in, and by about 7.30pm, Channel 9’s Galaxy Exit Poll seemed to be vindicated, and Antony Green’s machines started behaving like the computer on Apollo 11’s Lunar Lander as Neil Armstrong neared touchdown, both being broadcast live. The ABC TV producer must have been feeling like Buzz Aldrin, trying to make sense of ‘dose blinkin’ lights, machines goin’ pHut, and calling on the backroom geeks to fix it fast.

Mr Green’s data, based on Electoral Commission feeds, was being crunched in his machines according to pre-programmed expectations, and they just weren’t coping with the numbers pouring in.

Something unprecedented, beyond extraordinary, was in play, and Mr Green and his machines, as well as Wayne Swann, increasingly buoyant then delighted, and Tim Nichols, digging himself further into disbelief and then denial, struggled to respond and make sense of it all. At moments, the machines just gave up and sulked, leaving Mr Green and his laptop to press ahead and very capably wing it.

You can look up the data on Mr Green’s Elections Site, and check out some early good analysis too, from New Matilda’s Ben Eltham and this brief comment from UQ’s Professor John Quiggin, and this audio comment from Professor Brian Costar. The Guardian has a good collated and curated wrap page too.

Where I’m pretty sure I got it wrong was in underestimating the depths of loathing in Queensland at the all but explicit neo-liberal imposition of Strong Choices by the arrogant and hubristic Newman Government, especially in its first two years, and the authoritarian, pugnacious, methods they used to try to force their Grand Future upon the state. Voters clearly saw through the bullshit post-modernist rubbish about 99 year asset leases as being only asset leases.

LNP Gaven Courier-Mail Bikies Back Labor

LNP Posters at a Gaven Polling Booth, Gold Coast.

And the Courier-Mail has some serious credibility questions to answer about how and why some of its recent front pages, linking the ALP to bikie gangs, were plastered literally for tens of meters along fences outside many polling places as part of LNP propaganda calculated to scare voters into only voting 1 (for them) when Queensland has optional preferential voting.

What I also think has been overlooked and neglected has been the role of what’s been dismissed as ‘electronic graffiti’, social media, a crucial component of Professor John Keane’s conception of monitory democracy, something I know scholars at QUT’s Creative Industries Faculty have been closely studying during the campaign.

Citizen journalism site, No Fibs, has been doing an excellent job of curating and aggregating social media feeds and commentary throughout the campaign. Well worth a good burrow around.

To their credit, though, the Courier-Mail re-published this excellent profile of Annastacia Palaszczuk, a name every journalist had better know how to spell and pronounce properly ‘cos she’ll be a major player for a long time to come. The ABC also has a profile of Ms Palaszczuk too.

This election outcome deserves some very careful thought and analysis indeed, and not just for the fairly immediate Federal implications.

More in due course.

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