I want you to imagine that we’re on board flight HR2016 which is bound for Canberra and will land on July 2. There are 150 passengers on board and most of them are seated comfortably. Some have never switched seats in their whole life and then there’s Queensland which are the 30 screaming kids at the back of the plane.
Some time ago, Queenslanders worked out that if they yelled loudly enough and acted really childishly (in some cases even going so far as to elect some real wingnuts), that they could get the plane flight that is the House of Representatives, to change direction just by having everyone simultaneously switch sides of the place at once.
This was a trick that they’d learned with their own state parliament. In the last 100 years, Queensland has only really had 8 broad changes of government. Even so, it was only really after the Premiership of Peter Beattie that the steady ride of Queensland state politics became broken and since then it’s been lurching ever since.
In 2012, Campbell Newman’s Liberal National Party won government with the then single biggest swing in Australian electoral history at any level; with a 13.7% swing towards the Liberal National Party. Three years later in 2015, Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Labor won government with and even bigger swing to set the new biggest swing in Australian electoral history at any level; with a 14.0% swing towards the Labor Party.
With Queensland’s state parliaments lurching one way and then the other, it should come as a surprise to no-one that this week, both Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten made trips to Queensland, to try and satisfy the 30 screaming kids at the back of the plane and hopefully get then all to sit on the same side and make the plane flight that is the House of Representatives, tilt in their preferred direction.
This isn’t a new phenomenon. In the 2004 election Labour won 6 seats to the Coalition’s 21 seats in Queensland. In 2007, there was an 8.1% swing to Labor and they won 15 seats to the Coalition’s 10 seats in Queensland and with them, government. In 2010, there was a 9.3% swing away from Labour and they went from 15 to just 8 seats while the Coalition picked up 11 extra seats to bring them to 21 again.
In 1972 when Gough Whitlam was swept to power, his Labor government won 8 seats to the Coalition’s 10 seats in Queensland but three years’ later in the December election following The Dismissal in 1975, Labor almost suffered total electoral annihilation with Bill Hayden remaining as the sole Labor MP in Queensland to the Coalition’s 17 seats.
Mike Murphy of the The Weekly Standard in Washington, declared back in March this year that 2016 was the “Year Of The Howling Moron”, which reference to the way that the media in the United States had a collective pile on for Donald Trump. We in Australia perhaps aren’t a lot better but given that both Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten are mostly entirely reasonable chaps (despite the partisanship of the media), I don’t think that applies in Australia. A sobriquet that might apply for our own 2016 Federal Election could be the “Year Of The Screaming Children” but looking at the long game of Australian politics, I’m tempted to think that every election cycle in Australia has the potential to be the “Year Of The Screaming Children” depending on which side on the plane that the 30 screaming kids at the back decide to run towards.
I fully expect that on July 2, Labour will win 8 seats to the Coalition’s 21 seats and Bob Katter’s 1 seat in Queensland but the thing is that you never know with Queensland. This is the state that can give double digit swings for no discernable reason other that the 30 screaming kids at the back of the plane want more fizzy drink.
There are about 20 different pages that I used to compile this; they are all found from this jumping off point.