Politics of Queensland
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The politics of Queensland has several unique features with respect to other states in Australia including a unicameral legislature.
Like the other Australian states, Queensland is a dual-level constitutional monarchy. Thus the Queen of Australia is head of state of the Commonwealth and of Queensland. The Queen is represented in the state by the governor, currently Paul de Jersey. The governor appoints the premier (currently Annastacia Palaszczuk) and members of cabinet from the majority party in the Legislative Assembly.
Queensland is the only Australian state to have a unicameral parliament. The Legislative Assembly has 89 members and sits in Parliament House, Brisbane. The result of the Queensland state election, 2015 was ALP 44 seats, with the LNP 42 seats, Katter's Australian Party 2 Seats, and independents 1.
The Supreme Court of Queensland, Trial Division, is the highest original jurisdiction, and the Court of Appeal is the highest appellate jurisdiction within Queensland. The current chief justice is Catherine Holmes. The High Court of Australia hears appeals from the Court of Appeal.
There are several factors that differentiate Queensland's government from other Australian states. The legislature has no upper house. For a large portion of its history, the state was under a gerrymander that heavily favoured rural electorates. This, combined with the already decentralised nature of Queensland, meant that politics has been dominated by regional interests. Queensland, along with New South Wales, formerly operated a balloting system known as Optional Preferential Voting for state elections. This is different from the predominant Australian electoral system, the instant-runoff voting system, and in practice is closer to a first past the post ballot (similar to the ballot used in the UK), which some say is to the detriment of minor parties. The next Queensland election will use instant-runoff voting.
These conditions have had notable practical ramifications for politics in Queensland. The lack of an upper house for substantial legislative review has meant that Queensland has had a tradition of domination by strong-willed, populist premiers, often with arguably authoritarian tendencies, holding office for long periods.
While most Australian states have their populations heavily concentrated in the capital cities, Brisbane accounts for only about 45 percent of Queensland's population. The strong decentralisation of the population made the state a stronghold for the National Party. Before the merger of the Queensland branches of the Liberals and Nationals as the Liberal National Party, the National Party had been the senior partner in the non-Labor Coalition since 1924. In other states and federally, the long-standing coalition between the Nationals and Liberals typically has the National Party as the junior partner.
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The dramatic collapse in support for the Goss government resulted in its returning from the 1995 general election with a majority of only one seat. This in turn was subsequently lost after the controversial and closely fought Mundingburra by-election. The Nationals formed minority government after securing the support of independent Liz Cunningham, with Rob Borbidge becoming Premier.
In stark contrast to some of his predecessors, Borbidge's government was not markedly domineering. However, controversies such as public service purges, disputes with the Criminal Justice Commission, and other scandals did do some damage to the government.
Events were superseded by the meteoric rise of controversial federal politician Pauline Hanson. Especially popular in her native Queensland, Hanson's decision to form her own political party (Pauline Hanson's One Nation) was greeted with apprehension by all the other parties, in particular the Nationals striving to maintain their rural conservative heartland. In 1998, a bitter dispute broke out within and between the Liberal and National parties over whether One Nation candidates should be ranked lower on how-to-vote cards than Labor candidates. Eventually, the Nationals decided to place Labor behind One Nation. This move backfired spectacularly in the election, with the urban Liberal vote deserting to Labor and an unexpectedly high One Nation primary vote of just under 23%, giving the party 11 seats in parliament. Labor attained 44 seats, one short of a majority, and achieved government with the support of Cunningham and new independent Peter Wellington.
The new minority government managed to secure itself a majority in a by-election and was dominated overwhelmingly by the self-confessed "media tart" Peter Beattie. A major controversy broke in 2001 on the eve of the election, when a number of very prominent Labor Party figures were implicated in rorting internal preselection and party ballots. The subsequent Shepardson Commission of Inquiry was widely expected to destroy the government. Beattie immediately undertook a purge, taking the opportunity to dispatch several factional enemies, and promised a "cleanskin" approach.
To the surprise of many, Beattie's public contrition was overwhelmingly popular, and in contrast to its previous tenuous hold on power, the government won a massive majority of 66 seats, with the Liberal Party reduced to only three seats.
In February 2004, The Beattie Labor team was again returned to government with 63 seats, National Party 15 seats, the Liberal Party 5 seats, 1 One Nation and 5 independents. This election saw the continual decline of the once conspicuous One Nation party from 3 seats in 2001 and 11 seats in 1998. It also saw the entrenched status of the Queensland ALP with its untouchable majority, despite allegations of bullying by senior Ministers, improper private use of public vehicles, the "Winegate" affair involving first-time Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Liddy Clark, and the government's repeated use of freedom-of-information laws to prevent the publication of potentially damaging information. Some notable outcomes of the 2004 election were the unseating of Labor Minister, Merri Rose, with a two-party swing of 15 points following her involvement in the use of a government vehicle by her son for private purposes, and the victory in former National Party Premier Rob Borbidge's seat, Surfers Paradise, by the Liberal Candidate, John-Paul Langbroek. Following the 2004 election, the National and Liberal parties ended their coalition and the Liberal party became a minor party on the back benches.
2005 saw a similar landscape for Queensland politics as 2004: increasing allegations that the Labor government lacked accountability and that the opposition lacked ability to hold the government to account. The once unstoppable National–Liberal coalition remained in tatters as the parties continued their war of words over who held the greatest chance of electoral success in the one-time National Party heartland of the Gold Coast. The Liberal Party was adamant that it had better electoral prospects by distancing itself from the National party despite the National Party holding three times as many seats. The premier instigated an independent inquiry into allegations of medical malpractice at Bundaberg Hospital, and in particular the circumstances behind the engagement of the unqualified doctor, Jayant Patel, more popularly known as "Dr Death", whose involvement was linked to numerous deaths at the hospital. Opposition parties and community groups protested that the terms of reference were narrow, avoiding investigation into broader allegations of maladministration of Queensland Health and bullying of departmental employees.
The resignations of deputy premier Terry Mackenroth and Speaker Ray Hollis triggered by-elections in the electorates of Chatsworth and Redcliffe on 20 August 2005. Both of the formerly safe Labor seats were lost and Liberal candidates Michael Caltabiano and Terry Rogers were elected as the new members for Chatsworth and Redcliffe respectively.
Following the announcement that Nita Cunningham would be retiring because of cancer, Premier Beattie called a general election for 9 September 2006. The Coalition failed to promote a united team under Lawrence Springborg MP, ready to assume government following a failed attempt to merge to the National Party into the Queensland Liberal Party earlier in the year. With the election due to be called any day, the Liberal Party surprised the public by ejecting long-standing leader, Bob Quinn, and electing Bruce Flegg MP as leader of the Liberal Party.
The election campaign started badly for the Coalition when in the opening days, Flegg was unable to clearly articulate the Coalition position should the Liberals achieve a majority in their party on winning government, and continued with numerous gaffes which were keenly covered by the media. The Coalition found it difficult to gain momentum after these initial blunders and despite a number of real issues to take the government to task over concerning infrastructure, the health system and water, the media remained focused on the personal leadership skills of the Coalition's front men. The ALP campaigned on the theme of a solid leadership team and this was overwhelming endorsed at the polls.
The 2012 election saw the Liberal National Party defeat the ALP, winning 49.65% of the primary vote and 78 of 89 seats, leaving the ALP with 7 seats (26.66% of the primary vote), the newly formed Katter's Australian Party winning 2 seats, and the remaining seats won by independents. In 2007 the Queensland Parliament had the highest female parliamentary representation in Australia and the third highest in the world, with 30 out of 89 members having been women. After the 2012 election, Queensland now has the lowest female parliamentary representation in Australia.
- Wanna, John (2003). "Queensland". In Moon, Campbell; Sharman, Jeremy. Australian Politics and Government: The Commonwealth, the States and Territories. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. pp. 93–94. ISBN 0521825075. Retrieved 26 July 2012.
- Election Commission Queensland
- Sanderson, Nicole (December 2006). "In the hot seat - Lindy Nelson-Carr" (PDF). profile. CityLife Townsville. Retrieved 2007-07-29.[dead link]
- "Women parliamentarians in Australia 1921–2012". Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 15 June 2013.