Fran Ulseth backs Lyn Moussalli of One Nation at early polling booths at Home Central Kawana. Picture: Patrick Woods / Sunshine Coast Daily.
Fran Ulseth backs Lyn Moussalli of One Nation at early polling booths at Home Central Kawana. Picture: Patrick Woods / Sunshine Coast Daily.

Health, or hip pockets? Voters set to make statement

ANALYSIS:

In a little over 24 hours Coast residents will hit the polling booths to make a statement.

To simplify it to the extreme, they will be making a statement on whether they value their health over their hip pocket.

Of course it's far more nuanced than that, but that is the framework upon which the two major parties are vying for votes.

Will Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's steady hand through the pandemic, which some have criticised as being more of an iron fist, be enough to carry her to victory?

Full list of Coast election candidates

Or will the economic impacts of the pandemic, and what some commentators say were issues arising well before Covid, and Deb Frecklington's pitch for change, catapult the LNP back into a position they haven't experienced since the heady days of Campbell Newman and that majority?

Or will the hangover from the Newman Government experience continue to haunt?

The health crisis that has unfolded and measures taken to get through the pandemic to-date have completely altered the political landscape.

Isolation, lockdown and other measures have driven a shift in values for many, or at least a recalibration of what is really important.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk hugs a koala at Australia Zoo. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk hugs a koala at Australia Zoo. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled

Lifestyle and loved ones have become all-important, elevated above dreams of economic performance, as Queenslanders and the rest of the country face this great unknown.

Businesses suffered, no doubt, but others thrived.

Much has been made of the approaches taken by various states.

And despite the criticism, plenty of it warranted on an economic front, particularly when looking at pre-pandemic trends including unemployment and youth unemployment in this region alone, it's hard to knock the approach taken from a health perspective when you look at the virus' relatively low impact on the wellbeing of Queenslanders, compared to what unfolded in Victoria and even New South Wales.

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But did the ends justify the means? Voters will in part be giving their opinion on that when they vote tomorrow. Many already have via pre-poll and postal votes.

Mental health, well that's another issue, and the long-term effects of the past year are still to be understood, many probably still to even present themselves.

Not many are tipping a strong majority either way, and there is a real prospect of a minority government, which could have huge implications for the region, and one seat in particular.

The Coast, traditionally conservative heartland, could be in for a shake-up too, but whether it comes in the form of seats changing hands, or primary votes taking a hit due to compulsory preferential voting, remains to be seen.

Here's how the battles for the Coast are taking shape (it's worth noting, while the gap in key seats like Caloundra between the top two candidates was 6.8 per cent in 2017, the margin there is only 3.4 per cent and it will only take a swing of that much for the seat to potentially change hands):

 

Buderim:

Traditionally an LNP stronghold, held by the blue corner since the seat was created in 2009, it would be a brave bet against Brent Mickelberg - whose family name holds deep connections to the party - to continue the tradition.

Former LNP Minister Steve Dickson defected to One Nation, and ran against Mr Mickelberg in 2017, and picked up nearly 29 per cent of first preference votes.

But as we know, much has happened since then in the life of Mr Dickson, who now runs as an independent, in a seat very much loyal to the LNP.

Labor's Ken Mackenzie is having another crack, having finished with 38.6 per cent of the votes after preferences in 2017, and will be looking to capture any shift in sentiment in elderly voters, in the face of the ongoing health crisis, but an 11.4 per cent margin in the LNP's favour is a significant hurdle.

 

 

Caloundra:

This shapes as the contest of the region this campaign.

Retiring LNP MP Mark McArdle enjoyed a near unrivalled reign, building on his margins each election from 2004 to 2015, when he was reeled back in with a nearly-18 per cent swing to Labor to wipe off a 15 per cent swing he'd secured in 2012.

It leaves fresh LNP candidate Stuart Coward tasked with warding off seasoned Labor campaigner Jason Hunt, with only a 3.4 per cent margin to defend.

Compulsory preferential voting should play into the challenger's hand, particularly with the reduced profile of One Nation, and there is plenty of chatter about Labor fancying themselves to take the southern seat held by the conservative side of politics since 1992.

 

Glass House:

Another seat which has proven a heart-stopper in recent elections, incumbent LNP member Andrew Powell will be hoping for a less nervous race this time around.

He scraped home with a 1.4 per cent margin in 2015, after preferences poured across to Labor candidate Brent Hampstead.

Mr Powell secured 35 per cent of first preferences in 2017, ahead of Mr Hampstead's 26 per cent, but another strong preference flow tightened the race significantly.

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In the end Mr Powell was able to increase his margin, after a redistribution of the seat for the 2017 election, pushing the margin out to 3.4 per cent, aided by a strong preference flow from One Nation.

The diminished profile of the Pauline Hanson-led party could be a concern, and a huge factor, as will the compulsory preferential voting, although there is a United Australia Party candidate in the mix.

Word is that Labor are optimistic about prising this seat out of LNP hands, but Mr Powell has shown he can get across the line in a tight race several times before.

This seat, along with Caloundra, may be one we are left on tenterhooks for some time to get a result.

 

Kawana:

Former Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie has held the seat for the LNP since 2009 and is about as close to a sure thing you can get to remain so after October 31.

He enjoys a margin of nearly 13.1 per cent, having snapped up more than 55 per cent of the primary vote in 2017, it would be a huge surprise if he was not lining up in the next state parliament.

Expect his primary vote to take a slight hit this time around, with changes to the voting system, but it's not expected to be enough to see him relinquish the seat held by the LNP since 2006.

 

Maroochydore:

Incumbent Fiona Simpson is seeking to extend her stay to beyond 30 years, having held the seat for the Nationals first, and then the LNP, since 1992.

In her path lies an ex-councillor and former Wallabies coach turned independent candidate John Connolly, two young guns pushing for a more progressive electorate, and a Labor candidate seeking to build on momentum of Julie McGlone's 25 per cent of first preferences in 2017.

There are plenty of questions still to be answered.

Is there an appetite for change in the electorate? Is Ms Simpson about to become a three-decade MP?

Have the fresh perspectives of youthful candidates Tash Poole (Animal Justice Party) and Gabrielle Unverzagt (Greens) cut through the deeply entrenched party lines of voters?

Can Mr Connolly capture enough of the primary vote to secure a preference flow and put the pressure on?

On the face of it Maroochydore appears a race in two parts.

Ms Simpson, who holds an 8.5 per cent margin from 2017, will be hoping to bolster her primary vote if possible to ward off the threat of preference flows.

It'll be a challenge with a change in One Nation candidate since 2017, and compulsory preferencing.

The other fascinating race will be between Mr Connolly and Labor candidate Alison Smith.

Mr Connolly will be hopeful of securing enough primary votes to pull what was expected to be a potentially significant flow of preferences from Labor voters, to mount a challenge against Ms Simpson.

It could be tricky though, depending on the way the other dominoes fall, with Greens preferences likely to funnel into Ms Smith, which could scupper his chances of securing preferences his own way.

If Ms Smith can build on the momentum of Ms McGlone in 2017, she too could become challenger, with preferences from the Greens and other minors possibly flowing in her favour.

Either way, it would take a monumental effort to stop Ms Simpson taking a seat in the next state parliament, and be significant shift from the electorate if they were to look elsewhere.

 

Queensland opposition LNP leader Deb Frecklington visits Noosa as part of her push to fix roads in the area. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Sarah Marshall
Queensland opposition LNP leader Deb Frecklington visits Noosa as part of her push to fix roads in the area. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Sarah Marshall

 

Nicklin:

For 17 years the LNP had coveted the seat of Nicklin until former cop Marty Hunt delivered them the prize they craved in 2017.

But there are whispers that the seat may fall into other hands come Saturday.

A One Nation candidate with a significantly lower profile than Steven Ford in 2017, who delivered Mr Hunt a 70-plus per cent preference flow, and a strong Greens candidate in Sue Etheridge has some party insiders concerned Labor's Robert Skelton may be poised to pounce.

While most of the attention has been to the region's south, where Labor fancies its chances, Nicklin could be a sleeper.

The question is whether Nicklin conservatives will come out in force on Saturday to shore up the first-term MP, or will preferences, and what some fear could be a surprisingly higher vote for the Informed Medical Options Party hopeful, combine to strip away the LNP's 5.3 per cent margin and spark a boilover?

Pre-poll and postal votes could be a deciding factor if the whispers are on the money, so it could be a long and anxious wait for candidates in this race.

 

Ninderry:

Former child protection unit detective turned Shadow Minister for Police and Counter Terrorism and Shadow Minister for Corrective Services Dan Purdie has been a high-profile figure in the Frecklington Opposition.

He made history becoming the first ever Ninderry MP in 2017, when the new seat was created.

Considered safe with an 8.4 per cent margin, pundits aren't tipping the seat to change hands this time around.

The preference flow will be interesting, with the Greens standing a seasoned campaigner in Daniel Bryar, whose preferences should bolster Labor hopeful and fellow cop Melinda Dodds.

Mr Purdie enjoyed a 75 per cent preference flow from One Nation candidate Barry Ward last time out, but the party has stood a fresh face in Frank Weijers in the seat, and the effect on that flow, if any, remains to be seen, especially with the compulsory numbering of boxes.

 

Noosa:

The region's northernmost seat shapes as a crucial one in the formation of the next state government if those tipping a minority government are reading the tea leaves correctly.

Incumbent independent MP Sandy Bolton holds an 11.5 per cent margin and will be hoping her calls to keep Noosa independent have fallen on open ears.

Should she retain her seat, she could become an even more powerful figure wielding the balance of power, while the LNP will be desperate to claw back the seat held by Glen Elmes until 2017.

Young LNP candidate James Blevin is the man tasked with taking it back for the conservatives, while Labor stalwart Mark Denham is also vying to play a part in the outcome.

Preferences will again have a role to play, with Ms Bolton picking up almost half of her final tally through preferences, almost two-thirds more than Mr Elmes, launching her into the seat.


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