Labor wins a majority in Queensland as polling in Victoria shows a tie



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Annastacia Palasczuk will be able to form majority government after the final results of the Queensland election were announced.
AAP/Jono Searle

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

At the Queensland election, held on November 25, the size of parliament was increased from 89 seats to 93. Comparing this result with 2015, Labor officially won 48 of the 93 seats (up four), the Liberal National Party 39 (down three), Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) three (up one), and One Nation, the Greens and an independent won one seat each.

With 45 seats held by parties other than Labor, Labor has won a three-seat majority.

Adjusted for the new boundaries and excluding defections, the 2015 results gave Labor 48 seats and the LNP 43. Using this interpretation, there was no net change for Labor, while the LNP lost four seats.

Labor gains from the LNP in Gaven, Aspley and Redlands were countered by losses in Bundaberg, Burdekin and Mirani (to One Nation). The LNP also lost Maiwar (to the Greens), Hinchinbrook (to KAP) and Noosa (to an independent). This is the first Greens elected MP in Queensland.

Townsville was expected to be very close, but Labor won it by 214 votes (50.4-49.6), clinching its 48th seat.

The LNP’s decision to recommend preferences to One Nation in 50 of the 61 seats it contested gave One Nation a win in Mirani, but cost independent candidate Margaret Strelow in Rockhampton. Had LNP preferences in Rockhampton flowed to Strelow instead of One Nation, Labor would have very probably lost, instead of retaining it 55-45 against One Nation.

Final primary votes were 35.4% Labor (down 2.1 since 2015), 33.7% LNP (down 7.6), 13.7% One Nation (up 12.8), 10.0% Greens (up 1.6), and 2.3% KAP. This is the Greens’ highest primary vote in a Queensland election.

One Nation contested 61 of the 93 seats, and won 13.7% of the statewide vote. Had it contested all seats, it would probably have won about 18%. Only the single member system stopped One Nation from winning much more than its one seat.

If the Queensland result were replicated at a half-Senate federal election, in which six senators are up for election, Labor would win two seats, the LNP two, One Nation one, and the last seat would probably go to the Greens.

Pauline Hanson received a long Senate term, which does not expire until June 2022. If Malcolm Roberts is the top One Nation candidate on its Queensland Senate ticket at the next federal election, he will probably win a six-year term starting July 2019.

Turnout was 87.5%, down 2.4 points since 2015. Automatic electoral enrolment has increased the size of the electoral roll, but many of those who are now enrolled do not vote, so the turnout falls.

The informal rate was 4.3%, up from 2.1% in 2015, owing to the change to compulsory preferential voting from optional preferential. The informal rate was below Queensland’s informal rate (4.7%) at the 2016 federal election.

Victorian Galaxy: 50-50 tie

A Victorian Galaxy poll for the Herald Sun (paywalled link), conducted on December 6 from a sample of 828, had a 50-50 tie, a three-point gain for Labor since a Galaxy in June for an unidentified source.

Primary votes were 41% Coalition (down three), 36% Labor (up three), 10% Greens (up two) and 6% One Nation (up one).

Premier Daniel Andrews had a 49% dissatisfied, 35% satisfied rating. Opposition Leader Matthew Guy had a 48% dissatisfied rating, with no satisfied rating given. Andrews led Guy 41-25 as better premier (41-29 in June).

By 58-20, voters favoured building the East West Link, and by 57-30, they thought the decision to cancel it was bad rather than good. The Liberals were thought better to manage the economy by 48-33 over Labor – an area of perceived Coalition strength.

77% of regional voters believed they are being dudded in favour of Melbourne on government spending.

Tasmanian EMRS: 34% Liberal, 34% Labor, 17% Greens, 8% Lambie Network

A Tasmanian EMRS poll, conducted between December 1 and December 5 from a sample of 1,000, gave the Liberals 34% (down three since August), Labor 34% (steady), the Greens 17% (up one) and the Jacqui Lambie Network (JLN) 8% (up three). The next Tasmanian election is likely to be held in March 2018.

As EMRS is skewed to the Greens and against Labor, Kevin Bonham interprets this poll as 37.5% Labor, 35.5% Liberal, 14% Greens and 8% JLN. The most likely seat outcome under Tasmania’s Hare-Clark system would be ten Labor, ten Liberals, four Greens and one JLN, out of 25 total seats.

Labor’s Rebecca White led incumbent Will Hodgman as better premier 48-35 in this poll (48-37 in August). White had a net +40 favourable rating, Hodgman a net +13, and Greens leader Casey O’Connor a net negative five.

Essential 55-45 to federal Labor

This week’s Essential moved a point to Labor, in contrast to Newspoll. Labor led 55-45, from primary votes of 38% Labor, 35% Coalition, 9% Greens, 8% One Nation and 2% Nick Xenophon Team. Essential uses a two-week sample of about 1,800, with additional questions based on one week.

64% thought there was a lot or some sexism in the media, 60% in both politics and advertising, 57% in workplaces, 56% in sport, and 48% in schools. Since January 2016, there have been one-to-four point falls in perception of sexism in politics, advertising, workplaces and sport, but a six-to-eight point increase in media and schools.

By 51-24, voters thought that MPs who defect from the party they were elected to represent should be forced to resign from parliament. By 54-25, voters preferred a government where one party has an overall majority to a coalition arrangement.

By 38-34, voters thought the Liberal and National parties should continue in coalition, rather than separate and become more independent; however, Coalition voters preferred the Coalition arrangement 73-13.

Essential’s Liberal leadership question had six choices: Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott, Julie Bishop, Christopher Pyne, Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton. Turnbull had 21% (down four since August), Bishop 19% (down one), Abbott 10% (steady), Dutton 4% (up one) and Pyne and Morrison each had 2%.

Among Coalition voters Turnbull led Bishop 40-20, with 13% for Abbott.

Alabama Senate byelection next Wednesday (Melbourne time)

In February, Jeff Sessions resigned from the US Senate to become Donald Trump’s attorney-general, and the Alabama governor appointed Luther Strange to the Senate until the election was held. The election will be held on December 12, with results from 12 noon on December 13 Melbourne time.

I previously wrote about Republican candidate Roy Moore’s alleged sexual encounter with a 14 year-old girl when he was 32.

After this and other similar allegations were made, Democratic candidate Doug Jones took a poll lead. However, Moore appears to have recovered, and analyst Harry Enten says he leads by about three points. If the polls are overstating Moore by a modest margin, he could lose.

The ConversationAlabama is a very conservative state that Trump won by 28 points at the 2016 election. That this contest appears competitive is surprising.

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Queensland finally has a government, but the path ahead for both major parties looks rocky



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This is not the clear-cut election result Annastacia Palaszczuk and Labor hoped for.
AAP/Glenn Hunt

Chris Salisbury, The University of Queensland

After going to the polls on November 25, Queenslanders finally have a state election result as Liberal National Party leader Tim Nicholls conceded defeat on Friday.

Following a four-week campaign, votes were counted for almost a fortnight until Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Labor Party was confirmed the victor. Palaszczuk is the first female premier to win back-to-back elections. In 2015, she’d become the first woman at state or federal level to lead her party to government from opposition.

But it’s not the clear-cut result Palaszczuk desired. Labor appears to have won 48 seats in the 93-member parliament to the LNP’s 39. This leaves Palaszczuk’s returned government with a slim majority and a diverse crossbench.

A complex contest

With a record field of candidates in an expanded number of electorates – many with redrawn boundaries – this shaped as a complicated election. Adding to its unpredictability was the reintroduction after 25 years of compulsory preferential voting.


Further reading: With One Nation on the march, a change to compulsory voting might backfire on Labor


While two-party-preferred swings were generally not as large as at the last two state elections, overall figures showed a fragmented statewide vote. More than 30% gave their first preferences to minor parties and independents. This exceeded the One Nation-driven protest vote in 1998.

This continues the trend of a declining primary vote for the major parties. Combined with compulsory preferencing, several electorate contests duly developed into three- or even four-horse races, extending the time needed to correctly distribute preferences and declare results. Some seats were decided only after the arrival of postal votes, up to ten days after the polling date.

Like the previous Queensland and federal elections, a close and protracted count left the government in extended caretaker mode. Voters in Queensland and the rest of Australia may need to accustom themselves to a new norm of tight, drawn-out contests, where party leaders’ election night speeches might be obsolete.

Winners and losers

Labor went into the election with a notional seat count of 48 following the redistribution. Despite a 2% decline in its statewide vote, it emerges with little change in its electoral stocks.

Gains in the state’s southeast corner at the LNP’s expense offset a few seat losses in central and north Queensland, where persistent unemployment has been a worry.

To the government’s relief, every cabinet member held their seat. Deputy Premier Jackie Trad survived one of the stronger challenges, a 10% two-party-preferred swing to the Greens in South Brisbane. Brisbane’s inner suburbs, as in other state capitals, are now highly vulnerable to a rising green tide.

The LNP suffered a negative swing of almost 8% – and even higher in parts of the southeast. High-profile casualties included shadow frontbenchers Scott Emerson, Ian Walker, Tracey Davis and Andrew Cripps in the north falling victim to erratic preference flows.

Emerson has the distinction of losing the newly created seat of Maiwar in inner Brisbane to Queensland’s first elected Greens MP, Michael Berkman.

In other firsts, Labor’s new member for Cook in far-north Queensland, Cynthia Liu, is the first Torres Strait Islander elected to any Australian parliament. Innovation Minister Leanne Enoch becomes the state’s first Indigenous MP to be returned at an election.

One Nation’s Stephen Andrew, who defeated veteran Labor MP Jim Pearce in Mirani in central Queensland, becomes the first descendent of South Sea Islander labourers to enter state parliament.

Decisive issues

Besides bread-and-butter issues of job creation, power prices and transport infrastructure, neither Palaszczuk nor Nicholls could escape the dominant themes of this election. The proposed Adani coal mine project animated voters in different parts of the state for different reasons, as did the spoiler role that Pauline Hanson’s One Nation was presumed to play.

Together, these factors reinforced an impression of “two Queenslands” in contention during the campaign.


Further reading: Adani aside, North Queensland voters care about crime and cost of living


Protests against the Adani mine’s environmental impact – and questions over its long-term economic benefit to regional communities – featured regularly once the election was called. Palaszczuk succeeded in defusing the issue to some extent early in the campaign with an abrupt declaration that she would veto federal infrastructure funding for the mine’s construction.


Further reading: Why Adani may still get its government loan


A feared backlash in places of regional discontent and high youth unemployment, like Townsville, didn’t entirely materialise, with Labor incumbents holding seats against expectations. But these concerns, in tandem with uncertainty over the Adani project, saw Labor lose Bundaberg and nearly lose the traditionally Labor-voting Rockhampton to independent candidate and former mayor Margaret Strelow.

The LNP’s position on supporting the Adani mine with public funds, and Nicholls’ prevarication over dealing with One Nation, appear to have hurt the party in Brisbane especially. But so too did Labor reminding voters of Nicholls’ role as treasurer in the Newman government.

As the election neared, Nicholls was swamped by constant questioning about cosying up to One Nation.

While always difficult to quantify, the federal Coalition government’s woes amid the same-sex marriage debate and citizenship fiasco likely did the LNP few favours.

Role of the minor parties

The Greens and One Nation capitalised on the dip in major party support, gaining significant vote shares of 10% and almost 14% respectively. However, each party won only a single seat.

Critically, both parties stripped valuable primary votes from Labor and the LNP, especially the latter’s vote in the regions. This will furrow the brows of federal Coalition MPs through this term of government. For good measure, One Nation preferences likely helped unseat some LNP MPs in the southeast.

The party’s state leader, Steve Dickson, lost out to the LNP in Buderim, while Senate outcast Malcolm Roberts didn’t present a serious threat to Labor in Ipswich.

Despite its failings, One Nation attracted more than 20% in the seats it contested and finished runner-up in two dozen of them, perhaps largely down to Hanson’s constant presence throughout the campaign.

Katter’s Australian Party (KAP), though standing candidates in only ten seats and not making much impact on the campaign, might have done best of all the minor parties. Its primary vote improved to more than 2%, gaining it another seat in Hinchinbrook on Labor and One Nation preferences.

KAP’s targeted approach might prove unwelcome news for the federal Coalition, which can expect similar levels of focused disaffection from conservative regional voters elsewhere. But a fragmenting primary vote spells trouble for all the major parties.

What next for Queensland?

Queensland now enters its first fixed-term period of government. The next election is due on October 31, 2020, with four-year terms following that.

Labor holds only 13 of 51 seats outside the Greater Brisbane area. With all seats decided, factional negotiations will now unfold to determine the make-up of Palaszczuk’s new cabinet. It’s fair to assume it will be Brisbane-centric.

With such a concentration of government MPs in the capital, Palaszczuk’s team will presumably clock up many kilometres – and spend some political capital – reassuring the regions they’re not forgotten.

In the wake of an underwhelming result for the LNP, Nicholls announced he is stepping down as party leader and won’t contest a leadership ballot early next week. The likes of David Crisafulli or Tim Mander, or potentially Deb Frecklington, loom as Nicholls’ likely successors.

Party insiders have complained that the election result proves the marriage between the formerly separate Liberal and National parties in Queensland has failed and should be broken up.


Further reading: Queensland Liberals and Nationals have long had an uneasy cohabitation, and now should consider divorce


The ConversationThe road ahead for both major parties will be anything but easy.

Chris Salisbury, Lecturer in Australian Studies, The University of Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Labor likely to win Queensland election majority, and regional voters behind same-sex marriage


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Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (second from left) with winning Labor election candidates.
AAP

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

After five days of counting since the Queensland election on November 25, it is likely that Labor will win 47 of the 93 seats, a bare majority. The ABC is currently calling 47 of 93 seats for Labor, 38 for the LNP, two for Katter’s Australian Party (KAP, one One Nation and one independent).

Two of the four uncalled seats are straightforward two-party contests. The LNP is very likely to win Burdekin, and Townsville is still lineball. Unless Labor loses a seat already called for it, they will have 47 of the 93 seats, a bare majority. The most likely such seat to be lost is Macallister.

A major break for Labor occurred in Rockhampton. On primary votes, Labor had 32%, independent Margaret Strelow 24%, One Nation 21% and the LNP 18%. Strelow had been expected to win on LNP and One Nation preferences, but LNP preferences flowed strongly to One Nation, putting it ahead of Strelow at the point where one was excluded. Labor has won on Strelow’s preferences by about 3,000 votes, according to the ABC’s Emilia Terzon.

In Macallister, Labor had 37% of the primary vote, the LNP 26.7%, and an independent, Hetty Johnston, 23.2%. Labor trounces the LNP after preferences, but Johnston could move ahead of the LNP on Greens and minor candidates’ preferences, especially as the Greens put her above Labor on their how-to-vote card.

However, according to the Courier-Mail as quoted by the Poll Bludger, Labor is “very confident” this scenario will not happen.

The Electoral Commission of Queensland frustratingly removed all its two-candidate results on Tuesday. The ABC’s two-candidate results are projections, not real votes. The Electoral Commission of Queensland conducted two-candidate counts on Monday in contested seats where the wrong candidates were selected on election night.

In Noosa, independent Sandy Bolton thrashed the LNP. In Cook, Labor convincingly defeated One Nation, but in Mirani One Nation defeated Labor. In Maiwar, Labor defeats the LNP on Greens preferences if it stays ahead of the Greens. In Burdekin, the LNP is slightly ahead of Labor after preferences.

The Greens are currently just 12 votes ahead of Labor in Maiwar on primary votes. Scrutineering information reported by Kevin Bonham suggests the Greens will gain on the preferences of a minor candidate. If they win the battle for second against Labor, they will easily defeat Shadow Treasurer Scott Emerson.

KAP is likely to gain Hinchinbrook from the LNP from third place, on first Labor then One Nation preferences.

Assigning the four uncalled seats to the likely winners, the final seat outcome is likely to be 47 Labor, 39 LNP, three KAP, one One Nation, one Green and one independent, with Townsville still in significant doubt.

Same-sex marriage plebiscite aftermath polling

The same-sex marriage legislation passed the Senate on November 29, 43 votes to 12. Additional protections for religious freedom were not included in the final bill. This legislation will go to the lower house next week.

While many commentators have focused on western Sydney’s large “no” vote in the plebiscite, I think the strong support for “yes” in rural and regional Australia is important.

Only two rural electorates – Maranoa and Kennedy in Queensland – voted “no”. In electorates based on the regional cities of Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Newcastle and Townsville, “yes” won at least 62%. In Oxley, where Pauline Hanson was first elected in 1996, “yes” won 60%.

In last week’s Essential poll, 42% thought current laws already provided enough protection for religious freedoms, while 37% thought any same-sex marriage legislation passed should include more protection for religious freedoms.

By 63-27, voters supported allowing ministers of religion and celebrants to refuse to officiate at same-sex weddings. However, by 48-43, voters opposed allowing service providers to refuse service for same-sex weddings, and by 44-42, they opposed allowing parents to withdraw their children from classes which do not reflect the parents’ views on marriage.

In this week’s Essential poll, 47% thought religious protections should be addressed separately from the same-sex marriage legislation, while 32% thought the legislation should include these protections.

In YouGov, by 46-36, voters thought the same-sex marriage legislation should incorporate new religious protection laws.

Essential 54-46 to federal Labor

This week’s Essential poll gave Labor the same two-party lead as last fortnight. Primary votes were 38% Labor, 36% Coalition, 9% Greens, 8% One Nation and 2% Nick Xenophon Team. Essential uses a two-week sample of about 1,800 for its voting intentions, with additional questions based on one week’s sample.

88% were concerned about energy prices, 83% about food prices, and 80% about housing affordability. At the bottom, only 57% were concerned about cuts in penalty rates.

49% thought the government should provide subsidies to speed up the transition to renewable energy, 16% thought it should let the market decide, and 12% slow the transition down.

By 64-12, voters supported a royal commission into the banking industry. 33% thought the economy was good, and 24% poor (30-29 good in May). However, by 39-31, voters thought the economy was heading in the wrong direction (41-29 in May).

In last week’s Essential poll, voters thought the government should run full term by 47-32, rather than call an early election. 36% expected Labor to win the next election, 20% the Coalition and 18% thought there would be a hung parliament.

44% (steady since January 2017) thought the economic and political system is fundamentally sound but needs to be refined. 32% (down eight) thought the system needs fundamental change, and 10% (up four) thought it is working well as it is. By 35-32, voters were satisfied with the way democracy is working in Australia.

YouGov primary votes: 32% Coalition, 32% Labor, 11% One Nation, 10% Greens

This week’s YouGov, conducted November 23-27 from a sample of 1,034, had primary votes of 32% Coalition (up one since last fortnight), 32% Labor (down two), 11% One Nation (steady) and 10% Greens (down one). Despite the primary vote shift to the Coalition, Labor’s two-party lead increased a point to 53-47 on more favourable respondent preferences.

This is the first time in YouGov’s polling that Labor’s respondent-allocated two-party vote has matched what Labor would have got using the previous election method. In previous YouGov polls, the respondent allocation has always skewed to the Coalition, sometimes by as much as four points.

41% thought Malcolm Turnbull a weak leader and just 21% thought he is a strong leader. By 43-30, voters disapproved of the cancellation of this lower house sitting week. By 55-36, voters thought the government has a responsibility for the safety of the Manus Island asylum seekers.

By 46-40, voters favoured changing the Constitution to allow dual citizens to run for office (45-37 opposed in October). However, voters were opposed by 47-31 to allowing those who work for the state to run for office.

The two major Bennelong byelection candidates were both favourably perceived nationally. The Liberals’ John Alexander had a 40-29 favourable rating, and Labor’s Kristina Keneally a 39-29 favourable rating.

New England byelection: December 2

While the Bennelong byelection on December 16 is receiving much attention, the New England byelection will be held tomorrow, with polls closing at 6pm Melbourne time.

The ConversationAs far as I know, there has been no polling for New England publicly released since the byelection campaign began. Any result other than a clear win for Barnaby Joyce would be a major surprise.

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Queensland election outcome is a death knell for Adani’s coal mine


John Hewson, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

The coal mine proposed for Queensland’s Galilee Basin by Indian mining giant Adani has been a moveable feast, with many stories about its scale, purpose, financing, job prospects, and commerciality. The prospect of a return of the Palaszczuk government in Queensland is effectively the death knell for the project.

Labor has so pledged to block a concessional, taxpayer-funded loan, while embracing a significantly expanded program to develop regional solar thermal power in the state.

It seems the proposal has been reduced in scale, with the original A$21 billion plan reined back to just its initial stage, costing about A$5 billion. Its purpose has changed from exporting coal to India’s Adani Power, to now possibly shipping coal to Bangladesh and Pakistan. Its job prospects are confusing with early estimates well in excess of 10,000, down more recently to fewer than 1,500, after Adani admitted that the mine’s operations will be heavily automated.

The project’s financing has been under a continuous cloud given the scale of the debts of the Adani Group, and the reluctance of global banks in a world transitioning to low-emission technologies. All of this is complicated by the potential for concessional finance from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund (NAIF) and Chinese money. As a high-cost, low-grade coal project, its commerciality has bounced around, given variations in “offtake prices” and expectations on coal futures prices.


Read more: Why big projects like the Adani coal mine won’t transform regional Queensland


The latest version is that the project has been scaled down from some 60 metric tonnes per year (mtpa) to about 25mtpa, requiring an extra investment of some A$2 billion for the mine development, and A$3.3 billion for the rail link to the export terminal at Abbot Point, but avoiding the need to expand Abbot Point. Adani Enterprises is already financially strapped, with net debt exceeding market capitalisation, and the Adani family needing to refinance Abbot Point. The Adani family has already spent some A$3.5 billion on acquiring the deposit and developing their Australian project to date.

So with virtually no capacity to inject additional equity, the focus is on whether even this scaled-down proposal can be financed by additional debt? This is why a government-sponsored concessional loan of up to A$1 billion from the NAIF to build the rail link has been seen as crucial to the project moving forward. It could be accepted by potential financiers as low-cost, high-risk “quasi equity”. It would also effectively hand Adani a monopoly position in standard gauge rail, in turn creating monopoly conditions at Abbot Point.

A more recent constraint on sentiment towards to the project has come from the Indian government’s rapidly changing attitudes to future power generation, accelerating the transition from coal-fired power to renewables. Recent statements by RK Singh, India’s Minister of Power and New and Renewable Energy have confirmed that India can exceed its target of 275 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2027, a massive shift from its historic reliance on coal.

This accelerates the likely end to coal imports by India, which has seen the Adani project seek alternative markets in Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Indeed, there is now documentary evidence of an electricity offtake agreement with the Bangladeshi government’s power board, setting a contractual “cost plus plus” supply of low-quality imported coal delivered at prices that are likely to approach 50% above the current coal spot price. But even at the current futures price of about US$80 per tonne, the Carmichael mine could be cashflow-positive.

Funding the Carmichael mine

Can the Adani group hope to raise the necessary additional debt? This is a two-pronged challenge – the family needs to refinance Abbot Point requiring some A$1.5 billion over the next 12 months, and the A$5 billion-plus project itself.

It looks like the family had to enlist the services of second-tier investment bank Jeffries to initiate a bond refinancing for Abbot Point – to be rated just above junk bond status. However, Jefferies reportedly pulled out within a week, its reasoning unstated.

With some 20 to 30 global banks, including Australia’s big four, having ruled out financing the mine, and Indian banks strapped for capacity, the focus has shifted to Chinese group CMEC as a potential financier, against likely Bangladesh or Pakistani alternatives. However, even with such offtake agreements the project’s longer–term viability is questionable.


Read more: The future of Australian coal: an unbankable deposit


Obviously the Chinese Communist Party, and other Chinese authorities, will need to think carefully about the potential consequences of getting involved now that the project lacks direct financial support from state and federal governments in Australia. This is especially so when the issue of Chinese influence and involvement in Australia generally, and in our politics specifically, is becoming controversial.

I also suspect that the federal Labor opposition may now adopt a position against the Adani project, in light of Queensland’s state election result.

The bottom line for financing is an assessment of the longer-term risks with Adani Enterprises, the family, and the project. Both the company and the family are already heavily exposed financially, and the project is a high-cost, high-risk one.

Bearing in mind the Paris climate agreement, the rapidly falling costs of reliable renewables, and India’s shifting energy strategy, the development of any new coal mine is certainly a very big call.

I suspect that the Adani project is already a stranded asset, and definitely not worthy of either Australian taxpayer support or Chinese investment.

Interactive: what the Adani coal mine means for Queensland

The Conversationhttps://cdn.theconversation.com/infographics/134/1cbeb15f9237d4fbc13472fb72fa7981bc16961f/site/index.html

John Hewson, Professor and Chair, Tax and Transfer Policy Institute, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Queensland Liberals and Nationals have long had an uneasy cohabitation, and now should consider divorce


Gregory Melleuish, University of Wollongong

There can be no doubt that in matters political Queensland is different from the rest of Australia.

It is the only state that has a single house of parliament. It is the only state that has a single council for its capital city. It is the only state in which the Country (and later National) Party has been the dominant force on the non-Labor side of politics and, for a time in the 1980s, held government in its own right.

The rhythm of Queensland politics has been for one party to hold power for long stretches of time. Labor was in government from 1932 to 1957, losing government that year as the Labor Party split. The Country Party held power, first in coalition with the Liberals and then in its own right, from 1957 to 1989. Subsequently, Labor was in office, except for a short time in 1996, from 1989 to 2012.

Queensland voters, at least in recent times, also seem to be more volatile in their voting habits, perhaps more resembling Canada than other parts of Australia. In Sydney, for example, there are electorates that are so rusted on to a political party that electing a member from another party is unthinkable.


Read more: Queensland result, while decided on state issues, adds to Turnbull’s burdens


This does not appear to be the case in Queensland, including Brisbane. In 2012, the Liberal National Party (LNP), led by Campbell Newman, won a stunning victory, claiming 44 seats with swings as high as 21%. In other states, many of these seats would be rusted-on Labor.

Given Queensland’s electoral history, one would have expected that the 2012 election would be the prelude to an extended term of LNP government. Yet, in 2015, the LNP lost 34 seats and government. As an example, the seat of Ipswich, which had swung some 20% to the LNP in 2012, had almost an exact same swing to Labor in 2015.

Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about the 2017 election has been the way in which Brisbane has become almost exclusively Labor. The LNP holds fewer than half-a-dozen seats. While this may be in part a consequence of how One Nation allocated its preferences, this only confirms the weakness of the LNP in Brisbane.

The birth of the LNP

The Queensland LNP came into being in 2008 with the marriage of the Queensland divisions of the National Party and the Liberal Party. This was at a time when the non-Labor side of politics had, except for a short period mentioned above, been out of power for nearly 20 years.

Although the Nationals were clearly the senior partner, the president of the new party acquired full voting rights with the federal Liberals. Even more curious is the fact that those from the “Liberal” side of the party have tended to dominate the leadership.

In other states, where the Liberals are the senior party, as at the Commonwealth level, the two parties have favoured coalition rather than amalgamation (cohabitation rather than marriage).

That the Nationals and the Liberals should have come together at all seems in some ways astonishing, given the cavalier way in which Joh Bjelke-Petersen treated the Liberals back in the 1980s.

In days gone by, the Queensland Liberals were quite unlike other Liberal parties in Australia. Being always the junior member of the partnership meant that the party was much more of a “liberal” party, based in urban Brisbane.

Populism and conservatism were the property of the National Party. It is worth recalling that it was the Liberal Party that disendorsed Pauline Hanson as a candidate in the 1996 election.

It may have made good sense in electoral terms for the National Party and the Liberal Party to amalgamate in 2008. It appears to have delivered in 2012. But it has failed to deliver a second time. I think that there are some good reasons for this.


Read more: Queensland election: One Nation dominates Twitter debate in the final weeks


The amalgamation followed the logic that a unified anti-Labor Party would be more likely to defeat Labor. However, this decision was made at a time when a political reconfiguration was occurring in which the old right-left, business-unions divisions were becoming less important.

In its place has been the emergence of a new politics based around more symbolic matters and in which progressives increasingly find themselves at odds with conservatives on a whole range of matters, from the environment to same-sex marriage.

The LNP tethered together progressives and conservatives. In Newman it had a leader who was a good liberal reformer, rather reminiscent of Nick Greiner in New South Wales. Perhaps Newman should have studied what happened to Greiner, who barely scraped back into power in the 1991 NSW election.

Moreover, populism has never really gone away in Queensland. Labor Premier Peter Beattie had a touch of Joh about him.

Uneasy bedfellows

What I am suggesting is that the creation of the LNP was backward- rather than forward-looking. In a state in which populism is an established tradition, it was always going to be difficult to get the conservative and progressive horses to run together in the same direction.

Bob Katter and Hanson have been beneficiaries of the inability of the LNP to express its inner populism. Remember that John Howard neutralised Hanson by stealing her thunder. Cohabitation was a hindrance to liberals and conservatives alike.

The ConversationBut the primary beneficiary of this state of affairs has been the Labor Party. I think it can be argued that the too rigid nature of the LNP has led to a fracturing of the non-Labor side of politics. If the Liberals and Nationals had simply continued to cohabit they may have been able to have the flexibility required for electoral success.

Gregory Melleuish, Professor, School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, University of Wollongong

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Queensland result, while decided on state issues, adds to Turnbull’s burdens



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The Queensland state election result makes the byelection in Bennelong on December 16 even more important.
AAP/Danny Casey

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Queensland election was decided overwhelmingly on state factors, as Malcolm Turnbull was quick to say on Sunday, but inevitably it has fallout for the prime minister.

Four implications are obvious in the result, which ABC election analyst Antony Green predicts will be a majority Labor government, while Inside Story’s Tim Colebatch suggests is more likely to be an ALP minority one.

First, it elevates even higher the importance of the December 16 byelection in Bennelong.

Second, it will further unsettle an already depressed and jittery federal backbench.

Third, the federal Queensland Coalition MPs will want greater attention from the government.

Finally, the Nationals – in particular the Queensland Nationals – will accelerate a trend that’s been obvious recently, which is to differentiate their brand.

Bennelong was always destined to be significant, from the moment Liberal MP John Alexander resigned (some government sources think prematurely) in the citizenship crisis. But now that things have gone badly for the Liberal National Party in a state that looms so large for the federal Coalition, the stakes rise.

Turnbull was campaigning in Bennelong on Sunday, falling back on the tried and trusted ground of border protection, claiming that “right now the people smugglers are using Kristina Keneally’s articles, her statements on this, as a marketing tool” (an assertion surely worthy of a factcheck).

He has to get deeply involved in this seat, which is on a 9.7% margin, but the flip side is that the more effort Turnbull puts in, the more he’d be personally identified with a big swing, let alone a loss. On the other hand, if the swing were contained, that would help him.

Psychologically, the Queensland result will send the Coalition’s federal members deeper into the funk caused by the unending run of bad polls and multiple problems engulfing the government. This will accentuate instability and ill discipline, although there is no tangible challenge to Turnbull’s leadership at this point.

The Queensland vote reinforces the now familiar message that people are turned off the major parties. The mid-30s primary votes for Labor (around 36%) and LNP (about 34%) scream disillusionment.

One Nation polled solidly in minor party terms (around 14%) and very strongly in its heartlands, but it couldn’t turn that into the swag of seats it had boasted about. Pauline Hanson’s party fell victim to the inflated expectations it had raised, while the LNP vote fell victim to One Nation.

The result shows the One Nation phenomenon, in terms of its ability to erode the conservative vote, remains a worry, but it does not look like a party on the move.

The Queensland result particularly resonates in Canberra because of how vital that state will be to the Coalition come the election. Federal government members from Queensland will be defensively assertive.

Even before the election, internal chatter had it that senior Queensland Liberal George Brandis would not move out of parliament in the coming reshuffle, as earlier predicted. Revamping cabinet without Brandis while preserving strong Queensland representation would be challenging – and Turnbull could not afford to have Queensland seen to be downgraded.

The federal Queensland Nationals are determined to strengthen their efforts to distinguish themselves from the Liberals and Turnbull.

Nationals cabinet minister Matt Canavan said on Sunday the state result was a “confirmation of how important it is to have a strong National Party at a federal level”.

Nationals MP George Christensen went so far as to issue an apology to One Nation voters. It won’t endear him to Turnbull, but he won’t care. One Nation is on track to win Mirani – from Labor – a seat that adjoins Christensen’s electorate with a small overlap.

He tweeted:

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Queensland Nationals senator Barry O’Sullivan believes the result shows One Nation is not a threat in terms of House of Representatives seats, but highlights the need for the Coalition to fill the vacuum that party has occupied.

“Malcolm can’t do it himself,” O’Sullivan says. Rather, he says, Turnbull has to allow the Nationals to do this.

O’Sullivan is not one who advocates the de-amalgamation of the LNP in Queensland – as some are doing – but a “divisionalisation”, reinforcing the message of the separate Liberal and Nationals strands within the one party.

This is already underway, with O’Sullivan’s bill for a broad-ranging commission of inquiry into banking and other financial institutions, on which he will have final consultations with sympathisers within the Coalition and other parties on Monday.

He then intends to move a motion in the Senate to have it dealt with immediately after the marriage bill is finished there, and debated until it is resolved. Christensen is ready to back it in the lower house.

Treasurer Scott Morrison is still trying to land initiatives to show the government is acting on the banks, short of a royal commission.

The ConversationOne wonders what Peter Dutton, Liberal holder of a marginal Brisbane seat, who last week was open to the government softening its opposition to a royal commission, is thinking right now.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Final Queensland polls show Labor likely to win



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Final polls show Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk with a slender lead.
AAP/Dan Peled

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

The Queensland election is today. Polls close at 6pm local time (7pm Melbourne time). The final Newspoll and Galaxy both give Labor at least 52% of the two party vote, and this is likely to be enough for a Labor majority government. While a ReachTEL on November 19 gave Labor a slender 51-49 lead, that was still Labor’s best result in ReachTEL this year.

The table below shows the final three statewide polls for the Queensland election. The last Newspoll was taken in mid-October, the last Galaxy in early November, and there were two ReachTEL polls for different clients on 13 November; both had the LNP ahead 52-48.

QLD final polls.

Primary votes in Galaxy were 37% Labor (up 2), 35% LNP (up 3), 12% One Nation (down 6) and 9% Greens (steady). The six-point drop in One Nation support is partly explained by One Nation only contesting 61 of the 93 seats. According to Peter Brent, the previous Galaxy asked for statewide One Nation support, but this Galaxy only asked in seats One Nation are contesting.

As One Nation will receive no votes in the 32 seats it is not contesting, its statewide support is likely to be less than the mid to high teens it had in recent statewide polls. Galaxy is attempting to match the results tonight.

Galaxy gave the LNP a 52-48 lead with One Nation at 20% of the primary vote in regional Queensland, a one point swing to the LNP since the 2015 election. However, Labor led by 54-46 in south-east Queensland, a two point swing to Labor. South-east Queensland has about two-thirds of the 93 seats.

In Newspoll, primary votes were 36% Labor (down 1), 34% LNP (steady), 13% One Nation (down 3) and 10% Greens (up 2). Presumably, Newspoll only asked for One Nation support in the seats it is contesting. Labor led by 54-46 in south-east Queensland, while the LNP led by 51-49 in regional Queensland, with One Nation at 22% of the primary vote.

40% were satisfied with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (down 2), and 47% were dissatisfied (up 2), for a net approval of -7. Opposition leader Tim Nicholls’ ratings plunged from a net -11 in October to -27 now, with 54% dissatisfied.

Labor has attacked Nicholls on two grounds. The first attack line is the LNP’s preference recommendations for One Nation, and Nicholls’ failure to rule out a LNP/One Nation government. The second attack is over Nicholls’ role as Treasurer in the Newman government. While Palaszczuk’s ratings are not great, these attacks could be decisive.

The 19 November ReachTEL poll for Sky News gave Labor a 51-49 lead, a 3 point gain for Labor since two polls for different clients conducted 13 November. ReachTEL has been the most LNP-favouring poll in Queensland, and this was Labor’s first lead in a ReachTEL poll this year. Primary votes were 34% Labor, 30% LNP, 17% One Nation and 10% Greens.

ReachTEL has used respondent allocated preferences, while Newspoll and Galaxy have used preference models based on previous elections. Previously, there was a large difference between the two methods, with ReachTEL much more favourable to the LNP. However, ReachTEL’s last poll removed most of that difference.

The ConversationSky News also released three ReachTEL seat polls on 20 November, and two of these seats were previously polled by Newspoll. In Thuringowa, ReachTEL had a 50-50 tie between Labor and One Nation, while Newspoll gave One Nation a 54-46 lead. In Whitsunday, ReachTEL gave Labor a 50.5-49.5 lead over the LNP (51-49 to Labor in Newspoll). In Ferny Grove, ReachTEL gave Labor a 54-46 lead.

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Queensland election: One Nation dominates Twitter debate in the final weeks


Axel Bruns, Queensland University of Technology

As Queensland approaches its election day on Saturday, the social media campaign for votes continues alongside. But over the final two weeks, the focus of that campaign has gradually shifted.

Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s plan to veto a potential A$1 billion loan to the Adani mine project resulted in a considerable drop in Adani-related tweets directed at Queensland candidates, and that pattern has held through subsequent weeks. Labor has not entirely neutralised the Adani controversy, but the mine project is no longer the major talking point of the Twitter campaign.

By contrast, the most significant emerging theme of these past two weeks has been the role that Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party might play in the new parliament. We saw some of this in our previous analysis, in response to the LNP’s decision to direct preferences to One Nation over Labor in a majority of Queensland seats. That particular discussion has now shifted to a much broader debate about the very real prospect that One Nation may hold the balance of power after the election.

Major topics in tweets by and at candidates in the 2017 Queensland election campaign.
Axel Bruns / QUT Digital Media Research Centre

Our dataset captures the tweets posted by and directed at Queensland election candidates. Of those tweets, some 51% addressed the Adani mine or One Nation, but the emphasis has now swung considerably towards the latter. This was sparked in part by the Liberal National Party’s (LNP) preference announcement, with preferences briefly becoming a distinct major topic in their own right.

Labor has been quick to exploit this arrangement, in well-shared posts from the central party account. However, recent controversial footage of its own MP Jo-Ann Miller hugging Pauline Hanson on the campaign trail might have blunted this message somewhat.

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One Nation also featured heavily in another major topic of the second half of the campaign: schools. While Labor’s pledge to establish several new schools received only moderate attention, Queensland One Nation leader Steve Dickson’s bizarre comments about the Safe Schools anti-bullying programme was met with widespread condemnation. A tweet criticising Dickson’s subsequent apology is now the second most retweeted post of the entire campaign:

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Somewhat more surprisingly, the impact of Uber and similar ridesharing services on the Queensland taxi industry has also been a minor theme throughout the campaign. This was aided by some orchestrated activity by taxi drivers, and supported by Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) candidate Robbie Katter, who has championed their cause in several campaign events. Meanwhile, transport also figured in the Premier’s commitment to fixing the issues with troubled new Queensland Rail rolling stock in Maryborough, which generated a brief flurry of support as well as criticism.

These topical changes have affected the patterns of engagement with the candidates on Twitter. In total, Labor candidates still continue to be mentioned more frequently than their LNP counterparts. But over the past two weeks, this gap has closed slightly: as attention has shifted from Adani to One Nation, so have Twitter users moved to asking more questions of LNP and One Nation rather than Labor politicians. Retweets, however, continue to favour Labor by a considerable margin: its candidates have received more than four times as many retweets as all other party candidates put together.

Engagement with candidates in the 2017 Queensland election.
Axel Bruns / QUT Digital Media Research Centre

A network of interactions around candidate accounts (combining both @mentions and retweets over the course of the entire campaign) demonstrates the state of play at this late stage of the election campaign. Labor commands the largest engagement network, at the centre of the graph. Discussions about Adani have been prominent, and form a distinct cluster of debate that is most closely interconnected with the Labor and Greens networks.

Meanwhile, LNP and One Nation candidates are mentioned frequently alongside one another. These tweets are often asking about their preference arrangements or their willingness to work together in the absence of an outright majority for either major party.

This association is so strong, in fact, that our visualisation algorithm treats both groups as part of the same discussion cluster. Slightly to the side of this sits the Uber debate, which therefore appears to be more closely associated with – and perhaps supported by – LNP candidates than their Labor counterparts.

Network of interactions around candidate accounts in the 2017 Queensland election.
Axel Bruns / QUT Digital Media Research Centre

The picture that emerges here is one which points to the strengths and weaknesses of both sides of politics. For Labor, its troubled path to a firmer stance on the Adani mine may remain in environmentally conscious voters’ minds even if the online discussion has died down somewhat.

The ConversationFor the LNP, the emerging view that its best path to government is through an arrangement with One Nation will similarly dent the electorate’s enthusiasm for a change of government. That Labor commands by far the majority of retweets for its messages may give it hope, though – at least in urban electorates, where Twitter is likely to have its greatest footprint.

Axel Bruns, Professor, Creative Industries, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Voters see through Turnbull, but cool on Shorten: Queensland research


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Malcolm Turnbull’s cancellation of next week’s House of Representatives sitting has been received sceptically by Queensland “soft” voters, but they still prefer the Prime Minister over Bill Shorten, according to focus group research ahead of Saturday’s state election.

Participants were dismissive of Turnbull’s claim he was rearranging the sitting times to concentrate on the same-sex marriage bill. Nor do they believe the marriage issue will boost his fortunes.

But when pressed, these voters don’t agree Turnbull is a dead duck for the next federal election. They think Australia is headed in the right direction, and there is still some hope for him.

The four groups of 10 people each were conducted on Monday and Tuesday, two in Brisbane and two in Townsville. There was a mix of gender, age and socio-economic characteristics. They were run by Landscape Research for the University of Canberra’s Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis.

In Brisbane participants were drawn mainly from the marginal seats of Ferny Grove (ALP, 0.82%) and Everton (LNP, 1.77%) in the LNP-held federal electorate of Dickson. In Townsville they came predominantly from Mundingburra (ALP, 2.76%) and Townsville (ALP, 5.69%) in the Labor-held federal seat of Herbert. These voters, most of whom took part in the research’s earlier round, were “undecideds” when the campaign started.

In the discussions, Turnbull’s cancelling of the House’s sitting was variously described as weird, ridiculous, a “bit naughty”; a Townsville electrician thought it was done for “non-altruistic reasons, probably more political. … to push everything else out of the way.”

A retired Townsville manager declared it “opportunistic”, bound up with the citizenship crisis and fear of losing a vote on the floor of parliament. “I read this morning there’s 53 Bills that they could be dealing with that they’re not now,” said a Townsville retailer.

As for any government hope of a boost from same-sex marriage, a Brisbane retiree opined that voters would “forget about it” come federal election time.

The latest Newspoll had Shorten breathing down Turnbull’s neck on the “better PM” measure. But for people in these groups Shorten still carries baggage, especially of the union kind. Voters struggle to produce positives about Turnbull, but they agree he is better than the alternatives, in his own party and in Labor.

While some see Turnbull as weak and having to toe the party line, Shorten remains an unknown quantity for them, and choosing a weak Turnbull is still preferable for many.

Contributions from the Brisbane group of working-age voters capture their views. “I don’t think Bill Shorten is a done deal to get in”. “Bill Shorten’s got some bad things behind him, I think, when the union movement did some underhand deals”. “If he had some decent competition, Malcolm Turnbull, then I think it would be all over for him”.

Working Townsville soft voters also, when pressed, prefer Turnbull over Shorten. As one put it, it’s “the devil you know versus the devil you don’t know – what he will do”.

This research is qualitative, so numbers have no statistical significance. Bearing this in mind, as the state campaign went into its final week the result of a “mock” ballot for Saturday’s vote across the four groups was ALP 23 and LNP 17. That result is counting which of the two major parties people put first, even if that party was not given their number 1.

Many of these soft voters are eschewing the traditional flow of preferences along broadly ideological lines. If this happened widely on Saturday, it could have unforeseen consequences in key marginals.

For example among voters from Mundingburra, held by Disability Services minister Coralee O’Rourke, a number gave Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) their first vote, preferencing Labor or Greens above the Liberal National Party. Similarly, one voter in the seat of Townsville gave the Greens her number one vote followed by KAP as number 2.

In this north Queensland city, KAP doesn’t have the same extreme right wing stigma that some attribute to One Nation, and Pauline Hanson isn’t as popular as in regions further south. The appeal of KAP is as a sort of reinvention of the old Country party, giving it some attraction for disgruntled LNP and Labor people alike.

Unable to decide who to put first, many participants started with who they might put last.

“It’s a bit of a toss up between Greens and One Nation,” said a Townsville retiree, adding “they’re divisive and would make parliament unworkable”. Another Townsville participant said he would put the LNP last because “I don’t trust them – I don’t know how they’re funded”.

An Everton personal trainer was “putting Labor last. There are lots of promises on expenditure but no explaining where the money is coming from, or why they’ve not done it already”.

Opposition leader Tim Nicholls continues to carry the burden of the Newman government, in which he was treasurer. “If they were a racehorse, their form is not good,” said a Brisbane retiree. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is criticised in the wake of her Adani flip flop, the perception of achieving little for Queensland, and gaffes by treasurer Curtis Pitt.

While some voters have firmed their views on who to vote for, many remain undecided, either waiting for something to cement their decision or so disengaged that they’ve almost shut down from the barrage of news and canvassing. “I’m getting three to five phone calls a night. I’ve had it”, said a Mundingburra voter.

Despite the widespread disappointment with the major parties, very local policy decisions help some people decide. One was choosing Labor because it would renovate local schools; another, the LNP because of a commitment to fix district traffic problems.

Participants cared little about the backroom preference manoeuvrings that were receiving publicity, seeing them as “political”. Whether they will take more notice when handed how-to-vote cards on election day – the system has moved to compulsory preferential – remains to be seen.

A desire for stability ran through both Brisbane and Townsville groups, which pushed some soft voters into putting Labor first. This also steered some away from One Nation, which for many seemed riddled with internal strife, not making for a responsible crossbench presence.

Instability flows on to the government not being able to govern, and therefore not doing its job. These voters are frustrated with the lack of action and achievement at both state and federal level.

A notable part of the discussions was about a subject that, politically, is more current in Victoria and NSW than in Queensland – euthanasia (which is a state government area). The same-sex marriage ballot opened the way for opinions on direct democracy and other matters that might be considered appropriate for a people’s vote.

Voluntary assisted dying was narrowly defeated in NSW last week, but is set to pass in Victoria, once the lower house considers the amended bill which cleared the upper house in a marathon sitting this week.

Almost to a person (38 out of 40 participants) there was support for euthanasia – it galvanised younger and older voters, regional and metropolitan participants. Some saw it as more complex and important than same-sex marriage. As a Townsville voter put it, “this affects everyone”.

Twenty eight of the 40 supported a public vote to indicate to MPs how people felt. But notwithstanding their support for euthanasia some opposed a plebiscite, seeing it as a waste of money.

While many agree with the idea of tapping into voter opinion on euthanasia, they are universally unhappy with what they see as the outrageous cost of the marriage vote. They believe cheaper methods should be used for future exercises in direct democracy, such as online voting, or plebiscites held with elections.

The ConversationThey want to be heard – but it shouldn’t cost so much.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/k3zus-7afe23?from=site&skin=1&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Public investment in electricity generation – a hot-button issue in Queensland?


John Quiggin, The University of Queensland

One of the most striking features of the Queensland election campaign is that all major parties are advocating public investment in electricity generation.

The real choice to be made is whether this investment will promote the goal of a decarbonised energy system, or whether it will seek to delay this transition and prolong Australia’s reliance on coal-fired electricity.

Labor and the Greens are advocating public investment in renewables, while the LNP and One Nation want a new coal-fired power station.


Read more: Twitter analysis shows Queensland Labor has put Adani behind them


This choice, in turn, depends on attitudes to mainstream climate science. If the findings of mainstream science are accepted, a complete phase-out of coal-fired power, and its replacement by renewables, must take place over the next couple of decades. This implies a target of 50% renewables by around 2030.

The Queensland Renewable Energy Expert Panel modelled the achievement of a 50% renewables share for Queensland. The Expert Panel identified economic benefits of a renewable investment program including an average gain of 6,400 jobs.

Queensland has retained publicly owned electricity generators, primarily focused on coal-fired power. It would make sense for the public to diversify more into renewables.

Where the parties stand

At its recent conference, Labor committed to continued public ownership in the electricity sector and a 50% renewables target by 2030. The conference motion proposed a publicly owned energy corporation committed to protecting customers’ interests and building at least 1000 MW of clean energy.

The Greens propose more comprehensive public ownership with investment of $15 billion over the next 5 years to build publicly-owned clean energy and storage, estimated to create 5,500 jobs every year. The Labor-Green emphasis on renewables is consistent with the movement of the global mainstream.

Last week, at the UN Climate Conference in Bonn, 19 nations including the UK, New Zealand and Canada joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance, pledged to phase out coal-fired power altogether.


Read more: Bonn voyage: climate diplomats head into another round of talks


In sharp contrast, One Nation’s policy is based on the claim that climate change is a hoax, promoted by the United Nations as part of its sinister Agenda 21 policy, which, according to the One Nation platform, seeks to control you and your life .

This position is, at least, internally consistent. The willingness of conservative, liberal and labour governments around the world to sign up to a common climate change policy is seen by One Nation as evidence that the UN is making progress towards its goal of world domination.

The LNP takes a more ambivalent position. While backing coal and opposing renewables, its Queensland state conference narrowly rejected a motion calling on Australia to withdraw from its Paris commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

‘HELE’ of a big gamble

The key idea used to reconcile these contradiction is the idea that we can meet our commitments using “high efficiency, low emissions” (HELE) coal-fired power stations.

HELE power stations rely on the process of ultra-supercritical generation. That sounds impressive, but the reality is more prosaic. The term supercritical refers to the fact that at high temperatures and pressures, fluids are neither liquids (in this case, water) nor gases (steam) but display characteristics of both. Supercritical boilers are 10-20% more efficient than subcritical boilers.


Read more: Ultra, super, clean coal power? We’ve heard it before


The first supercritical boiler was invented in the 1920s. The technology was fully commercialised by the 1990s. Coal-fired power stations built in Queensland since 2000 operate on supercritical technology.

‘Ultra-supercritical’ plants, first installed around 2000, operate at even higher temperatures and pressures, but the additional increase in efficiency is limited, by the physics of the Carnot cycle, to between 10 and 15 per cent. The HELE acronym is misleading: emissions are lower than those of 20th century plants, but higher than any other generation technology.

So, the moment any substantial carbon price is imposed the proposed power plant will cease to be financially viable and will become a stranded asset. Investment in such a project is a bet that all the world’s scientists and every other government in the developed world have got things wrong or, alternatively, that Australia can go it alone on this issue.

It’s hard to see any financial institution taking a risk like this. Given the warnings already issued by regulators about the dangers of investing in stranded assets, a loan that goes bad will leave the lender open to litigation and regulatory sanctions. Will banks be willing to lend the necessary billion dollars or so on such collateral.

The ConversationShould the LNP gain office, then, their policy will face a critical test. Even with a substantial public investment, will any private firm be willing to take an equity stake in what looks certain to become a stranded asset? If not, will the Queensland public be forced to bear the entire risk?

John Quiggin, Professor, School of Economics, The University of Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.