The shock federal election result in Queensland that was hiding in plain sight

Home Australia News The shock federal election result in Queensland that was hiding in plain sight
The shock federal election result in Queensland that was hiding in plain sight

A teal volcano has erupted in Sydney and Melbourne. The surge of support for independents at the centre of Australia’s two largest cities has been sudden, jolting and devastating to the conception of what is Liberal heartland.

In Brisbane, a third force has also made a dramatic arrival.

The Greens have taken the LNP stronghold of Ryan in the leafy inner west, with their candidate bearing striking similarities to the professional women who ran as independents against moderate Liberals in the southern capitals.

Elizabeth Watson-Brown is an architect who ran her own firm for 21 years and is an adjunct professor at the University of Queensland.

Greens candidates are also leading in the seats of Brisbane and Griffith over the LNP and ALP incumbents, respectively.

Composite of Greens candidates Stephen Bates in Brisbane, Max Chandler-Mather in Griffith, Elizabeth Watson-Brown in Ryan
Inner-Brisbane Greens candidates Stephen Bates in Brisbane, left, Max Chandler-Mather in Griffith, centre, Elizabeth Watson-Brown in Ryan, right.(ABC News)

That such a traditionally conservative state, which has never sent one Green to the lower house, could in one swoop send three, is a remarkable step change.

This, however, was no explosion of support.

Rather, it’s been a slowly creeping tide that’s risen from the inside of the city out; first with the election of Jonathan Sri to the inner-city ward of The Gabba to Brisbane City Council in 2016, Michael Berkman to state parliament in 2017, and Amy McMahon’s crowning victory of defeating then-deputy premier Jackie Trad in the 2020 state election.

But even so, this federal high-water mark still raises two questions: Why now? And why did those voters not choose Labor?

Jim Chalmers, soon-to-be treasurer in the Albanese government, lamented on the ABC election broadcast that the party would have liked to have picked up more climate-conscious voters in those key contests.

Perhaps it was too much for dyed-in-the-wool Liberals to switch to their bitterest rivals.

Also, look at the topography of the seats in question. They all hug a Brisbane River which flooded so spectacularly and ruinously just three months ago.

Many might have seen a demonstration of climate change.

A jetty surrounded by debris in the Brisbane river.
The electorates in which the Greens have done well all hug the Brisbane River.(Supplied: Chelsea Clark)

Labor has some soul-searching to do over the result in Queensland.

It held six seats coming into the election and will come out of it at best with seven, and at worst with five.

At the end of counting on election night it had won 27.8 per cent of first-preference votes in Queensland, the second lowest in the country and only marginally in front of Tasmania at 27.6 per cent.

It will not hold a seat any further north than Blair, whose uppermost boundary is south of Noosa.

At the start of the campaign, there were hopes of taking the coal seat of Flynn and at the end there was talk of Leichhardt in the Far North. It did not come close.

Queensland is not just the most decentralised state, it is perhaps the most starkly contrasting in political terms.

Conservative politicians such as Pauline Hanson and Clive Palmer have taken huge bites out of the right flank of the LNP as Brisbane has become just as progressive as inner Sydney and Melbourne.

Now the Labor Party led by Anthony Albanese may have to cobble together support from other urban left-of-centre politicians.

It will take more to convince regional Queenslanders than the usual lip service from leaders on elections nights when they vow to “govern for all Australians”. The divide between left and right, at least in Queensland, seems to be growing.

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