This weekend's state election in Queensland, Australia has resulted in a landslide vote for the Australian Labor Party (ALP). This is the fourth ALP election win in a row and the third in which the ALP will take sixty of the available eighty-nine seats. Previous landslide ALP wins in 2001 and 2004 were not reflected in voting at subsequent Federal Elections. This shows the weakness of support for the policies of state premier Peter Beattie.
The election was called against a backdrop of crisis in the public health system and problems with water and electricity supply. The healthcare issue in particular had been a major problem. The resignation of the MP for Bundaberg was the spur to Beattie calling an early election. Last year the crisis in public medicine shot to prominence amidst claims of medical negligence in the case of Dr Jayant Patel. Patel had been employed by Queensland Health without due background checks and worked as a surgeon at Bundaberg Base Hospital and linked to the deaths of many patients. The reality is simply that the public health system has insufficient trained staff and is chronically under-funded.
For many workers the choice was between a right-wing Labor party and the avowedly anti-worker policies of the Coalition. The federal coalition government has removed legislation that provides basic protections of workers' rights and instigated vicious attacks against unionists in the building industry. This was almost never mentioned in the official campaigning but was a major factor as workers faced a nightmare scenario of a Coalition-controlled federal and state government. The result was a strong swing toward an unpopular ALP government in the South East of the state. Areas such as the Gold Coast, a major centre of inter-state migration, provided a strong swing to the ALP. Some formerly safe Liberal seats on the Gold Coast are now looking perilously weak.
Peter Beattie cannot claim any great endorsement for his policies. In his own safe Labor seat of Brisbane Central he saw his majority cut by over 4,000 and his share of the vote fall from 58% to 50%. In part this may be due to the negative campaigning of the coalition who personified Beattie as the biggest weakness of the ALP - it seems likely that "Team Beattie" is a liability even to the ALP right. Nonetheless, workers understand that the Coalition government stands in stark opposition to their interests and have chosen to ensure the enemy does not gain control of the state government.