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Happenings on the hill  |  GovernmentPolitics

Focus on politics: Queensland

18 July 2022 at 11:16 am
Angus Crowther
Angus Crowther and Rory Parker do a deep dive into Queensland politics and some of the "shocking" results. But were they?

Angus Crowther | 18 July 2022 at 11:16 am

Rory Parker


Focus on politics: Queensland
18 July 2022 at 11:16 am

Angus Crowther and Rory Parker do a deep dive into Queensland politics and some of the “shocking” results. But were they?

Queensland. Beautiful one day, confusing the next.

It has always seemed like the southern states have thought they had a read on the home of Bob Katter, Pauline Hanson, and Matt Canavan. But that all changed when along came the 2022 Federal Election and shifted perceptions—the “Deep North” became “Greensland”.

For many, this came as a shock. How could the land of XXXX and the mighty Maroons choose to elect not one, not two, but three Greens MPs? But to anyone closely watching Queensland, it didn’t come as a huge surprise…

How were we supposed to see this coming?

By looking to the State Parliament, of course.

Demographic shifts aren’t as easy to pick up in Queensland than in other states: the lack of an upper house tends to dampen the potential successes of minor parties. But they’ve still been growing.

When the Palaszczuk government took office in 2015, the two Katter Party MPs allowed Labor to govern with a slim majority. The Katters grew to three in 2017, when they gained another seat.

Meanwhile, in 2017, Michael Berkman was the first Greens member to be elected to Queensland’s Legislative Assembly. In 2020, Amy McMahon joined him by taking South Brisbane.

What’s going on up there?

So, when the Greens grew by three at the 2022 federal election, it wasn’t a shock to many.

What is interesting, however, is how limited the newly-elected government’s Queensland representation is within the federal lower house.

Of the 30 federal seats in Queensland, only five are held by the Labor government. Three by the Greens. One Katter. The rest, LNP (note: not the Liberals or Nationals—they’re a singular entity up here…at least in name).

It’s worth noting that the northernmost government-held seat in this large and sprawling state is Blair (stretching from south of Brisbane to Wide Bay).

This is all particularly interesting when you consider that Queensland, at a state-level, has been held by Labor for all but five years since 1989.

But it’s quite simple why: and that’s because it is an extremely varied state. Trying to put Queensland into just one box will never work: what works in North Queensland, won’t work in Central Queensland, and what works there won’t work in the capital. And, certainly, what works in Melbourne won’t work in Moranbah.

It’s why, seemingly every election, Queensland is seen as a battleground state—not just between Labor/Liberal, but also the minor parties. In the 2019 election One Nation was expected to be a driving force in the regions, but as soon as the major parties pivoted to placate that threat, the Greens were able to target Brisbane.

As the Greens vote skyrocketed in inner-city seats (up 10.9 per cent on Primaries in Griffith), their impact wasn’t felt as strongly in the regions—even going backwards in some seats like Leichhardt or Wide Bay.

What does this mean for your organisation?

When different localities engage with different messaging…target your messaging.

For broader campaigns, identify the values that the different regions share, and lean into them. It’s why the major parties try to just talk about high-level topics like jobs, health, and education.

But, where you can, find your localised angles. Bob Katter knows he’s not going to win the inner-city, so he appeals to his base in regional Queensland. Similarly, the Greens aren’t targeting mining country: they’re hyper-localising their campaigns and running on issues like aircraft noise.

So, what’s your organisation’s local link? What are your clients saying? Your members? Your workers? Does your approach differ in Bowen to Brisbane?

While you might not agree with someone like Bob Katter, don’t say ‘I ain’t spendin’ any time on it’. Instead, identify your shared values and lean into them, while avoiding talking about where your values may clash. You certainly don’t have to agree on everything, but there’s a good chance that you’ll find some level of overlap.

But, most of all, be authentic. Be authentic to yourselves, your clients, and who you’re speaking to. Finding where your values overlap doesn’t mean betraying your identity—it means strengthening it. The best way to win in politics is to bring people along with you. If someone is vehemently against your cause, talking with them might not get them to become an advocate—but it could neutralise their vocal opposition. And, if someone’s on the fence, a conversation might just find you your organisation’s next champion advocate.

Importantly, to achieve authenticity only you and your organisation should do this work in building relationships built on shared values. No one will understand your mission better than you, and politicians will always want a photo with you, your team, your community (and never with a lobbyist!). And with Queensland cracking down on the influence of lobbyists, there’s no better opportunity than now for your organisation to get on the front foot and begin engaging yourselves.

With regular columnist Neil Pharaoh currently on leave, Neil’s Tanck colleagues Angus Crowther and Rory Parker will be covering until he returns.

Happenings on the hill is a fortnightly column focusing on all things politics, policy, campaigns and advocacy. Stay tuned for updates around political trends and elections, lobbying and advocacy news, and hints, tips and ideas on government engagement that are specifically written for the social purpose/for purpose sector.

Angus Crowther  |  @ProBonoNews

Angus Crowther is co-founder and director of Tanck, a business-for-purpose government relations firm specialising in supporting social purpose organisations through strategic stakeholder engagement and advocacy.

Rory Parker  |  @ProBonoNews

Rory Parker is a senior associate at Tanck.

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