Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington has been at pains during the first couple of days of campaigning in the state election to justify her decision to preference Labor last in all 93 seats at the October 31 election. But this is a decision that warrants scrutiny.

Described by the LNP itself as a "win-at-all-costs" strategic decision, there are a range of potentially dangerous outcomes that the party's state executive perhaps should have considered more carefully before endorsing the preference-Labor-last strategy on Sunday night.

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This strategy is clearly designed to avoid Ms Frecklington losing days of messaging to questions about preferencing parties like One Nation ahead of Labor in various electorates, something that has dogged LNP leaders in successive elections.

But as the campaign goes on, this new strategy will inevitably mean the LNP will find itself having preferenced ahead of the ALP a potentially long list of candidates with views or backgrounds that are exposed as being questionable at best. And every time one is exposed, Ms Frecklington will lose a day of messaging. There is a risk there could be a drip-feed of revelations in this space just as momentum-killing as the alternative.

 

As the campaign goes on, this new strategy will inevitably mean the LNP will find itself having preferenced ahead of the ALP a potentially long list of candidates with views or backgrounds that are exposed as being questionable at best. PICTURE: STEWART McLEAN
As the campaign goes on, this new strategy will inevitably mean the LNP will find itself having preferenced ahead of the ALP a potentially long list of candidates with views or backgrounds that are exposed as being questionable at best. PICTURE: STEWART McLEAN

 

Secondly, despite Ms Frecklington's denials, there does remain a very real risk that this strategy could leave our state beholden for the next four years to a ragtag collective of crossbenchers.

Polling does indicate a flight back to major parties in these uncertain times, with the One Nation vote in particular having softened since the last election in 2017. But receiving LNP preferences does increase the chances of One Nation candidates getting elected.

It means that in any contest this time around where the final two candidates are from Labor and One Nation (and there were 12 of these at the last election) the LNP could deliver One Nation the seat. Now, sure, that would rob Labor of a seat - but by definition that also makes it more likely that Labor will not end up in majority. And it would see another One Nation MP take a seat on the crossbench.

This LNP decision will also boost the chances of Greens candidates in inner-Brisbane seats like South Brisbane and McConnel - and might also improve the prospects of MP Michael Berkman in Maiwar.

To preference the Greens ahead of Labor in South Brisbane is fair enough, considering Labor candidate and former deputy premier Jackie Trad's integrity scandals. But it is dangerous to adopt the same strategy in these other seats when the only safety net is the LNP's firm belief that it will finish ahead in these contests on primaries. However, while Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and her team are whipping themselves up into a frenzy of self-righteousness over the LNP's decision, it's worth observing that Labor's history on preferencing is just as opportunistic.

Labor likes to earnestly boast about how it always places One Nation at the bottom of its how-to-vote cards. Yet there are next to no contests where the LNP has to rely on Labor preferences. And so for Labor this is a principle with no risk - and so not really a principle at all.

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Labor also regularly preferences above the LNP the Greens, Katter's Australian Party and a long list of other candidates. This is why the Greens have an MP in state parliament to begin with, why KAP added another member to its ranks in 2017, and why Noosa is held by Independent Sandy Bolton.

So before Labor gets too caught up in its glorious piety, it should consider questions like what its dominant Left faction thinks of ALP preferences boosting KAP - a party with a shamelessly pro-guns stance. Yep, it's hypocrisy all round.

Remember also that it was the first Palaszczuk government that radically altered voting laws in 2016 with 18 minutes notice and no consultation following Labor's calculation that numbering every square would have seen it win eight extra seats at the 2015 election.

Optional preferential voting was a post-Fitzgerald recommendation from the celebrated Electoral and Administrative Review Commission. For many years, Labor strongly supported this right to "Just Vote One" - but when the system no longer electorally suited the party, its MPs duly stole it from the people of Queensland like thieves in the night.

Ms Frecklington has made a choice here that exposes her on the first day of this election as just another politician. But the Premier, too, has repeatedly proven she is no stranger to opportunism.

Originally published as Putting Labor last may come back to bite Frecklington


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