If there’s one thing Queenslanders don’t like, it’s being told what to do.
When Bob Brown’s anti-Adani convoy rolled through the Sunshine State, demanding voters shun coal, he hammered a nail in Bill Shorten’s electoral coffin.
Jobs are key in Queensland and Adani’s Carmichael Coal mine will guarantee work.
Labor knew it, but couldn’t negotiate its environmental agenda, while backing the multi-million-dollar resource project. That weakness left voters seeking job security and turning back to the LNP.
Labor was also was too weak on either side of the Adani-climate change equation, that in its attempts to appease everyone, it failed to appeal to anyone.
Beyond Liberals’ dreams
But not even seasoned LNP operatives were predicting the wave of blue to sweep Queensland in such a decisive hit.
“I never expected numbers like this,” admitted central Queensland MP Michelle Landry.
“Thank you, Bob Brown, is all I can say. He came up here trying to tell Queenslanders what we should and shouldn’t be doing, and it actually drew together the agriculture and mining sectors — I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Contrary to even internal polling, no LNP politicians lost their seats.
In Adani country, Michelle Landry, George Christensen and Ken O’Dowd recorded swings of up to 15 per cent to transform their ultra-marginal electorates into comfortably safe seats.
And Labor felt the voters’ wrath, with the previously marginal seats of Herbert and Longman snatched into the Coalition’s firm grasp.
It’s likely only five of Queensland’s 30 electorates will be held by Labor when the pencil dust has settled.
The result also triggers a warning for the state Labor Government, which has been criticised for its perceived stonewalling of the Adani mine, about 18 months out from the Queensland election.
‘We’re not stupid’
There’s little doubt among regional Queensland MPs that coal killed Labor’s chances.
“People up here in central Queensland aren’t stupid, they can work out that [Bill Shorten’s] unsure what’s going to happen in the coal mining industry,” said returned LNP member for Flynn, Ken O’Dowd.
“I think they know that if Bill Shorten was to win government Adani would be scrapped straight away.”
But it wasn’t just the A-word that destroyed Labor’s dream of clinching victory throughout Queensland.
It was also Bill Shorten, who, frankly, wasn’t liked as a leader.
Queenslanders have a history of championing charismatic politicians like Joh Bjelke-Petersen, Peter Beattie and Barnaby Joyce — despite their considerable flaws.
Voters are used to colourful characters and when matched against “the everyday bloke” Scott Morrison, Bill Shorten’s persona didn’t cut through.
Palmer reached his main goal
But perhaps the most underestimated influence of Labor’s collapse was the preference flows from minor parties, namely Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party.
In the south-east seat of Longman, which changed hands from Labor to the LNP, the two minor parties ate up more than 15 per cent of the primary vote.
In other regions, their primary share soared to more than 20 per cent. And just like that, Labor’s fate was sealed.
Both PHON and UAP had pre-arranged preference deals to bolster the LNP and hand power to the Coalition.
In a statement, Mr Palmer didn’t shy away from the intention of the preference arrangement.
“The goal for the United Australia Party was to ensure the Labor Government did not get into power, introducing more than $1 trillion of new taxes,” Mr Palmer said.
“This has been achieved with the collective effort from United Australia Party.”
Labor boasted its integrity would have been compromised had it made a pact with either of the minor parties to pocket their second votes.
Now, that ideological bearing is bruised and broken, Queensland has returned to being one of the most conservative states in the country.