The Queensland election has put Labor on the brink of victory and proved that the Sunshine State won’t stomach privatised public assets from either side of politics.
The David versus Goliath result has also ended the political career of Premier Campbell Newman, and prompted fresh storm clouds to gather Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s leadership.
While Labor leader Annastacia Palaszczuk did not claim victory on Saturday night, she acknowledged the 11 per cent swing to the ALP put momentum with her party.
“It’s still too close to call, but I am very hopeful that we will be able to form government,” she told a cheering party in her seat of Inala.
While polls had predicted a close contest, the result could transfer up to 37 seats to the ALP, enough for a majority of 45.
Just three electorates are too close to call, with two seats retained by the Katter Australia Party, and one independent.
And while omnipresent Queenslander Clive Palmer failed to score a seat for his party, the colourful Federal MP last night claimed victory in his personal campaign against Campbell Newman.
The swing to Labor reverses the 2012 result under then-premier Anna Bligh, when the party haemorrhaged 44 seats, and formed opposition with just seven members.
While Friday’s Courier Mail front page instructed readers to “PASS” on Ms Palaszczuk, her campaign has undone the LNP’s biggest ever Queensland majority.
Last night, the Labor leader thanked Queenslanders for putting trust back in the party. She attributed the success to Labor’s key campaign policy, opposing the LNP plan to lease state-owned ports and power assets.
“Today the people of Queensland sent a very clear message … they do not want their assets sold,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“We will keep our assets in public hands, for the future and for future generations.”
Ms Palaszcuzuk’s speech followed Mr Newman’s concession speech, after he lost the seat of Ashgrove to Labor’s comeback kid Kate Jones.
“My political career is over,” he told party faithful, paying tribute to “many fine men and women” who could lead the party following his departure.
The Queensland LNP is yet to identify a successor for Mr Newman, whose reign included public service job cuts, health system reform, and tough-on-bikies law and order.
Mr Newman admitted the party made “hard decisions” in government.
“I do truly believe we’ve put Queensland in a far better place than the way we found it,” he said.
The three-year career in state politics has come full-circle for Mr Newman, who in April 2011 was elected as Queensland LNP leader without a seat to his name.
It was only the next day that the popular Brisbane Lord Mayor was preselected for Ashgrove, unopposed – and unseated Ms Jones in 2012.
Last night, the party took to Twitter to defend its “Strong Choices” privatisation policy, for reducing Queensland’s $80 billion debt.
Our Government has pursued a forthright reform agenda because it was in the best interests of Queensland #qldvotes
— LNP (@LNPQLD) January 31, 2015
Both the LNP and Labor had committed to return Queensland’s budget to surplus in 2016 – a significant challenge, according to analysts, in the post-resources boom state.
The privatisation issue defined the campaign, with some of the big swings to Labor in regional centres where port and power leases could impact jobs and community investment.
The electorate about-face is ironic – the 2012 election swing to the LNP followed the Bligh government’s sale of rail, road and port assets.
That year, voters also went to the polls under a Canberra-cast cloud, with Queenslander Kevin Rudd spilled as prime minister just weeks before.
But Saturday proved that Federal shadows can fall both ways.
Two days before voting, the final pre-poll put the two-party vote at 50-50 – the worst for LNP in the whole 26 days of the campaign.
That Monday, Tony Abbott had made Prince Philip a Knight, prompting fresh leadership doubts within and outside the Coalition.
Speaking on ABC’s election coverage, Federal Liberal MP Jane Prentice admitted the Federal Government was at risk of feeling a similar wrath as delivered by Queenslanders.
Asked if Mr Abbott’s Press Club speech lined up for Monday was “make or break”, Ms Prentice was blunt.
“I think so, yes. We can’t continue as we are.”
Mary Bolling has lived in regional Queensland for two years, with a front row seat to colourful Federal, state and local politics. A metro print and broadcast journalist for more than a decade, she was the Print Editor of a regional newspaper, and now freelances nationally. She is passionate about small communities, big ideas and story-telling.