A four-week election campaign that began with anti-Adani protesters and ended with a late focus on taxes and debt finally concludes today as Queenslanders cast their votes.
Polls suggest the previous minority Labor Government will pick up enough seats in the south-east to counteract a northern swing and gain a small majority over the Tim Nicholls-led LNP in the newly expanded 93-seat Parliament.
That is despite a rocky first week when Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was dogged by opponents to Adani’s planned central Queensland coal mine and announced she would veto any federal loan to the Indian firm from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility.
Labor also threw out a last-minute surprise when it revealed on Thursday it would introduce four new taxes in the next term.
Mr Nicholls worked hard during the campaign to set out the LNP’s economic alternative and paint the Palaszczuk Government as do-nothing and lazy, but neither major party was able to set out a clear plan to make any serious inroads into Queensland’s nation-leading debt.
The LNP was also tripped up by uncertainty about whether it would accept the support of One Nation in a hypothetical hung parliament.
Pauline Hanson’s party has polled well in regional Queensland but the return of full preferential voting and the unpredictability of preference flows in most seats has clouded the picture.
Katter’s Australian Party is confident of retaining at least one of its two seats, and perhaps picking up a third.
The Greens hold some hope of unseating Deputy Premier Jackie Trad in South Brisbane, and Michael Berkman is an outside chance of winning the seat of Maiwar. Wins to either would be a historic result.
Voting is taking place at 1,669 locations across Queensland, with the polls open between 8:00am and 6:00pm.
As Ms Palaszczuk cast her vote in her Brisbane electorate of Inala, she said the outcome of today’s state election will come down to voters on the Gold Coast.
She made a last-minute appeal for long-time Liberal voters to vote for Labor, just this once.
“I also say to Liberal voters out there today, think long and hard about do you share the values of One Nation,” she said.
“And many Liberal people have said to me, for the first time ever they are voting Labor to stop One Nation.”
This morning, LNP leader Tim Nicholls was mobbed by a small but vocal group of anti-Adani protestors as he voted in his Brisbane electorate of Clayfield.
Mr Nicholls struggled to be heard as he spoke to reporters outside the polling booth.
“We are going in this to win it, and we are determined to win it,” Mr Nicholls said, as protesters chanted around him.
“A majority LNP government will bring about change that Queenslanders want.”
Mr Nicholls said he was not deterred by the protesters.
“[Protesters] who don’t know what it means to not have a job in places like Rockhampton and Townsville,” he said.
“The LNP has consistently been in support of jobs for regional Queensland and we will always support the jobs of Queenslanders over the activists from down south.”
Record number in prepoll and postal voting
Almost a third of Queenslanders have already voted with prepoll and postal voting.
The Electoral Commission Queensland (ECQ) said 717,000 people had already cast their vote in prepolling in the last couple of weeks, with another 369,000 lodging a postal vote.
ECQ senior elections officer Bill Huey said Queenslanders had voted early in record numbers.
“That certainly is an increase — I believe it’s up by about 20 per cent on the 2015 state election,” he said.
Mr Huey said the reintroduction of full preferential voting meant the vote counting process might take a little longer than usual.
“Vote counting won’t start until after 6:00pm tonight when our polling booths across Queensland … close and take their last votes,” he said.
“We will continue counting until about 10:00pm tonight to get as many results on the board as we can for Queensland.
“We’ll count the votes in accordance to the instructions that electors place on them for us and it’ll take as long as it takes — we need to ensure the count is accurate at every stage.”
Mr Huey said with the reintroduction of full preferential voting it was important every square was numbered to avoid an informal vote.
“That’s always a risk because we’re asking people to do more there are more chances for people to make a mistake I guess,” he said.
“We’ve worked very hard to ensure all electors are informed of what they need to do to cast a formal vote.”
The next parliament will run until the last Saturday in October, 2020, with fixed-term elections now in place.
Every term after that will be four years.