Minor parties jockey for position in pandemic-era election

Minor parties may benefit as the pandemic and economic downturn impact on voter preferences at this month’s Queensland election, according to a Griffith University political expert.

Professor Emeritus John Wanna

Griffith Business School Professor Emeritus John Wanna said that minor parties had polled strongly in the regions, raising the spectre of a hung parliament.

“The major parties often find it difficult to appeal to voters in metropolitan areas and the regions,” he said.

“They can’t be all things to all people, especially in a decentralised state like Queensland.

“While many city seats will be a three-cornered contest between Labor, the LNP and Greens, we’ve seen minor parties like Katter’s Australia Party, Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party and One Nation polling well in regional Queensland.”

Professor Wanna said minor parties could benefit from an ‘anti-Brisbane’ sentiment in the regions – something that could be exacerbated by the state government’s decision to keep Queensland’s borders closed during the pandemic.

“A lot of people in regional Queensland feel left behind by the major parties,” he said.

“The border lockdowns were relatively popular in the south-east, but regional centres like Cairns, Townsville and Mackay have seen the bottom drop out of their tourism industry, with dire consequences for the local economy.”

Professor Wanna said the end of Queensland’s optional preferential voting system had also improved the prospects of minor-party candidates.

“Voters have enormous choice this time around – many seats have nine or ten candidates,” he said.

“Queensland is well-known for embracing minor parties, and now voters will be voting down the ticket, which could produce some unexpected results.”

This could be an election for the history books, with large numbers of postal votes and pre-polling meaning most Queenslanders may vote before election day on October 31.

While minor parties may not be able to field volunteers at polling booths on election day, Professor Wanna said many independent candidates and micro-parties had managed to reach voters through social media.

“Traditionally, independent candidates and minor parties have struggled to secure media coverage, but we’ve seen candidates running effective campaigns via social media,” he said.

“We’ve seen many younger voters reject the major parties and support some of these single-issue parties that have a strong presence online.”