(This piece is cross-posted from Ambit Gambit)
It is really too early to be predicting election results, but with the Queensland election scheduled for the 21st March, there's not much time left. So here is my "prediction". The Liberal National Party should win 12 to 15 seats, all other things being equal.
Labor has effectively been in power since 1989, with a brief interregnum between 1996 and 1998. Over the last 20 years it has run the state into the ground to such an extent that the same people who rated the toxic debt in the US AAA can only give its borrowings a AA+ rating, worse than even NSW which is the basket case state in Australia. It has also lost 9 members of parliament to retirement, most of whom will be replaced by what are effectively party hacks.
On this performance claims to be a "safe pair of hands" should reinforce the perception that this government is all spin and no substance. However the government has a huge margin of safety in terms of seats, and is favoured by an electoral redistribution that would allow it to win with just 49.5% of the vote.
You can get a good handle on how the seats fall from this analysis by David Fraser. Labor has 58 seats (since the preparation of these figures Labor lost one seat through defection to the Greens of Indooroopilly MLA Ronan Lee), and a working majority is 45, meaning it can lose 13 seats and still have a majority.
However, the redistribution last year notionally gives Labor three extra seats, so they can "lose" 16 and still govern in their own right.
My prediction is based on the redistributed seats, so it is for a line-ball result.
Many commentators are saying that the Liberal Nationals need to win 20 seats. This is wrong because it discounts the possibility of a minority government. The last Coalition government in Queensland was a minority government supported by Independent Liz Cunningham, the member for Gladstone. There are 5 independents in the Queensland Parliament, and most of them would be likely to favour the LNP over Labor, meaning that the LNP can govern with less than 45 seats in Parliament. The same is also true of Labor, although because of the composition of the Independents, they would have more trouble.
There is one caveat on my prediction - and that is that all other things should be equal. The LNP is in a good position, but it can easily squander it with the sort of inept campaigning that has characterised each of its campaigns since 1998.
They have to resist the temptation to make big spending promises and keep the focus on the government. This election isn't about whether Queensland needs a "safe pair of hands" or "the Queensland you want", but whether anyone could do worse than the government in managing the economy. This is not an election to raise expectations, but to lower them.