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No one saw that coming: The golden rule for politics in 2024 is to expect the unexpected

This year, politics has thrown up surprise after surprise. Can Premier Steven Miles deliver one of the biggest surprises of all, asks David Fagan

Jun 18, 2024, updated Jun 18, 2024
Queensland Premier Steven Miles. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Queensland Premier Steven Miles. (AAP Image/Darren England)

No poll, no pundit and indeed no one with any political interest sees any chance of Steven Miles winning a fourth term for the Labor government he helped run then inherited. But you never know. This is a year to expect the unexpected.

Who would have expected a flailing British Conservative Government to go early to the polls rather than squeeze every day, every ministerial entitlement out of a few more months on the Treasury benches?

Who would have expected Emanuel Macron to respond to his centrist party’s poor showing in the European elections by challenging the electorate to repeat their voting behaviour in a French assembly election?

Who would have expected the Indian Prime Minister Navendra Modi to be assembling a coalition government when every concern was that he was heading towards a third term which would elevate his strongman status?

And who would have expected that a US presidential candidate with multiple convictions for paying a porn star to camouflage their sexual relations would have the support of Christian fundamentalists to be emerging as the front runner to lead the free world?

Who indeed?

So what’s the unexpected on our home front?

The most unexpected is for Steven Miles to pluck victory not just from the jaws, but the gullet, of defeat. It’s almost impossible to see how this can happen and nothing in the past month, including a budget which basically manufactures money and then cropdusts the state with it, changes that dilemma.

What may change it is the realisation that a new government has limited alternative approaches. And that just might play in Labor’s favour – encouraging enough people in enough seats to stick with the devil they know.

This will be through a campaign barely visible to most of us who follow politics closely – TikTok has a role and the engagement of both leaders, so does social media with algorithms zeroing right in on voters’ specific and local interests.

Versions of this have worked before for Labor which is just more sophisticated than the conservatives at campaigning (as evidenced by success in 10 of the past 12 elections).

Whoever runs the state, we are and will remain in a housing access and affordability crunch. Our conversations will continue to be dominated by a law and order breakdown. Our hospital waiting lists will continue to grow and the factors that cause ambulances to ramp at emergency wards will not be changed by a political decision.

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All this is underpinned by the factor that drives the Queensland success story. That is growth – but it is now becoming a bad news story as we discover that our social services, our physical infrastructure and our expectations cannot keep up with what’s coming our way.

These are the raw numbers: Queensland’s net population grew 140,000 last year. Of that, almost 120,000 moved here from elsewhere and two-thirds of those new Queenslanders were from overseas.

That means about 2500 people a week decided to call Queensland home (and who can blame them?). It wasn’t that long ago that we talked triumphantly about growth being high at 1000 a week.

It’s no wonder then that we are short of houses, short of health services and spend longer on the roads than we’re used to. It’s no wonder also that politicians across the country are talking about reducing immigration numbers – but that does nothing to reduce the squeeze we’re now feeling. Nor does it help address the skill shortage and the growing proportion of the population beyond working age which is best addressed by immigration.

Steven Miles has just 100 days to convince enough voters in enough seats that he has policies that can deal with this.

David Crisafulli has already convinced them of the failings of the Palasczuk/Miles Government but he has to convince enough of them in enough seats that he too can deal with what’s ahead.

Regardless of who wins, that is: to fix crime, fix housing, improve the health system and retool the energy system so this energy-rich state doesn’t face brownouts around the turn of the decade.

Then there’s the 2032 Games. And probably something else we don’t know yet. For you can’t write off the unexpected. It’s that kind of year.

 

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