Tony Abbott, seen here at this year's Ekka, starts with an advantage in Queensland.
Tony Abbott, seen here at this year's Ekka, starts with an advantage in Queensland.

Labor struggles for a message in most conservative state

Just how conservative is Queensland?

The Sunshine State consistently supports the Coalition at Federal elections by more than the national average.

Only once in the last 40 years has Labor's vote in Queensland been higher than it was nationally, and that was in 1990 when the Fitzgerald Inquiry was fresh in voter's memories.

In 2007 home state hero Kevin Rudd led Labor to take nine seats away from the Coalition, but even then the party only barely managed to win the two-party preferred vote with 50.44%.

So it stands to reason that Queensland voters are, on average, a bit more conservative than the rest of the nation.

But data released by the ABC, collected using its online Vote Compass tool, shows that the most conservative electorates in the country are heavily concentrated in Queensland.

The Vote Compass results - you can find them by clicking HERE  - show the 10 electorates whose residents were, respectively, at either ends of the spectrum on each question that Vote Compass posed.

And the results are fairly clear: whilst the extent of the concentration varies from issue to issue, on many questions Queensland seats dominate the list of most conservative electorates.

Take asylum seekers, for instance. Vote Compass participants were asked whether they agreed with two statements: that "asylum seekers who arrive by boat should not be allowed to settle in Australia" and "boats carrying asylum seekers should be turned back".

On both questions, the nine electorates with the most respondents agreeing to the statements were in Queensland.

The same pattern holds across many economic and spending issues.

The 10 seats most opposed to putting a price on carbon pollution are all in Queensland, as are the 10 seats most opposed to the government doing more to tackle climate change at all.

The 10 seats most opposed to spending more on both foreign aid and universities are all in Queensland, and so are nine of the 10 seats most supportive of spending more on defense.

Eight of the 10 seats most inclined to see government spending as making economic problems worse are in Queensland.

All 10 of the seats most supportive of public and private schools receiving equal funding are in the state.

Opposition to increasing the mining tax is concentrated in both Queensland and Western Australia (each with five of the top 10 seats).

On social issues, Queensland shares top billing with Western Sydney, the other part of Australia that tends to dominate election campaigns.

Seven of the 10 seats most opposed to making abortion more accessible are in Western Sydney, as are nine of the 10 electorates most opposed to legalising euthanasia.

On same sex marriage, however, the five most opposed electorates (and six of the top eight) are all in Queensland.

Nine of the 10 electorates most supportive of keeping the monarchy are, appropriately enough, in Queensland.

Across the 30 questions Vote Compass asked a broad pattern emerges.

Voters in the southern states of Victoria, the ACT and Tasmania are the most left-leaning in the country.

Sydney is contested ground, with the inner city as progressive as inner Melbourne and Canberra, but the suburbs, especially in the outer west, leaning conservative.

And Queensland electorates are much more likely to take conservative positions on most issues than anywhere else.

Now, this isn't really surprising. As mentioned earlier, Queensland tends to support the Coalition - the more conservative of the two major parties - a little bit more than the rest of the nation on average.

But what's interesting is that the seats reporting the most widely held conservative views aren't necessarily safe Coalition seats.

Let's return to the two questions on asylum seekers.

The Queensland electorates listed include conservative rural heartland seats such as Kennedy and Maranoa, but also Labor-held Capricornia, regional marginals Flynn and Hinkler and the Brisbane-region marginals of Forde, Longman and Dickson.

The divide isn't between cities and regional areas within Queensland, but between Queensland and the southern states (especially Victoria and the ACT).

The political centre in Queensland - the territory the major parties are fighting over - is simply further to the right than it is elsewhere, especially Victoria.

This has serious implications for the major parties, but especially Labor.

Due to the heavy concentration of marginal seats, elections are to a great extent won and lost in Queensland, on slightly Coalition-friendly territory.

But an average Labor voter in Queensland has a very different set of priorities and ideals to a Labor voter in Victoria.

Labor supporters there tend to favour same-sex marriage and welcoming asylum seekers.

At least a sizable portion of the people Labor needs to win over in Queensland think the opposite.

No wonder Labor has had difficulty with communicating its vision for the country.

It doesn't know quite what to say.



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