Queensland election: A little denial with history in the making

Senator Pauline Hanson consoles supporters. Photo: Fairfax Media
Senator Pauline Hanson consoles supporters. Photo: Fairfax Media

There was a moment there, when Malcolm Roberts was told on live TV that he had lost his attempt to leap from the Senate to a One Nation seat in the Queensland parliament, that the word "denial" got a whole new meaning.

Denial is the customary state inhabited by Roberts, of course, from the existence of climate change to his citizenship.

But when told early in the evening by members of the Nine Network's election night panel that he was toast in the electorate of Ipswich and that he had rather less than half the vote of the ALP's candidate, he plain refused to believe it.

"We'll see when the count is finished," he said, and launched into a rant about the Labor Party "just wanting to hold power".

"It's been telling lies," he seethed, fixing those laser eyes of his on the TV camera, their intensity threatening to melt the lens. Everyone, it seemed, was making it all up.

James Ashby, Pauline Hanson's right-hand man, driver of the Battler's Bus and guest on the Nine panel, sought to calm the former senator, who was found by the High Court to hold dual Australian-British citizenship, however much he had denied it.

"You've done an exceptional job," said Ashby. "This is a much better result than your Senate campaign."

Well, quite. Roberts spent his brief and strange career in the Senate having got precisely 77 personal votes.

Pauline Hanson struggled only marginally more successfully than Roberts to deny she was crushed by her party's performance in the state election.

Pauline Hanson's One Nation predicted early in the campaign they would win 11 or more seats, and spent weeks talking big about holding the balance of power in Queensland and throwing their weight around.

A couple of hours after the polls had closed, it was becoming clear One Nation had got only around 12 per cent of the state vote and might win no more than one or two seats.

It probably didn't help Hanson's mood that she was attending what was supposed to be a house party thrown in the Sunshine Coast town of Buderim for her party's state chief, Steve Dickson, who had defected from the Liberal National Party to lead One Nation to glory.

It became obvious early in the night that he'd lost his seat.

As the evening progressed and analysts struggled to unpick the votes coming in from what effectively were 93 by-elections across the giant state, it gradually became clear that Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and her Labor government was almost certain to return to power.

The balloons were floating in great clouds at the Oxley Golf Club in Brisbane's south where Labor was beginning to party.

But the beer was going flat in an unadorned reception room at Brisbane Novotel, where the Liberal National Party wasn't going to get any good reason to party.

The LNP leader, Tim Nicholls, was nowhere to be seen. Party figures were already beginning to mutter about who had thought it was a good idea to elevate Nicholls to the leadership in the first place. He was Treasurer in the LNP administration of Campbell Newman - the administration that was unloaded in 2015 after a single term, and in the biggest landslide in the state's history.

Way up north-west, Robbie Katter didn't have much doubt about the fortunes of his Katter Australia Party. Katter, wearing a hat only marginally smaller than the one that habitually crowns his father, Bob Katter, won his outback seat of Traeger with the greatest of ease, and his colleague Shane Knuth was doing the same in the seat of Hill.

"Shane could run for the seat of Botswana and win it at a canter," said Katter, proving we'll never be without a quotable quote while a Katter is around.

Labor's triumph means Annastacia Palaszczuk becomes the first woman to lead a political party to two election victories.

She turned out to be a risk taker.

Political campaigners turn their calendars into knots to ensure elections do not coincide with big sporting occasions like, say, football grand finals, fearing fans would take revenge on politicians for having the nerve to interrupt a sacred day.

Queensland's Labor Premier took it to a whole new level

The Ashes are being played. The third day of the first Test, with all the drama of Australia struggling under assault from the Poms, was underway.

At the Gabba. In Brisbane.

Around 30,000 spectators had filed out to the Gabba during the morning.

And somehow, the government didn't fall.