Australian Journal of Politics and History: Volume 64, Number 2, 2018, pp.260-276.
© 2018 The Author.
Australian Journal of Politics and History © 2018 The University of Queensland and John Wiley &
Sons Australia, Ltd.
Leadership or Policy?
Explaining the 2015 Queensland Election Result
Australian electoral politics historically have been described as stable, with hung parliaments
rare and changes of government infrequent. However, the 2015 Queensland election, where a
government with the largest parliamentary majority in Australian history was defeated after a
single term in office, seriously challenges assumptions of Australian electoral stability, and
determining the causes behind this result is therefore of significant scholarly interest. While
many journalistic analyses of the 2015 Queensland election argue that the distinctive leadership
style of Liberal-National Party leader Campbell Newman was wholly or principally responsible
for the government’s defeat, this article argues the result emerged from a confluence of factors,
with two — a contentious LNP policy to lease major government-owned assets, and Campbell
Newman’s “combative” leadership style — of relatively equal significance as principal
The 2015 Queensland election, like the Victorian election of 2014, produced a rare
Australian occurrence in dispatching a government to opposition after a single term. Yet,
for two reasons, the Queensland result is of even greater significance than Victoria’s.
Firstly, the outgoing centre-right Liberal-National Party (LNP) Government enjoyed the
largest parliamentary majority (with 88 per cent of lower house seats) ever recorded in
Australian history. Secondly, LNP leader Campbell Newman became only the second
Queensland Premier (after Liberal Digby Denham in 1915) to lose his seat at a general
Determining how and why the LNP — in a state historically boasting long-
term governments with “hegemonic” majorities
— lost a critical mass of support within
a single parliamentary cycle is therefore of significant scholarly interest. Yet almost all
analyses — albeit journalistic given the dearth of scholarly literature on current state,
and especially Queensland, electoral behaviour — attribute blame for the LNP’s defeat
overwhelmingly to Campbell Newman’s personal leadership style, with other factors
receiving little or no consideration. Journalistic analysis, for example, has described
Ashgrove, in Brisbane’s inner west, sat on a 5.7 per cent two party-preferred (2PP) margin, with
Newman in 2015 attracting a 43.63 per cent primary vote, and 45.75 per cent 2PP. After each of
Newman’s four opponents preferenced against him, Labor’s Kate Jones won ten of the seat’s fourteen
booths. The 2PP swing, at 9.95 per cent, was below the Queensland and Brisbane averages. See
Electoral Commission of Queensland [ECQ]. “State Election Results”,
See Paul. D. Williams, “How did they do it? Explaining Queensland Labor’s Second Electoral
Hegemony”, Queensland Review: Labor in Queensland, 1989-2011, Vol. 18, 2 (2011), pp.112-33; Paul
D. Williams, “The Queensland Election of 7 February 2004: The Coming of the Second Labor
Hegemony?”, Australian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 39, 3 (2004), pp.635-44.