Harms Election Watch: Round 4

This election will be won and lost in Queensland. Simple as that. And Queensland is different sort of place, with its own understanding of the world.

I lived there for 30 years, and if pressed, I would say I am a Queenslander. Not your typical Queenslander, but I reckon I understand the Queensland sensibility.

A few years ago (in 2005) I did a lap of Queensland in a VW and wrote a long story. The trip took three weeks and I talked to many Queenslanders from all walks of life. One of my questions was, “What is a Queenslander?”

One central Queenslander looked me in the eye and said, “Mate, a Queenslander is a Queenslander.”

I said, “But what is a Queenslander?”

He said, “Mate, you’re not fuckin’ listnin’ to me: a Queenslander is a Queenslander.”

“Yes,” I said, “but what makes you a Queenslander.”

He looked at me, flabbergasted ,and said, “I was born here.”

Barnaby Joyce is a Queensland senator (although he’s from New South Wales). But he has the Queensland ethos in him. He’s no dill. But it is hard to find a consistent ideological pattern in the weave of his political philosophy. One of the things that makes him a Queenslander is that he is happy to cut through what he (and many other Queenslanders) consider to be the bull-shit. What that actually means is as fluid as the substance in question.

But in the minds of Queenslanders, Barnaby Joyce is “true” as they will say. You even saw it in the reaction of the soft Left audience that the ABC had gathered for the Q and A program last Monday night. He got a warm response. He was wonderfully Barnaby; the sort of bloke people make excuses for because overall he seems to be a good fellow who has something to say.

The hoots and hollers that Craig Emerson generated would suggest there is not the same warmth for him – even from his own audience.

The political implications of all this are intriguing. And Barnaby understands them. He responds to the politics of the situation.

When an audience member asked a question about the role of women much of the audience dismissed him as Neanderthal. But Barnaby knows that the question of the role of women will resonate with the Queensland electorate.

Queensland is not a state of patsies who ask what they should be thinking, it’s full of people who have their own views (some considered, some merely felt) on things.

You need to remember that this is the state that not only produced Pauline Hanson, 23% of voters chose her candidates in the 1998 state election, electing 11 members to the Queensland Parliament.

This is a state where Bob Katter is a knight in shining armor.

This is the state where Kevin Rudd was born. He grew up just up the hill from The Big Pineapple. And he was knifed by the slick and stained and untrue agitators of the south.

This is big in Queensland.

So when Kevin07 hit the lectern during the week, the inner Queenslander in people stood and cheered like he was Wally Lewis. And I must say, I thought he was pretty impressive.

It is one of the great ironies that the wobbly, meandering, Greg-Norman campaign of Julia Gillard and her minders, may be given some backbone by the bloke whom she shafted.

I think the odds have settled. I think Labor may firm a little if Mr Rudd performs well. If Betfair punters lived only in Queensland the price would definitely tumble.

Queenslanders will be persuaded by him. Whether enough of them will be is the question.

Betfair market:

ALP                $1.57

Coalition         $2.70

Harms market:

ALP                $1.66

Coalition         $2.50

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au. He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. Peter Flynn says

    The campaign has been as boring as bat turd. However next Saturday night could be a thriller.

    It’s going to be a night for the Kroges-inspired TV election pundits. “We have some favourable booths to come so we are not conceding [insert seat name] yet.”

    It’ll be a night to remember greats like the late Alan Reid with his nicotine-stained hands and ciggy smoke wafting upwards.

    I’m hoping that Kerry turns to psephologist Antony and says we’ve got the close one.

    Labor by 2 seats (due to two elections in one).

    Below is a link to a Bob Katter ad for Kennedy. Pure Qld gold.


  2. Peter,

    bat turd is anything but boring. I have bats in the shack. If you have bats (little Tassie ones) you have bat turd.

    You never have one bat; always several. Thats lots of bat turd.

    They live in pokey little spots and come out at night and flitter around the room when you go to bed. That is anything but boring and the bat turd deposited on the pillow is something akin to election campaigns, but not boring.

    When the bats are disturbed and they fly about they are not boring. When you have city folk who are not used to wild animals flying around the house it is anything but boring. As the poor little startled things fly about and you try to catch them the city folk tend to get frightened and if the bats get close there is screeming and other expressions of terror. Just like the reaction to the political party adverts on the telly.

    This process can go on for protracted periods as bats are persistent little devils and hard to tie down. It is frustrating to try and get them out of your house. Again it is something, but not boring.

    I would therefore argue that political campaigns, especially this one, are as terrifying and frustrating as bat turd.


  3. Great piece John, though I reckon your Corio Bay influence has swayed your odds a little too heavily in Julia’s favour. As a Melburnian who moved north to Bris-Vegas 11 years ago, I have to pull you up on the fact that you lumped ALL Queenslanders together. As the ‘great’ south-east tries to sophisticate and differentiate itself from the rest of the Sunshine State by building brand new tunnels, trendy cafe strips, ‘knowledge precincts’ at old gaols, better football stadiums and bridges named after good rock bands from the ’80s, its no wonder we recently debated dividing the State up into different time zones. Those up north (and way out west) are just a little bit different. Not bad, just different. A bit like how someone from Benalla is a little bit different to someone from North Carlton. I hope you’re right about the ALP. But, as a self-confessed (south-east) Queenslander (which includes Nambour), I sort of hope Tony wins, only because it might open the door for another ALP night of short knives, a K-Rudd comeback and eventual re-election as PM next time round. After all, he’s from the same place I’m from! Cheers.

  4. Sasha

    Funny thing is we have heard very little of Kevin Rudd – in Adelaide and Canberra in the last 10 days.

    I still think the election is pretty close. And I think the way Julia Gillard came to power will have an impact in some places.

    Abbott on QandA will be worth watching tomorrow night.

  5. Yes, I can understand that. I think there’s a large chunk of the Queensland population that genuinely likes Rudd and there was a fair amount of Queensland pride in the air when he came to power – a sign the Maroons could match it with the Blues and Big V on the political stage. No wonder both major parties are campaigning so heavily in Qld. This place is going to make or break them. (By the way, I’m concerned that we haven’t mentioned the Brisbane Lions. What are the odds on Vossy getting the axe at the end of the year?).

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