As Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk approached the halfway mark of the election campaign, she did something quite unexpected.
After returning to Brisbane from the regions, Ms Palaszczuk yesterday drove north to the Sunshine Coast.
Although that detail may seem quite humdrum, in political campaigning terms that’s quite an aggressive move, because the Premier was driving away from the marginal seats Labor is defending towards the seats it wants to take off the LNP.
It’s a sign of growing confidence in the Labor camp, although a party source warned a mistake by either side could still tip the balance.
The campaign of Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington had been gaining momentum since mid-September, when the LNP highlighted apparent inconsistencies in the Government’s COVID-19 quarantine system.
This week has been much tougher going for the Opposition.
Ms Frecklington effectively lost two days of campaigning as she was forced to explain why she took part in fundraisers with prohibited donors present and was upstaged by embarrassing social media comments from a star candidate in a marginal seat.
It hasn’t been plain sailing for Ms Palaszczuk either, who awkwardly fended off speculation about whether her controversial former deputy Jackie Trad would return to Cabinet.
But unlike her opponent, Ms Palaszczuk is well known to the electorate and her campaign pitch about being a safe pair of hands in midst of an unfolding pandemic has been well established.
Former Labor speaker and now-Adjunct Professor at the Queensland University of Technology John Mickel said a good way to gain an insight into the thinking of the major parties was to follow the leaders.
“Political parties engage their pollsters who by now are track polling every night,” Mr Mickel said.
Looking back over the past 11 days of official campaigning, both leaders have spent half their time in the regions.
That’s where the LNP is finding its lowest-hanging fruit — voters in regional Queensland deserted Labor in droves in last year’s federal election.
But Ms Frecklington faces a tougher challenge in Brisbane.
Tellingly, Ms Palaszczuk so far has only spent two days campaigning in the state capital — three days if you count the Caboolture-Sunshine Coast corridor seat of Pumicestone.
Instead of defending its territory, Labor is talking about picking up seats in the south-east — citing as possible gains the border electorate of Currumbin, along with Pumicestone and Caloundra, where former Liberal Party leader and Newman Government minister Mark McArdle is retiring.
Further north, Labor’s chances of picking up seats diminish, although the party is also talking up its chances in Bundaberg.
Both parties agree the marginal Labor seats of Aspley, Mansfield and Redlands in the Greater Brisbane region and Gaven on the northern Gold Coast are still going to be close.
‘Not cutting through’
One of the challenges for the LNP, according to Graham Young, a former Liberal Party campaigner director and executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, is delivering a message attractive to both urban and regional voters.
“The two electorates are very much interested in different things,” Mr Young said.
His qualitative research suggests Ms Frecklington is still struggling with recognition.
“I think she’s not cutting through, plenty of people will tell you that from both sides of politics,” he said.
Nonetheless, both parties agree there are at least four vulnerable Labor seats in the north — Barron River, Thuringowa, Mundingburra and Townsville.
The Labor-held seat of Keppel in central Queensland is also a close contest.
And because Labor only has a two-seat majority, the next fortnight will be crucial.
The LNP camp is arguing the party can still see a path to claiming nine seats, which will put them in a position of majority government, but that means they have to do well in Brisbane.
Seats like Aspley in Brisbane’s north and Mansfield to the city’s south are likely to see more of the leaders in coming days.
As one LNP insider put it: “If we can’t win Aspley, it’s game over.”