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A week on from the Coalition being returned to government, discussion has turned to how the ‘miracle’ win occurred.
One region where the Australian Labor Party underperformed was Queensland – where it experienced a swing against of 4.0%. Many pundits have been quick to pin Labor’s defeat on the state, and changes in regional Queensland’s economic conditions help to explain some of the election results.
After experiencing stellar times during the height of the mining boom, the loss of mining jobs has affected local economies in many Queensland mining regions. The lack of job opportunities has pushed many of those living in these areas to other parts of the state in search of work, taking the incomes they would have spent in those regions with them. Cairns, Central Queensland, the Darling Downs and Mackay have all experienced sharp falls in the net number of people moving there from other regions over the last five years, with Townsville actually seeing a net loss of people to other regions.
In fact, since 2016, this inter-regional migration has turned negative for the total region outside Greater Brisbane (see chart 1). And in the absence of stronger employment growth in regional Queensland, this trend is expected to continue.
Chart 1: Components of Queensland population growth
The unemployment rates of the various Queensland regions perhaps best demonstrate the mixed economic fortunes within the state. Some have unemployment numbers more than double the national figure. Townsville, for example, had an unemployment rate of 9.6% in 2018, compared with Australia’s national rate of 5.3%, while in outback Queensland, the unemployment rate was 12.0%. Brisbane, on the other hand, is performing much more favourably, with unemployment in inner city Brisbane sitting at 4.9% and 4.6% on the Gold Coast in 2018.
Many people in regional Queensland have felt left behind by the change of economic conditions, and this may have affected their voting decisions. The ABC’s Vote Compass survey, for example, found that the economy was the most important issue for Coalition voters – and it’s in these regions that Labor experienced some of the largest swings against it. The two-party preferred swings at each polling booth are mapped in Figure 1, with regional unemployment rates relative to the national figure overlayed. Looking at regional Queensland, we see larger swings (shown by the size of the point) to the Coalition compared to parts of the country, notably Victoria.
Figure 1: Unemployment rate relative to national unemployment rate, 2018, and two-party-preferred swing by polling booth at May 2019 federal election
More traditionally, it’s the party in power that receives the electoral blame for high unemployment. But on this occasion in regional Queensland, the roles seem to have reversed, with ALP policies seen as stifling the potential for regional jobs growth, particularly given their lack of enthusiasm for the new Adani coal mine. The results show that unemployment remains a very powerful motivator when it comes to the ballot box.
David is a macro economist with extensive experience in applied economic and quantitative analysis of the Australian economy, along with considerable experience in labor market analysis. David is a regular commentator on macroeconomic trends, and prepares a weekly economic briefing newsletter.
Harry joined Deloitte Access Economics in January 2017 after completing a Bachelors of Arts and Commerce, with honours in Econometrics and Business Statistics from Monash University. Harry’s area of focus is data analytics and econometric modelling, having conducted a range of research surrounding mental health, prescription drug use, labour markets and ageing populations.