Anthony Albanese reveals new candidates as he declares Labor ready for battle in Queensland

Ellen Ransley
The Nightly
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese poses for selfies  with supporters at the Mount Coot-tha Lookout in Brisbane.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese poses for selfies with supporters at the Mount Coot-tha Lookout in Brisbane. Credit: Darren England/AAPImage

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has declared Labor is battle-ready in the blue-wall state of Queensland, unveiling his plans to gain ground in the State amid rife speculation of an early election.

While not due until May, Mr Albanese on Thursday unveiled two new candidates to fight the Greens and the Coalition respectively.

He downplayed suggestions the announcements were a sign of an early election, saying it was instead about ensuring the party was “prepared” for whenever he visits new Governor General Sam Mostyn.

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“I’ve already announced candidates... We’ll be continuing to announce candidates right around Australia,” he said.

He confirmed part of the reason he was announcing Federal Labor candidates now was so they could hit the hustings to keep Steven Miles’ State government in power.

But with Labor facing the real possibility of forming a minority government, amid suggestions it could lose seats in WA, Tasmania and even the Northern Territory, Mr Albanese on Thursday said he also believed the party could gain ground in Queensland.

Federal Labor currently holds just five seats in Queensland.

While a large chunk of the seats — predominantly in rural and regional areas — are deemed unwinnable by the party, Mr Albanese on Thursday defiantly began a campaign to win some of the outer-urban seats off the Coalition — including Peter Dutton’s Dickson, which he holds with a 1.7 per cent margin.

“I’m about us winning seats here in Queensland,” Mr Albanese said.

Part of that involves Labor focusing on the three Queensland seats that went Green in 2022.

Teacher’s union delegate Rebecca Hack, who was unsuccessful in her local government bid earlier this year, will attempt to fight off both first-term Greens MP Elizabeth Watson-Brown and the LNP candidate in the inner-west Brisbane seat of Ryan, where Labor finished third in 2022.

Peter Dutton in April announced barrister Maggie Forrest as the Coalition’s candidate for the seat, which had a 10.1 per cent swing against the LNP in 2022 to hand Ms Watson-Brown a 2.6 per cent margin.

On Thursday, Ms Hack claimed it was a “winnable seat”, while Mr Albanese made a pitch to the “progressive” voters of the electorate.

“If you’re a progressive person, then you’d be pretty disappointed that the Greens have essentially used the power that they have not to promote positive policies, but to undermine the progressive agenda of the Labor government over areas like housing affordability, over making sure we have a realistic plan for renewables going forward, to address climate change as well,” Mr Albanese said.

Election analyst William Bowe said realistically, Labor wouldn’t be able to win the seat.

“Unseating sitting Greens members is difficult, you only need to see what’s happened with Adam Bandt, who I think his primary vote has increased with every election. Once you’re cemented in, votes keep drifting from Labor to the Greens,” he said.

“And Ryan’s only been a Labor seat when it was won in a by-election, so I don’t think Labor are going to try all that hard in Ryan.”

Mr Bowe suggested Labor could even “shoot themselves in the foot” if they did too well in the seat because preferences could be handed to the Coalition.

“Realistically, I don’t think it will be a focus for Labor,” he said.

Meanwhile, in the city’s south, Rowan Holzberger has been picked again to battle Bert Van Manen in the set of Forde, which the Coalition holds with a 4.2 per cent margin.

Mr Bowe said he would “be surprised” if Labor won the seat.

He suggested Labor’s best bet of gaining a Queensland seat would be in Longman, the Sunshine Coast seat the Coalition holds with a 3.1 per cent margin.

“If Labor get wind in their sales, they could get that,” he said.

“But I struggle to see Labor winning any seats in Queensland, given the current state of polling. Longman is where it’s most likely to happen, but I still don’t think it’s likely.”

As he ramps up the candidate rollout across the State, and indeed the country, Mr Albanese is expected to visit Mr Dutton’s Dickson on Friday, which is the most marginal seat in the State — held by 1.7 per cent.

Mr Bowe said it would “be difficult” to win the seat, especially given Mr Dutton’s high profile as opposition leader, but not impossible.

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