SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia’s Queensland state on Sunday called a snap election after the ruling centre-left Labor Party lost its legislative majority, a poll that could give far-right nationalists a chance to boost political representation.
State Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk called the election for Nov. 25 after her party expelled a rogue lawmaker over misconduct on Friday, which left her with a hung parliament alongside the conservative Liberal National Party (LNP).
“I’m calling this election to give business and industry in our great state the certainty they need as we approach 2018,” Palaszczuk told reporters in Brisbane.
The campaign launch comes just days after a citizenship scandal engulfed federal politics when the High Court ruled that Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and four other lawmakers were ineligible to remain in parliament because they held dual citizenship.
One Nation, a party founded by far-right politician Pauline Hanson who holds a seat in the federal Senate, has already flagged plans to field candidates across at least two-thirds of the constituencies represented in Queensland’s unicameral parliament.
One of the disqualified federal lawmakers from Friday’s High Court ruling, One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts, said after his dismissal that he intends to stand for the party in the Queensland election.
A Newspoll published by SBS News earlier this month showed One Nation at 16 percent primary support in Queensland, likely stealing some voters from the LNP’s traditional electorates.
One Nation’s state leader, Steve Dickson, said on Sunday the party would field 60 candidates across the 93 seats of the Queensland parliament, and could add more.
“Maths says clearly we’ll get the balance of power in Queensland,” Dickson told Sky News, adding that his party was riding a global backlash against establishment political parties.
However, some political analysts caution against high expectations for One Nation, pointing to the Western Australia state election results in March where the party failed to secure an expected swing in political influence.
Palaszczuk’s press briefing on Sunday was briefly interrupted by protestors against Indian mining giant Adani Enterprises’ proposed $4 billion Carmichael coal mine in the state’s north, which could shape up to be a significant campaign topic.
Opposition to Adani’s Carmichael mine could give a boost to minority groups such as the Greens, an environmentalist party, and One Nation, which opposes foreign investment.
Environment groups say the mine would contribute to global warming and damage the Great Barrier Reef. Adani says the project would pay billions of dollars in royalties and taxes, create jobs and export coal to India help bring electricity to rural regions.
The LNP supports the mine but is considering plans to ensure Adani’s corporate structure makes its tax liability similar to Australian companies before it is given a proposed A$1 billion loan from the federal government.
Reporting by Alison Bevege and Jane Wardell; Editing by Sam Holmes