I want to make some comments about the Queensland election. I do not want to comment on the result-we have had enough statements about that-although I do want to congratulate the Beattie government. Tonight I want to talk about the process and the figures I am going to mention have been taken from the Queensland Electoral Commission website . At this stage I really want to give a great deal of credit to the staff of the Queensland Electoral Commission, both the permanent full-time staff and the amazing number of volunteers that are brought on board for the period of the election, election day and also now. As I speak, they are still working because at this time the polls have not been declared as to every one of the 89 seats; rather, people are continuing to work, and my understanding is that the Queensland Electoral Commission website is a very popular site for people who are interested in the process.
As we all know, Queensland is a very large state, and there were 89 seats up for election on election day, last Saturday. On that day over 1,600 booths were staffed and people had the opportunity to cast their vote for one of the 329 people-Queensland citizens who put themselves before their community and said, 'I have qualities that I think could be of value in leading and governing Queensland.' I am very proud to say that my own party was able to put up a candidate in each of the 89 seats. Including those candidates, a total of over 300 Queenslanders were contesting those seats. That is a really impressive figure, given the number of people who felt that they wanted to have a role to play in the electoral system.
But for each one of those people who were candidates there were so many people behind them. Naturally, there were their families. The people in this place would understand that, when you are a candidate for election, you rely so strongly on your family to give you the support and understanding to help you with a very difficult career decision. I think it is important to note that every candidate who is involved in an election process at some time makes a public declaration of acknowledgement and appreciation of their families. It is something that we in this place can do at other times to acknowledge that it is not just a single decision to go through this process; it involves a family. That must be acknowledged, and we all know that more than other people.
Also there was that amazing group of volunteers. When you belong to a formal political party, as all of us here do, there is the party structure and there are people that have a role in that-people who are very skilled with lots of experience. But this evening I want to mention those people who, for whatever reason, get involved in the whole process of elections. They are so dedicated, they are so knowledgeable and they do so much work. They are the people who volunteer to do so much of that backyard work in terms of signage and working on campaigns-the almost unending doorknocking and letterboxing up and down the streets of Brisbane, the regional centres in Queensland and also out in the large rural electorates, trying to find every possible elector to have a discussion with, to talk about the value of their vote and to say, for whatever reason, that the person they are supporting is the best person for whom they can cast their vote. These people work tirelessly, as you know.
This time it was a short campaign in Queensland of several weeks. But the campaign never really ends. We have heard the term 'continuous campaigning'. In fact, that is happening in many parts of Australia at the moment. Campaigning-that interaction between the elector and people who are trying to elicit their vote-happens continually, and it relies on the goodwill and hard work of people who are doing the handing out, the people who put themselves forward to go out and publicly label themselves as supporting a particular party and a particular candidate. All of us feel a deep appreciation for those people and sometimes wonder at their energy and commitment. Many of them go almost without acknowledgement. They do this work tirelessly.
As for the actual day, I enjoy election days. I think there is a certain atmosphere. Every election booth-and, as I said, there were over 1,600 booths in Queensland-has its own atmosphere, its own personality. On Saturday I was fortunate to visit a couple of them. They were totally distinctive. I want to share the atmosphere with you. I was pleased to be at one booth in regional Queensland on that day because the young woman working at the booth with me was going to be casting her first vote. She was involved, she was knowledgeable and she was excited-everything that we would hope people involved in an election would experience. She knew the policy. She supported and knew the candidate in her area, and had been volunteering for her. But, more than that, there was a genuine enthusiasm for the process. She wanted to know how the system worked. She had worked out how preferences operated. She was excited about knowing how the votes were going to be counted and what was going to happen next. She was involved in the system. In contrast, so many of the people who were turning up to vote had a different experience. Some knew the electorate in which they were living. Some were unsure of their registration. Some were disappointed or angry or frustrated about having to go through the process. But each of them had a role to play in the process; they were part of the system.
When I went to another booth that afternoon, I worked with a gentleman who had been volunteering as a booth worker at this one location for 35 years for local government elections, state government elections and federal government elections. This gentleman had never run for elected office himself. He had worked loyally for the ALP, his party of choice. He had such an interest in and commitment to the process. He felt proud of the work that he was able to do to support the party and to support the candidate on the day.
When I was talking with him, he was a little unsure about the candidates he had worked for in the early 60s but he tended to be able to give me the absolute details of what time of the year the elections were held-he had a personal preference for summer elections rather than those in the winter in Queensland-and he knew the names of more than 35 candidates that he had worked for over that time. It made me very proud that this gentleman, for his own reasons, had chosen to give such support to my party and to continue that support in 2006-and he is very hopeful that he will be able to continue that activity for many elections to come. Despite the contrast between these two people, both had chosen to work in the electoral system as volunteers. That shows how much they value our electoral system and it gives us hope that there is genuine involvement and knowledge. On the other hand, I have some preliminary figures from the Queensland Electoral Commission website, which has a section detailing where people cast their votes. It tells you whether they voted at polling booths; in postal or special ballots; by prepoll, a valuable system whereby people can cast their vote in the week before an election if they are unable to vote on the day; by absentee vote; or by electoral visitor vote, a particularly valuable system that is only available at the state level-another anomaly, as it is a form of voting available at the state level but not at the federal level. Yet another form of voting is where, if a person is unable to leave their home on the day of the vote, an Electoral Commission officer can visit their home and collect their vote. There are also officers who visit declared institutions.
The sad thing is that many votes were cast but not counted, because they were informal. I have spoken before in this place about my disappointment and wonder in relation to the many people who do not have their vote counted. Being quite an experienced group, as I am sure many people in this place are, we do know that some people can be incredibly competitive and also incredibly creative about the methods they use and the comments they write on their ballot papers. They can give quite direct feedback to candidates and political parties without actually putting a number in any box at all. But I am wondering why, of the almost two million votes from polling booths, over 41,000 were informal. That is very sad. If people make a direct decision to cast an informal vote, that is one thing; but if they mean to vote and are not having it counted, that is very sad. I want to acknowledge the candidates and volunteers from all parties and all the independents who took part in the Queensland election. I look forward to our next round in this exciting system.
12 September, 2006