2024 is set to be a challenging year for those holding the pen across Australia’s states and territories, with elections planned in Tasmania, Queensland, the Northern Territory, and the ACT.

The Albanese Government will be closely watching the outcomes of these elections – with all states but Tasmania currently leading in “red”. If the Liberal party can retain government in Tasmania, it may provide an early indication that the national political tide is turning.

Across the election states, the Nexus APAC team has outlined the current state of politics, key leadership contenders, and topics of community concern that are likely to drive votes, with a focus on the upcoming Tasmanian election.

Tasmania – March 23, 2024

Tasmanians will head to the polling booths more than a year ahead of schedule, with the Premier Rockcliff calling an early election on 14 February after failing to resolve tensions with the crossbench. Liberal Premier Jeremy Rockcliff, who has governed in the minority since May, announced an election would be held on 23 March.

The Liberal Government in Tasmania was elected in 2023 for a record-breaking third consecutive term, holding 13 of 25 lower house seats. However, the government was forced into a minority when John Tucker MP and Lara Alexander MP moved to the crossbench to represent their communities as independents.

Notably, this election marks the time since 1996 that voters will elect 35 Lower House MPs, with the outcome being difficult to predict.

On 25 May 2022, Premier Jeremy Rockliff announced that the number of Members of Parliament in Tasmania’s Lower House would be increasing from 25 to 35, initially forecast for 2025. The move follows a long-running campaign by the Greens and other community groups due to concern about insufficient community representation and too few MPs to perform parliamentary roles. The Opposition, Greens and Independents backed Premier Rockliff’s decision.

The announcement reverses the 1998 decision to slash the number of seats in Tasmania’s lower house from 35 to 25 – a move in which the Liberal and Labor parties acted together in what was widely considered to be an attempt to reduce the influence of the Greens.

However, this means a minimum of 18 seats would be needed under a 35-seat system for a party to form a majority government. Over the past 150 years, about a third of Tasmania’s governments have run in a minority.

Ahead of the March 2024 election, early polling has indicated that it will be difficult for either major party to form a majority government. The Liberals start the campaign with 11 incumbent MPs, Labor with 8, the Greens with 2 and 4 independents.

As candidates only need to secure approximately 15% of the vote after preference to win a seat, it may be inevitable that forming a government will require some form of power-sharing or coalition arrangement. Premier Rockliff has ruled out any agreement to negotiate with the Greens to form government in case of a hung parliament but would be open to negotiation with other MPs.

Northern Territory – August 24, 2024

For the first time in history, the Northern Territory’s major parties will enter the state election with female leaders. The incumbent centre-left Labor majority government, led by Chief Minister Eva Lawler since December 2023, will attempt to win a third consecutive four-year term of Government. Chief Minister Lawler is challenged by the centre-right Country Liberal Party opposition, currently led by Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro.

Ahead of the Northern Territory election, NT Labor priorities economic growth, diversifying industries, and responsible public spending, focusing on job creation and community enrichment. On the other hand, the CLP is proposing an Approvals FastTrack Taskforce, Territory Coordinator and lobbyist register to streamline project delivery, enhance transparency, and ensure the effective use of public funds. Both parties emphasise support for local businesses, with Labor highlighting past investments and CLP pledging lower taxes.

Chief Minister Eva Lawler has also vowed to back major gas projects and review the Youth Justice Act to solve social and economic issues prior to the election.

Issues relating to housing, cost of living, youth justice and the age of criminal responsibility are expected to be driving votes in the election.

Australian Capital Territory – October 2024

In the upcoming ACT Election, scheduled to be held on or before 19 October 2024, the incumbent Labor-Greens Coalition Government, led by Chief Minister Andrew Barr, will attempt to win a seventh term. The Liberal Opposition, currently led by Elizabeth Lee, will seek to form a government for the first time in 23 years. The leaders of all three parliamentary parties, with the Greens represented by the Hon. Shane Rattenbury, represent the same inner-city seat of Kurrajong.

A party of community independents will also contest the election under the direction of Canberra barrister Clare Carnell following the success of Senator for the ACT, Senator David Pocock, at the last federal election.

After the last election, Labor formed a coalition government with the Greens, and together, they hold 16 of the 25 seats in the Assembly. Chief Minister Barr is the last remaining COVID-19 state or territory leader, and he is also the longest-serving incumbent state or territory leader in Australia.

Issues expected to drive votes for the upcoming election include cost of living, the state of the health system, skills shortages and rental and housing prices.

Queensland – October 26, 2024

The incumbent Labor Government will attempt to win a fourth term against the Liberal National Opposition. After more than eight years in government, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced her resignation on 10 December 2023. Steven Miles was subsequently elected as party leader and Premier, unopposed.

Since his election, Premier Miles has attempted to reset a long-term government which was facing mounting criticism as the state headed into an election year – through means such as introducing legislation to lift Queensland’s emissions reduction targets and initiating an inquiry into supermarket price gouging. However, since his ascension, Premier Miles has faced challenges in relation to natural disasters and flooding, youth crime and a struggling health system, alongside the wider cost of living and housing challenges.

The Premier’s main challenger for the Premiership in Queensland is Opposition leader David Crisafulli representing the Liberal National Party.

As many Australians head to the polls to elect their states and territories representatives, incumbent leaders face increasing pressure as the cost of living, housing shortages, and overburdened health systems drive voter dissatisfaction and fuel opposition criticism. All of these issues are challenges that the federal government must prepare for as the federal election looms.