Australia's anti-Muslim One Nation party could make big gains in Queensland snap election

Australian One Nation party leader Senator Pauline Hanson pulls off an Islamic veil in the Senate chamber at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia.
Australian One Nation party leader Senator Pauline Hanson pulls off an Islamic veil in the Senate chamber at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia. PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG) - A snap election in Australia's Queensland is poised to show a surge in support for populists in the traditionally conservative state.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk asked the state's acting governor to dissolve Parliament on Sunday (Oct 29) before announcing a Nov 25 vote.

The election is likely to be tight, with the balance of power potentially going to Ms Pauline Hanson's anti-Muslim immigration party One Nation: its estimated 18 per cent support state-wide may be even higher among disaffected voters in regional areas.

Parts of resource-rich Queensland are still recovering from the end of a once-in-a-generation mining investment boom, with the state's unemployment level increasing to 5.9 per cent last month, the country's second-highest.

While 125,000 jobs have been created since Ms Palaszczuk formed a minority government in 2015, just 24,000 of them have been full-time.

"I'm calling this election to give business and industry in our great state the certainty they need as we approach 2018," Ms Palaszczuk told reporters in Brisbane. "I'm asking Queenslanders for their support so my government can continue the job that we have started together."

Ms Palaszczuk called the election after disendorsing one of her lawmakers on Friday, leaving both her ruling Labour Party and the opposition Liberal-National coalition with 41 seats each.

Either party needs 47 to govern in its own right. One Nation is fielding candidates in around 60 of the 93 seats up for grabs, and Ms Palaszczuk has previously ruled out governing with the party.

Ms Hanson came to Australia's Senate dressed in a burqa in August, before removed her head covering to demand the government ban the garment in public places, claiming it could be used to abet terrorism plots.

As well as banning Muslim migration to Australia, she wants to install closed-circuit cameras in mosques and hold a widespread public inquiry into Islam.