With the starter’s gun certain to be fired in the next week or so to begin a campaign almost guaranteed to terminate the ALP’s generational hold on the Sunshine State, I want to look at some aspects of the lead-up to Anna Bligh’s imminent visit to the Governor to formally call the election.
Hell, LNP leader Campbell Newman has already declared the campaign “in progress.”
But before we get into it, a quick apology: I promised on Monday this article would appear on Tuesday; two nights with no internet (a line fault), a power outage on Tuesday night and a recurring bout of gastritis have all conspired to thwart me, and for this I am sorry.
Now then…Campbell Newman is a good place to start; this week he has done something smart and something silly although, paradoxically, the former will likely deliver no benefit, and the latter do him no harm.
The image of a GOA digital billboard in Newstead — counting down days and hours until the precise expiry of a three-year term, adjusted to a Saturday “election” date — is a smart play, despite the understandable mutterings from the ALP and some sections of the media about stunts and spin.
It’s a little disingenuous on account of the vagaries of the electoral laws in Queensland: a three-year term runs for three years from the date of the return of writs following an election; on consideration of a campaign at the expiry of such a period, an election need not take place until mid-June.
Yet as I have written previously, the broader public do not understand this; they see only that three years will have elapsed, and Newman is playing to that.
And after 23 almost-unbroken years of Labor government, Queenslanders are finally fed up with the ALP to the point a change of government — barring some colossal campaign trail cock-up — seems inevitable.
To the point where even just such a mishap mightn’t stop the LNP winning comfortably.
And the LNP’s digital countdown clock on that billboard panel plays to the “It’s Time” mood that is rampant in Queensland at this time.
Even so, the LNP won’t get much of a fillip from it. After all, it’s political advertising at the end of the day, pure and simple.
Newman’s promise of the creation of 420,000 jobs within two terms, on the other hand, is politically stupid, completely unnecessary, and quite frankly, ridiculous.
Notwithstanding the inane debate in the Brisbane press this week over what constitutes “a job” (and yes, something for an hour a week seems to be included in that equation), no leader of an opposition political party confronted with a decaying government, vituperative public anger at that government, an imminent election, and the likely prospect of a landslide victory should be making such explicit, unquantifiable, and dangerous statements.
Newman is likely to get away with this a) as a new Premier in a new government who will find Queensland to be in far worse fiscal and administrative shape than at first thought (it always happens after a change of government nowadays), and b) by virtue of the fact that by the time the promise catches up with him, he will have change of circumstances to point to and a track record in government that may be better, or fall short of, the benchmark nominated.
Either way — barring further silly promises like this — he’ll have a legitimate reason for the outcome.
But this promise — and the back-pedalling that seems to have ensued — is a stark reminder that despite his laudable political skills, undeniable qualifications to take the Premier’s office over and his impressive CV, Newman is just as human, and gaffe-prone in an unguarded moment, as his vastly inferior and less-than-impressive opponents.
Which leads neatly in turn to the ALP, and to the stomach-turning display of vulgar political opportunism enacted by Anna Bligh and other Labor figures — of whom all should have known better — at functions commemorating last year’s floods.
Images of Anna Bligh, PM Julia Gillard and Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale cavorting and dancing around in front of media cameras were downright revolting in human terms and smacked of what they were: a shameless attempt to engineer electoral benefit from the misery and hardship the floods last year inflicted.
More to the point, judging by the opinion pieces of other commentators, comments on media coverage pieces and anecdotal measures, that is precisely how it was received by a large slice of the voting public.
Anna Bligh, her ministers and the other members of her government are desperate: and the Labor Party, cornered, is the ultimate specimen of a desperate political beast.
It will say, do, utilise (and often fabricate) ANYTHING or ANYONE to win an election, a given electorate, or even some minor position of officialdom in a community organisation if it serves the purposes of the ALP and/or forces within the party.
And so we were treated to the unedifying (and disgusting) spectacle of Bligh, Gillard and Pisasale basking in the “glory” of reconstruction after the 2011 floods.
To the unedifying spectacle of Bligh — who, to be fair, was marginally impressive at the height of the crisis — revisit the floods in a crass populist display, the purpose of which can only be interpreted as an attempt to milk votes from the very issue she claimed to be a leader over.
To the unedifying spectacle of Julia Gillard even being present; Queenslanders, more than anyone else in the country, are after Gillard and her government; she simply isn’t welcome there. Queenslanders have put away their baseball bats, and are instead waiting for her on their verandahs with nuclear warheads.
And to the unedifying reality that some 12 months on from the floods, there remain many homes that have not been repaired; families who have lost everything and still have nowhere permanent to go; and many, many people who may have been thrown a tidbit — even those who did the right thing and were fully insured — who have ended up tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars out of pocket.
Yes, go and milk votes out of that lot, Bligh and Co; be sure to tell yourselves just how wonderful you are, because there aren’t many other people who will.
Moving on…the “resignation” (read: disendorsement) of LNP Broadwater candidate Richard Towson is unlikely to have any effect on the campaign or the LNP’s prospects whatsoever.
Whether he quit or was pushed, Towson’s removal neutralises at a stroke his failed breath test as an issue for the LNP.
And the LNP is unlikely to suffer in Broadwater on the basis of a new candidate entering the field: sitting MP Peta Kaye-Croft, like many Labor MPs who either lost seats in 2009 or will do so this time, owes her career to the disarray on the conservative side ten years ago and the resultant landslide recorded by Peter Beattie in 2001.
Her electorate is natural conservative heartland; held by Nationals and Liberals (under different constituency names) for decades prior to 2001, by wide margins, it will revert to type in a few weeks, and Croft will be gone.
With the retirement of Mount Ommaney MP Julie Attwood, the total number of Labor MPs jumping ship now stands at 9 out or 51, or approaching 20% of the parliamentary party.
I must emphasise that Attwood’s eleventh-hour withdrawal is entirely for legitimate reasons emanating from her husband’s health, and should be applauded. But there is still time for others to pull the pin, and the mass exodus Labor experienced in NSW prior to its decimation there last year is now approaching replication in Queensland.
Still, I saw (in one of the Brisbane metropolitan journals this week) the electorate of Mount Ommaney described as “the usually safe Labor electorate” — which it isn’t.
Based on the old seat of Sherwood — a traditional blue-ribbon Liberal stronghold, once held by the likes of John Herbert and Angus Innes — Mount Ommaney is largely the same electorate.
Yes, it no longer contains more Liberal-inclined areas in Sherwood and Graceville, and now includes more of Labor-inclined Oxley and part of Darra.
But this is not enough to undo its historical average as a 60/40 Liberal electorate.
And it still contains the Centenary suburbs, which historically are Liberal strongholds.
Digging further, without serial pest and self-styled “Honest” Peter Pyke — a Police whistleblower in the Fitzgerald era — Labor mightn’t have ever gotten close to the seat.
Innes beat Pyke narrowly in Sherwood in 1989; replacement Liberal David Dunworth did so again seven months later in a by-election by a wider margin; Pyke won narrowly in what was by then Mount Ommaney in 1992, only to be beaten by Liberal Bob Harper three years later; and Harper, in turn, lost narrowly to Attwood in the One Nation-infused 1998 election, at which his numbers held up better than virtually every other Liberal candidate in Brisbane in relative terms, despite the loss of the seat.
Beattie’s landslide in 2001 consolidated Attwood, whose margin has been whittled away ever since, and the seat will return to the conservatives this year.
And will, in all likelihood, stay there for many years.
I tell this story partly because it involves the area in Brisbane in which I was involved when I lived there, and I know many of these people; but also because it’s a good example of the mythological claptrap on which much of the Labor edifice is built in Brisbane, and which will shortly come crashing down.
There will be many wounds for the ALP’s survivors to lick, and an abundant supply of salt for the LNP victors to rub into those wounds.
And so…this brings me to a little crystal ball gazing, before the battle proper begins.
Let’s see how many of these come to pass (and I’m not going pick exact numbers of seats)!
- The LNP will win government in Queensland (which will in no way mitigate the legitimacy of my own reservations about the Liberal/National merger; it’s simply time in Queensland);
- Campbell Newman will win Ashgrove and become Premier — I’d expect a 55-45 result in Ashgrove, which is tantamount to a 12.5% swing;
- The ALP will win more than 10 seats, despite opinion polls; I’d guess around the 20 to 25-seat mark, give or take;
- Bob Katter’s Australian Party won’t win a seat;
- Brisbane will swing heavily to the LNP, yielding at least 10 additional LNP electorates;
- Cairns and the neighbouring electorate of Barron River will fall to the LNP (I know, I know…Labor has held Cairns forever…not this time, methinks);
- Townsville will mostly return to the Liberal fold — expect to see some big swings there to build on those recorded in 2009;
- The ALP and Independents will fail to win any seats on the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, or in Toowoomba; and
- The LNP will win at least one Labor-held electorate currently on a margin greater than 16% (I have an electorate in mind; think I’ll keep that to myself for now).
Nothing too involved in terms of details; more trends than anything, but I would be interested to hear what readers think.
And so…the contest is about to begin; we will of course follow it closely as it unfolds.
These are my thoughts. What do you think?