ALMOST A YEAR after its loss to the ALP, Queensland’s LNP — under the thrice-recycled stewardship of Lawrence Springborg — is on a one-way ticket to nowhere; a lovely bloke, Springborg is nonetheless a proven loser with no appeal in the urban south-east and who, if allowed to lead the LNP to a fourth election, will lead it to a fourth defeat. Springborg will never be elected Premier. He must make way for those who may offer better prospects.
When your strongest claim to high political office rests on the assertion that you’d constitute a safe pair of hands in the event of a mid-term change of government on the floor of a hung Parliament, you really are on a hiding to nothing; so it is with Queensland opposition leader Lawrence Springborg, who — despite being one of the nicer and more decent MPs I’ve had something to do with over the years — is boringly familiar (and unattractive) to the Queensland public, and whose papers should be stamped in the aftermath of the Newspoll on state voting intention that appears in The Australian today.
This Newspoll isn’t the Christmas present Springborg would have liked, to be sure, but his colleagues would be well advised to heed the message even if he won’t.
Trumpeting that the LNP has “clawed back support” — as The Australian‘s web portal screams today — simply doesn’t cut it; trailing 52-48 after gaining one percentage point of the two-party vote — well within the margin of error of the poll — still amounts to a small swing to Labor based on its election-clinching share of 51.1% in January, and would see three LNP seats fall if uniformly replicated at an election: enough for 47 seats in total, and a clear majority in the 89-member unicameral Queensland Parliament.
The fact two of those three seats — Mount Ommaney and Mansfield — are not only in Brisbane, but natural Liberal Party territory on paper — speaks volumes, and is evidence (were any more required) that when it comes to winning state elections in Queensland, Springborg simply doesn’t have the pulling power to carry enough seats in the burgeoning south-eastern corner of the state.
In any case, the gain of a solitary point on the two-party vote is the only piece of good news for Springborg in an otherwise gloomy and I believe deadly accurate snapshot of voter sentiment north of the Tweed.
Springborg’s net approval rating has deteriorated from -9% to -15%, with 34% (-2% since August) approving of his performance as opposition leader, and 47% (+4%) disapproving.
His deficit on the “preferred Premier” measure — already a bit of an embarrassment for someone who’s been on the scene for more than quarter of a century — is beginning to blow out now, as he trails Annastacia Palaszczuk (50%, +1%) with support from just 27% (-1%).
And whilst Palaszczuk’s personal approval takes a bit of a knock in this poll — falling three points to 50%, with 35% (+2%) expressing disapproval — the fact remains that for a lacklustre government with more scandals to its credit than achievements, for a mediocrity like Palaszczuk to be travelling this well after a torrid first year in office is a failure of the LNP leadership and an indictment on Springborg’s purported ability to hold Labor, and its swollen band of resident miscreants, to meaningful account.
Billy Gordon. Rick Williams. Jo-Ann Miller. The first of these three names alone should have been enough to bring the government down, had the issue been properly handled; instead of moving a Parliamentary expulsion motion against Gordon, Springborg’s strategy was to try to “work with” Gordon after he was expelled from the ALP. By the time Williams and Miller exploded as issues in their own right, Labor knew it had nothing to fear from Springborg.
So did watching voters.
The point is that the Palaszczuk government has been a poor one; it has resumed the insidious process of pissing money up against a post and restoring the haemorrhage of the state budget — both of which had been stopped when Campbell Newman was in office — but for all the extra money being thrown around like confetti, Palaszczuk has nothing to point to as an accomplishment after twelve months in office. This, combined with the disgraceful antics of some of her MPs, merely underlines the utter failure Springborg can already be declared to be in his fourth, and final, outing as LNP/Coalition leader.
As for Springborg’s appeal in Brisbane, three state election losses are more than enough to show that the single-digit tallies recorded on all three occasions (from 38 Brisbane seats) are an accurate reflection of how enthusiastic people in Brisbane are about the idea of a Springborg government.
Without the gerrymander, the LNP needs to win at least a respectable number of Brisbane seats. The eight Springborg carried, on his best showing in 2009, does not satisfy this criteria — and the loss of the aforesaid seats of Mansfield and Mount Ommaney is all that is required to once again reduce the LNP presence in Brisbane to eight seats.
In fact, a swing to Labor in Brisbane of 5% would cut that tally to just five seats. The risk of a return to virtual conservative wipeout in the capital — making statewide victory all but impossible — simply doesn’t justify persisting with a serial loser.
But really, after 26 years in Parliament and election losses as leader in 2004, 2006 and 2009, does anyone seriously believe Springborg will ever win an election?
As The Australian recounts, an emergent coup against Springborg some months ago was nipped in the bud; at the time, spirited and at times heated discussions I had privately with LNP figures revealed not only the inability to coalesce around an alternative candidate, but that some of them — in advocating Nanango MP Deb Frecklington as a potential leader — still simply hadn’t grasped the basic lesson from 30 years of barely interrupted electoral embarrassment.
And that, very simply, is that a bush MP will not be accepted by metropolitan voters as Premier; even the urbane Gold Coast National Rob Borbidge made only limited inroads into Brisbane when he led the Coalition to minority government in 1995.
More ominously, a large contingent of LNP members seems to think Everton MP Tim Mander would make an ideal replacement for Springborg, but whilst he is based in Brisbane, his seat is usually held by the ALP. Based on the result in January, a net switch of just 510 voters to Labor would be all it would take to unseat him. After the disaster of Campbell Newman in Ashgrove, you’d have thought the LNP might have grown a bit gun-shy about selecting leaders who hold ultra-marginal seats. They certainly should have.
I think Frecklington would make an ideal deputy: which brings up the question of who should take Springborg’s place.
Clayfield MP Tim Nicholls, savaged internally for years on account of his friendship with fallen Liberal powerbroker Santo Santoro, would stand the best chance of leading the LNP to an election win; Surfers Paradise MP John-Paul Langbroek — torn down as leader in the brutal but ultimately misguided coup that installed Newman in his place — would probably make the better Premier.
Either way, based on the available personnel, one of these men should — within the month — displace Springborg, who has given Queensland conservatives fine service over many years, but is invariably found wanting on the big stage, and is unlikely to ever become Premier by a public vote.
A state election could occur at any time next year, and the LNP has a duty to millions of Queenslanders to field a viable alternative to Labor at any election that occurs in 2016 or on schedule at the end of 2017; this also means offering a viable candidate as Premier, and — whilst it gives me no joy to say so — Lawrence Springborg is no such candidate.
Perhaps over his Christmas turkey, a decision to surrender the LNP leadership — and perhaps even his seat in Parliament — is one Springborg’s family and friends might impress upon him is in his (and their) best interests, for the alternative is up to two more years of dismal polling followed by an election loss nobody except the ALP wants.
I also believe, given the chronic debt and budgetary red ink Queensland is awash with, the Palaszczuk government must be defeated at almost any cost.
It’s time to pack it in, Lawrence, but it’s up to you whether we do it the easy way or the nasty way.
AND ANOTHER THING: A certain Labor lawyer has taken it upon himself in the past couple of days to try to crucify me on Twitter, making a complete dick of himself in the process; I mention it on account of direct relevance (he tried to assert I couldn’t argue a cogent case, and then with unbelievable idiocy pointed to my correct advance predictions that the LNP would lose both the January state election and the seat of Ashgrove as “evidence”).
Apparently the impetus for this onslaught was my suggestion funding for the National Disability Insurance Scheme should be re-examined to find savings from its gargantuan annual cost of $24bn without compromising service delivery: I don’t believe the veracity of anything Wayne Swan and Julia Gillard say where the prudent expenditure of money is concerned, and nor do most of my readers. It bothers me that the unfunded Gillard/Swan NDIS is the only spending program that’s completely off-limits for review.
But apparently, I called for no such thing; according to the bird brain in question, it was a call for the outright abolition of the NDIS. When finally dragged to an admission of error, he instead resorted to abuse based on suggestions of intellectual vacuity, nastiness and illiteracy: effrontery coming from a fellow who took multiple attempts to reread the article before being forced to admit he was wrong.
Let me reassure readers that whilst articles published on this site are framed in the present tense — that is, the issues we discuss can evolve with the flow of political events, and things can change — there aren’t any hidden meanings here. I call things as I see them: no bullshit. If I wanted to see the NDIS abolished, I would say so. I don’t.
Now, if we could just do something about the glut of cretinous imbeciles masquerading as Labor lawyers… 🙂 …that would be something indeed!