Queensland: Flegg Disendorsement Right Call By LNP

THE DECISION THIS AFTERNOON by the LNP hierarchy in Queensland not to endorse sitting Moggill MP Bruce Flegg for the imminent state election is absolutely the correct call; Flegg — a veteran candidate over more than 20 years — has been given opportunities by the Liberal Party and the LNP that he has failed to deliver on in return. Whilst some will quibble about process, Flegg will not be missed by the LNP. His utterances this evening prove it.

This column has conducted an intermittent, unapologetic and concerted campaign for the disendorsement of Moggill MP Bruce Flegg by Queensland’s Liberal National Party for several years, and the news out of Brisbane this evening — that the LNP did precisely that this afternoon — is laudable, entirely justified, and long overdue.

It is true that in calling for Dr Flegg to be abandoned as the conservative candidate in Moggill — the safest non-Labor state seat in the Brisbane area — I have been just as adamant that its replacement candidate should be Premier Campbell Newman; that may or may not occur, and since we last talked about it on Sunday, Newman has recommitted (again) to going down fighting in what appears a doomed bid to hold his present seat of Ashgrove.

But whether Newman stands in Moggill or not, today’s decision should not be construed as personal, although there are already indications Flegg will present it as exactly that.

My comments this evening really have nothing to do with Campbell Newman at all, and the LNP’s decision to dump Flegg is the only one it could make in weighing a range of factors such as his performance as a candidate, MP, minister and leader, his age, his likely political future, and the value of the seat he occupies — potentially at the expense of a better candidate to hold it.

Flegg has been provided with opportunities by the Liberal Party — and the LNP — that the conservative parties do not dispense with reckless abandon, and which the overwhelming majority of their members will never enjoy.

In 1990, he was the party’s candidate for the critical marginal federal seat of Petrie; needing a swing of 1.4% to win, Flegg lost ground, with Labor’s Gary Johns re-elected with a 1% swing toward him; to be fair, Queensland swung heavily to Labor in 1990, which probably entitled Flegg to another chance.

This came three years later, at the 1993 federal election won by Paul Keating, but at which Queensland swung back toward the Coalition; at this election Flegg was endorsed in the new seat of Dickson (held by unpopular Attorney-General Michael Lavarch). Owing to the death of a candidate, a supplementary election for this seat was held about a month after the federal election, effectively gifting Flegg’s campaign a by-election environment in which to operate.

Despite all of this — and needing a modest swing of 3.2% for victory — Flegg again fell short, achieving a swing of just 2.9% against Lavarch.

In contesting Moggill in 2004 after the previous MP, David Watson, retired, it is true that Flegg took over a seat that had been held by less than 1% of the two-party vote at the 2001 Queensland state election.

But that state election was the biggest ALP win in over half a century, with the National Party decimated and the Liberal Party almost wiped out, and Moggill — an 80/20 seat for the Liberals for most of its existence (including when earlier known as Mt Coot-tha) — was always going to again become extremely safe for the conservatives irrespective of who their candidate was.

So let’s hear no more about the high level of electoral support “enjoyed” by Flegg: like the LNP’s decision today to dump him, it wasn’t personal. Voters in the areas of Brisbane his seat covers have always supported non-Labor candidates, and mostly supported them very strongly indeed.

As Liberal leader at the 2006 state election, Flegg arguably derailed the entire Coalition election campaign on its very first day with his inability to answer a question from journalists as to whether he (or the Nationals’ Lawrence Springborg) would be Premier if the Liberals won more seats than the Nationals: an unlikely proposition indeed at the time, but nonetheless an easy question to answer for a savvy and competent individual standing in Flegg’s shoes that day.

The brouhaha over whether Flegg had been offered “an inducement” or not to stand aside for Campbell Newman in 2012 meant that Flegg was always going to be permitted to serve out a final term in Moggill; it was the only way to comprehensively refute the allegations of corruption that were being thrown around the LNP (and more widely by ALP apparatchiks) at that time.

And his stint as Minister for Public Works and Housing in the early days of Newman’s government was brief, disastrous, and a salutary illustration of the fact Queensland dodged a bullet the day Flegg squandered his only opportunity to lead it as Premier.

All of this has served to mark Flegg out as a dead man walking, and had the LNP failed to terminate his endorsement today, then serious questions would have to be asked about just how professional that party really is.

Flegg — who will be 61 by the time the coming state election is held — is obviously not going to return to the Newman ministry; logic and common sense dictate that he will have no leadership role to play when the LNP returns to opposition (whenever that is), and it stands to reason that even if he made it that far, there is no ministerial post waiting for a 70-something in the first-term lineup of the next conservative government, perhaps 15 years away or longer from becoming a reality.

In this context, Flegg has well and truly passed his use-by date.

I know some will argue he is a good, effective MP; I don’t live in Moggill and I never did when I lived in Brisbane, so I can’t comment. But I would make the point that providing good local representation and acting as an effective state MP are not skills exclusive to Bruce Flegg, and just as Moggill residents have been well represented in the past, they will be well represented by conservative MPs in the future.

I would suggest that over at least a quarter of a century, the Liberals/LNP have been more than loyal to Flegg, which makes his protest today that he had given “ten years’ loyal service” a trifle irritating.

It is also disingenuous, conveniently overlooking his status as a serial loser in winnable marginal seats: a track record few others are allowed to return from, and which suggests that deprived of his blue-ribbon ticket to George Street in Moggill, Flegg might not have ever made it to Parliament at all.

There will be those locals in Moggill — and, of course, LNP branch members loyal to him on factional grounds — who will protest the “anti-democratic” nature of his removal; it will be an outrage, a disgrace, part of a sinister plot, and blah blah blah. Some will publicly state they will never vote for the LNP again. Most of those will nevertheless do exactly that once confined to the privacy of the polling booth.

The simple fact is that all political parties must renew themselves, and with such a prime LNP seat apparently wasted on a man who has not been starved of opportunities by Queensland’s conservatives, there is a broad responsibility the LNP must discharge in ensuring its parliamentary composition is the very best it can achieve — both for the present day, when it sits in government, and for the future.

As I said at the outset, readers can see that most of what I have said has absolutely nothing to do with Campbell Newman at all, although it is at this point I would observe that a Premier with an election win to his credit presents a stronger claim to such a seat than does a career backbencher destined to serve out his time in Parliament in relative obscurity.

Two other sitting MPs faced the LNP executive today, in the same process Flegg did, with both being permitted to contest their preselections, although one — the aptly named member for Redlands, Peter Dowling, who shot to international notoriety after sending a picture of his penis immersed in a glass of red wine to his mistress — is said to be unlikely to win a local preselection ballot.

But whether he (or Ros Bates, an MP from the Gold Coast) return to Parliament under the LNP banner or not, the party’s constitution gives it the right to undertake the review process Flegg was subjected to today, and in joining the LNP and in serving it as an elected MP, Flegg himself agreed to submit to the rules and processes that govern the party’s operation under that constitution.

There has therefore been no abuse of process, and no witch hunt. Again, given his record of non-delivery on the opportunities he has been given over many years, the LNP could be said to have been extraordinarily patient.

For all his talk of loyalty, Flegg has already flagged the possibility of quitting the party; for all his talk of not being “a spoiler,” Flegg allowed the prospect he would sit on the crossbench for the rest of his term — where he would be a lightning rod for LNP dissent — to fester when he met journalists this afternoon. For all his talk of not acting out of spite, Flegg refused to rule out contesting Moggill as an Independent, standing against the party he claimed to still be proud to represent.

And perhaps unsurprisingly, he has spent the afternoon and evening presenting himself as a champion of local branch members, and lashing out at the “faceless people” of the LNP. It’s been well worn as a final stance of defiance by others who have found themselves in a situation resembling the one that befell Flegg today. It is also disingenuous, facile, and abjectly pathetic.

The simple fact — as unpalatable as it will be for those who do not wish to hear it — is that Bruce Flegg will be no loss to the parliamentary LNP, and his constituents in Moggill should be well pleased that with a new parliamentary representative will come the opportunity to secure a new effective local voice in government for many years to come.

I may be a harsh judge, but Flegg is a political liability the LNP can well do without, although like any political party, he’s hardly Robinson Crusoe on that score.

But at the end of the day, it is the LNP who has made the right call, and acted correctly, in excluding Flegg from LNP endorsement for the looming election: and whilst that may be a bitter pill for some to swallow — and for Flegg himself — in this instance, the greater good is best served by what has transpired.

In the end, Flegg — by all accounts a good doctor and astute businessman, and said to be quite a decent fellow — has been lavished with the kind of political opportunities most people can only dream of; in almost every case, he has singularly and spectacularly failed to deliver. And whilst the whole thing may be about to end for him, he can at least reflect that whilst he failed to ascend to the heights he probably aspired to reach, he was at least able to make it as far as the scaling ladder in the first place: even if, in the final act, the ladder was kicked out from under his feet.

 

Petulant Boor: Palmer Flirts With Oblivion In Queensland

IF CLIVE PALMER or his Palmer United Party henchmen ever win government in the Sunshine State, Queenslanders should run like hell to escape across the border as if something fat and nasty is after them, because something fat and nasty will be after them; punchdrunk on mild success at the federal election, Clive Palmer and his boorish, self-aggrandising, score-settling juggernaut might be about to roll on just a little too far.

I haven’t lived in Queensland for many years now — I left 16 years ago today, to be precise — but I still have an enduring soft spot for the place north of the Tweed, and I care about what happens there; I was dismayed when nearly a quarter of Queenslanders voted for Pauline Hanson at a state election that year, although in some dubious respects her party and its inherent, inarticulate bigotry were less unpalatable than the crusade that appears set to sweep through the state’s looming election campaign.

News that federal member for Fairfax, Clive Palmer — leader of his eponymous Palmer United Party, having set it up when he found the LNP he donated so much money to refused to do whatever he wanted it to do — is planning to roll out a near-complete slate of candidates to contest the next election comes as no surprise.

After all, Palmer has been involved in conservative state politics in Queensland, openly or behind the scenes, since the days of Joh Bjelke-Petersen, and now kitted out with his very own political party, it defies reality to expect it not to contest the coming poll.

But Clive Palmer’s political success since leaving Queensland’s LNP has been chequered; despite the rhetoric and predictions of a Palmer Prime Ministership in a 100-seat landslide, his PUP managed the grand return of three seats (which could yet swell to four, depending on what happens in the Senate in WA) that in no way lives up to the pompous bragging of an avalanche of popular support.

Indeed, Palmer’s win in his own electorate was by less than the proverbial bee’s diaphragm — and with just 26% of the primary vote, represented his party’s best result anywhere in the country.

Undaunted, the PUP juggernaut rolls on, this time in the apparent certitude of a state election win.

The Sunshine Coast Daily — that grand window on the world for the good burghers of Maroochydore and Noosa and Mooloolaba — is reporting that Palmer has commenced his state election platform with a promise to  “obliterate the Newman government from the history books” when his party assumes government in what seems to be, to listen to him, a fait accompli.

Stating that “help is on the way,” Palmer says — to quote the Daily — that

“If elected to government, we will have…a bill which will be a simple bill which will effectively have a provision that all legislation passed by the Newman Government shall be repealed forthwith…we will obliterate from the history books the history of the Newman government once the Palmer United team takes over for Queensland.”

It’s petulant. It’s childish. It’s boorish. And it’s vindictive.

The results of the PUP at last year’s federal election should have been a warning to Palmer; obtained off the back of personal expenditure rumoured to be in the $5-10 million range, the paltry return of seats it achieved probably represented the party’s high water mark.

Palmer has been around politics long enough to know that fringe movements — especially those that are more or less breakaway movements from established major parties — rarely prosper, and never endure. Australia’s political history is littered with them: the Australian Democrats, the DLP, and Hanson’s movement itself are just a few of the more prominent of them which have risen and fallen.

Certainly, Palmer’s position in the Senate puts him in a balance-of-power position that accords him some clout. But he has already signalled at least the contemplation of the irresponsible use of that clout, publicly declaring that the Abbott government would fail to pass “a single bill” unless his PUP was given support staff and other resources to which it is not legally entitled by virtue of its tiny parliamentary presence.

In fact, a lot of Palmer’s behaviour since the election has been erratic at best, and downright belligerent at worst.

He has thrown unfounded and unsubstantiated accusations of corruption and misconduct around like confetti; one of his prime targets has been the Australian Electoral Commission, although allegations in that direction have been few and far between since he was actually elected in his seat of Fairfax despite earlier questions around the security of ballot papers during the counting process.

In an unprecedented show of obstructionism, Palmer’s scrutineers in Fairfax challenged half of all ballot papers — roughly 45,000 of them — during the recount that saw him declared the eventual winner.

And a threat to challenge his own win in the Court of Disputed Returns, trumpeted with much fanfare when the result was in the balance, seems to have been abandoned, too.

Another target of his corruption accusations has been the Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman; despite a promise to destroy Newman with “revelations” of official misconduct in his maiden speech to Parliament (delivered, of course, under parliamentary privilege), it was perhaps unsurprising that nothing eventuated from his threats.

Staff at Palmer’s Coolum Resort — now said to be running at just 5% occupancy — were presented with revised employment contracts last year in a desperate attempt to gag them, on threat of dismissal and/or legal action, after rumours of their boss’ eccentric and allegedly unreasonable conduct found its way from the resort and into the press.

That attempt failed, however, to stop an account of Palmer’s abuse of a resort guest reaching the pages of the Murdoch media.

Palmer’s legislative wish list includes the approval of many projects being pursued by his companies that had been stalled by the previous government on environmental grounds; he also seeks not just the abolition of the carbon tax, but also the repayment of all carbon tax monies already collected by the Commonwealth: some $6.2 million of which is said to have been incurred by Palmer companies.

Palmer has been simultaneously courting and roughing up other crossbench Senators, the most public spat resulting from his activities being a public slanging match with South Australian Nick Xenophon.

But nobody seems to doubt his real target is Queensland’s LNP.

Some time ago I wrote an article in this column suggesting the LNP should disband, and the Liberal and National Parties in Queensland be reformed in Coalition. It was born more from frustration than anything, as Palmer commenced attempts to woo less-than-loyal LNP MPs from the fold — mostly ex-Nationals — whilst the National Party faction inside the LNP simmered in almost open rebellion against the fact of a Brisbane-centric government run by ex-Liberals (the only kind of conservative state government, not to put too fine a point on it, that will ever exist in Queensland nowadays).

Clearly, that did not and will not happen, and away from the heat of the moment, I mightn’t advocate the same thing now. But this was also the time that Palmer was first taking aim at the LNP, and at Newman personally; nearly 18 months later, he’s still going.

The point is that larger than life he may well be — and a character to boot — but at some stage, Palmer’s boorish, petulant antics are going to cause a huge swathe of the electorate to switch off: very soon a lot of people are going to conclude that Palmer’s only policy is to hurt Newman, and once that point is reached, he’ll be finished.

It might have already happened.

It’s fairly obvious that revenge — against Newman, the LNP, against its officials, who once were friends but now are foes — is a powerful motivator that will sustain Palmer beyond a federal election and into a state campaign.

But what is his policy for dealing with Queensland’s $85 billion government debt? To date, he’s denied the size of the problem and accused the state’s impressive Treasurer, Tim Nicholls, of “cooking the books.”

What is his policy on health? Education? Population growth? Roads and Urban Transport? Palmer will need these to fight a state election: not just dot points that make for a catchy but misleading radio commercial, as he attempted to hoodwink voters with in Sydney and Melbourne during the federal campaign, but detailed, realistic policies.

In fact, what are his policies at all, beyond the crucifixion of the LNP and the advancement of his businesses?

My sense is that if Palmer fields a team of candidates at Queensland’s state election, it will get slaughtered; none of them — not even the LNP turncoats who walked out of the party shortly after he did — will see the inside of the Legislative Assembly chamber again.

But he could do the LNP a lot of damage, and I just wonder what kind of political conservative would risk allowing Labor to win an election — especially after the amount of money Palmer has spent over the years trying to prevent exactly that — just to settle a few grudges.

Still, if it comes to that, he would at least have brought Newman down, and that — more than anything — seems to be just what Clive Palmer is hellbent on doing.

 

Cornered: Embattled ex-LNP MP Quits Queensland Parliament

THE RESIGNATION of former state LNP MP Scott Driscoll from his seat of Redcliffe is a welcome development in a saga that has dragged on for too long; faced with expulsion from Parliament and a substantial fine for contempt of Parliament, Driscoll has bowed to the inevitable.

A by-election will now be held in the outer northern Brisbane seat of Redcliffe, based around Bramble Bay and Deception Bay, and it is to be hoped that event is expedited as swiftly as possible by the Newman government in the New Year.

I knew a little of Driscoll many years ago when I lived in Brisbane, and found it surprising that he’d been endorsed by the LNP to contest such a key marginal seat ahead of the 2012 state election, but there you go; having had nothing to do, formally, with Queensland’s conservatives for over 15 years now it’s no longer my party — literally.

Driscoll left the LNP in April amid allegations he had failed to declare private interests and income as required of an MP, and was running various business interests from his electorate office; this came to a head yesterday, when Driscoll was found guilty by the parliamentary Ethics Committee of 49 charges of contempt of Parliament.

The committee’s recommendation was a fine totalling $88,000, having found Driscoll guilty of 48 counts of contempt of Parliament, and his expulsion from Parliament: rather than delay the inevitable, Driscoll jumped.

He says he has quit on account of his “failing health” — a reference to a previously undisclosed bipolar condition that became public in recent days.

Yet the health issues to which he alludes are not overnight developments, as Driscoll himself implicitly concedes; and the attempted honourable resignation probably had more to do with the imminent vote on his expulsion, which was certain to succeed.

I’m not going to comment on the rights or wrongs of anything Driscoll may or may not have done to bring about this ignominious end to his political career beyond a reiteration of my remark that I was very surprised to learn he’d been endorsed to contest such a key marginal Labor electorate prior to the last state election.

But I do think it right that the running sore that has been the Driscoll saga is finally staunched as a political consideration, at least.

It does however appear that further investigations by  Queensland’s Crime and Misconduct Commission may lead to criminal charges in due course, which is another reason for circumspection to be exercised.

Yet the good burghers of Redcliffe have been deprived of effective representation in state Parliament for too long, and a by-election will belatedly resolve that problem: it is, however, a contest fraught with political risk for the LNP state government.

A traditionally conservative-leaning electorate, Redcliffe was a seat lost to Labor in the 1989 Goss landslide; the Liberals went close to winning it in 1995 before Labor ran away with the seat again: a Liberal held it briefly in 2005 and 2006 after a by-election, with the ALP reclaiming the seat at the 2006 election and holding it until last year’s avalanche win.

Ahead of the starter’s gun firing on the Redcliffe by-election, a reading of the numbers on paper suggest it nominally safe, held as it is by a 60-40 margin.

It must be remembered that that result was achieved at the historic high water mark of conservative support that Campbell Newman rode into office early last year; counterbalanced against that is the consideration that Redcliffe is a seat the LNP must hold if, in the usual order of things, it is to form majority government in Queensland.

With no date announced as yet and no candidates on either side declared, it is premature to spend too much time analysing the by-election, although we will certainly keep track of it once things progress: and it would come as no surprise if it were to be held the same day next year as the contest in Kevin Rudd’s federal seat of Griffith, tipped for early February.

Redcliffe is, however, a heartland conservative seat that was long lost, and entrusted to Driscoll to win back and keep; win it he may have done, but any backlash against the LNP will probably be attributable to Driscoll as well should it now fall to Labor.

The whole Driscoll saga will muddy the water in terms of the by-election providing a mid-term pointer to the overall political health of the Newman government, although those closer to the action might disagree. Certainly the ALP will do so if it wins.

But an early call would be that if the LNP prevails in Redcliffe — irrespective of the size of its margin — only a fool would bet against Newman’s re-election in 2015, and with most of his sizeable parliamentary majority intact.

 

LNP Debacle: It’s Time For The Liberal Party To Claim Queensland

The cesspool into which Queensland’s LNP has descended is a complex ecosystem; populated by diverse organisms, its murky depths are the backdrop to an unedifying brawl over the spoils of power. There is one solution, and one only: reformation of the Liberal Party in Queensland.

At the outset, I wish to emphasise that The Red And The Blue has no argument with the legislative agenda of Campbell Newman’s government or with its program of cuts and austerity measures; Queenslanders knew that in discarding the ALP in March, they were electing a government that would take drastic but necessary action to repair public finances and to put Queensland on the path to becoming, again, the powerhouse of economic growth it has traditionally been.

That said, however, Queensland’s conservatives find themselves in office — and in disarray — at the end of what they should be celebrating as their most successful year in four decades.

Instead, the rot afflicting the new Queensland government threatens to destroy it.

It is now my contention that there is really only one solution to what is going on with the LNP and that, simply stated, is to abandon it: for the Queensland Division of the Liberal Party to be reconstituted, the LNP dissolved, and for the Liberals to finally claim what has eluded them since the Party’s formation in the late 1940s — government, outright, in Queensland.

It’s necessary to separate out three issues — the “Flegg factor,” the brawl between the parliamentary and organisational wings of the LNP, and the departure of three LNP MPs — to fully make the case for the change I advocate; I will be especially interested in the comments of Queensland-based readers in response.

Yet unless something is done — and quickly — then Newman’s government, replete with the strongest majority enjoyed by any government in Australian political history, seems destined to lurch through the next two years toward an electoral defeat every bit as stunning as the win it enjoyed a mere eight and a half months ago.

I want to deal with the Flegg issue first, representing as it does an enduring Liberal contribution to the present mess in which the LNP finds itself; Flegg is an irrelevance and a red herring whose exit papers from Parliament must surely be stamped.

On paper, he is an impressive candidate, but in practice a political failure and, to be brutally frank, a liability.

Flegg arrived in Parliament in 2004 to replace the equally impressively-credentialled but gaffe-prone former Liberal leader David Watson in the usually-safe seat of Moggill, which Watson went within a breath of losing to Labor in the landslide of 2001.

Already a two-time loser — as the Liberal candidate for the highly marginal (and winnable) federal seats of Petrie in 1990 and Dickson in 1993, losing both — Flegg’s performance as a Parliamentarian has been less than sparkling.

As Liberal leader, Flegg’s performance on day one of the 2006 state election campaign cruelled the Coalition’s prospects from the outset: questioned by journalists as to who would be Premier if the Liberals won more seats than the Nationals, Flegg’s rambling non-answer gifted Peter Beattie the means with which to raise merry hell over the prospect of Coalition disunity and instability in the event of a conservative win.

In previous discussion of the 2006 campaign, I am on the record as describing then-National leader Lawrence Springborg as a good man whose party had been overtaken by the passage of time; the Nationals in Queensland were no longer relevant to the state’s burgeoning urban population, especially in the south-east.

It is certainly true that the presentation of a National as the alternative Premier was a factor in that 2006 loss. But the culpability for it lies with Flegg, who was proven — at a stroke — to lack the political judgement and smarts required of the leader of a major contemporary political party.

As a minister under Newman, Flegg was both a disaster and a liability; little secret was made of the fact he resented his allocated portfolio of Housing and Public Works.

It’s clear now that even this was an assignment beyond his political capabilities, and his tenure ended amid controversy over alleged moonlighting as a GP and surrounding the propriety of access to his office by lobbyists, and specifically by his son, Jonathan.

Flegg flatly refused to get out of the way for Campbell Newman prior to this year’s election in order to allow the latter a secure seat in Parliament; based on recent events it is very difficult indeed to ascertain any tangible benefit from the retention of his services as the member for Moggill.

And whilst Moggill, on Flegg’s watch, has returned to its usual status as the safest conservative constituency in Brisbane, it is next to impossible to ascribe any of the credit for this movement to Flegg.

Not only did he take on the best patch in Brisbane for the Liberals at a low ebb, but the upward movement in the Liberal vote in Moggill has done little more than mirror statewide trends and the tendency for safe seats to disproportionately accrue votes by the party which holds them.

As a side issue, the preselection challenge from Flegg Jr to the federal LNP member for Ryan, Jane Prentice, must surely now be dead; aside from stirring up additional unrest in conservative ranks (and formalising its spillover into the federal sphere), there is no constructive point in elevating another Flegg to a conservative sinecure.

Dynastic politics are a fact of life across the democratic world, but there is no value to be gained from building dynasties based on the respective merits or otherwise of Bruce Flegg.

This brings me to the departure of three MPs from the LNP — Ray Hopper, Alex Douglas and Carl Judge — and spillover issues involving the also-departed LNP benefactor Clive Palmer and Bob Katter’s mad band, Katter’s Australian Party.

Palmer — with his unfounded allegations of official misconduct by the Queensland government and by individuals within it — has stomped out of the LNP, essentially because he can’t get what he wants from it.

His threat to start a new political party in Queensland would be laughable were it not for the ample funds at his disposal with which to bankroll it.

Destined to fail, of course, but guaranteed to further destabilise the conservative cause, the sort of outfit Palmer seeks to aspire to seems to be predicated on the same type of directionless populism as the endeavours that precede it (think One Nation and the aforesaid mad band of Katter adherents) which are typically based on single issues, or protest for the sake of protest, or a bit of both.

Unlike many start-up political parties, Palmer’s would certainly not be wanting for cash. But in the absence of a cogent, well-constructed and broadly appealing platform, it is just as destined to fall on its face as those that have blazed the trail before it.

These parties achieve very little except to spoil; certainly, none has ever won government anywhere in Australia, and none, ultimately, have ever endured.

Yet they are capable of inflicting great destruction on the entities from which they are spawned, and Palmer — a lifelong conservative — must be aware of that fundamental reality; not least given he was a witness to the destruction of the Borbidge government in Queensland, largely owing to the emergence of One Nation, in 1998.

It’s a fact of democratic political life that two-party systems are almost inevitable, and certainly so in the types of Parliaments Australia elects in its lower Houses* — Independents and minor parties come and go, but even after near-annihilation, the ALP and some form of Liberal/National association always ultimately constitute the main body of elected representation.

Palmer claims that many other LNP MPs would follow Hopper, Douglas and Judge out of the party, and that many of these would join the new outfit he has suggested he will start.

But thanks to some late-night machinations — led by deputy Premier Jeff Seeney — such MPs will find themselves in a party without status; not only must “a party” comprise three or more MPs in Queensland, but as a result of the Seeney changes these MPs must now have been elected under the banner of that party.

As a result, Katter and his band cannot and will not displace the seven Labor MPs as the official Opposition in Queensland; I’m certain this was part of the objective when Hopper jumped ship to join them, and the fact KAP cannot claim the role of Opposition has surely given other prospective recruits pause for thought at the very least.

In the meantime — whether intentionally or not — Palmer is providing a sideshow that is generating considerable attention which, in turn, reflects negatively on the LNP and adds to the sense of crisis engulfing the Newman government.

Television footage of Palmer on the steps of the Parliamentary Annexe with defecting LNP MPs, being spotted at lunch in nearby restaurants with those MPs, and similar “events” might be helpful in raising his profile in advance of a party launch, but the ultimate political benefits they generate will be reaped by the ALP.

And that should give Palmer something to think about.

Yet even in looking at the three MPs who have left the LNP recently, there is little of adequate substance to justify the destabilisation wrought upon their party, and none of the trio represents any great loss to either the LNP or to mainstream conservative politics in Queensland.

Ray Hopper — originally elected as an Independent who quickly joined the National Party — was preselected to his current seat of Condamine in a ballot against fellow LNP MP Stuart Copeland following the abolition of both of their electorates.

I will simply say Copeland was loyal to his party until it knifed him in favour of Hopper, and that he should be re-endorsed in Condamine by the Nationals for the next state election should he continue to wish to serve.

Beyond that, the aptly-named Hopper can be treated with the contempt he deserves.

Judge — member for the naturally ALP-inclined seat of Yeerongpilly — is a likely one-term member present in Parliament by virtue only of the high tide mark of conservative support and who, as one newspaper noted this week, has little ideological synergy with the LNP other than a dislike of the previous Labor government.

And Douglas is the MP whose wife countersigned a complaint by Palmer to the LNP’s organisational wing, seeking the dismissal of Treasurer (and former Liberal) Tim Nicholls from his ministry; grievously wronged Douglas may claim to have been following his removal as head of a parliamentary committee, but his case would appear to be an instance of the old adage “as you sow, so too shall you reap.”

There is an additional issue with Douglas; before the 2006 state election he won his seat of Gaven in a by-election; endorsed as a National and a “Coalition candidate” (read: the Liberal Party capitulated to the National Party) he won Gaven narrowly following the resignation of his Labor predecessor and held it for all of four months, losing it again at that year’s state election.

It is true that he regained it in 2009, again by a narrow margin, and that Gaven (on paper) is now nominally a very safe LNP seat following this year’s landslide.

But Gaven is also the type of seat at which a National Party candidate should never, nowadays, be endorsed, and it is no surprise that it is an ex-National in Douglas who now finds himself at odds with the LNP.

In fact, most of the trouble bedevilling the LNP is based on the Liberal-National divide.

Palmer vs the LNP. Douglas vs the LNP. Ray Hopper vs the LNP. Mutterings from reliable sources about “bushies” (country ex-National Party MPs) being deeply disgruntled with the LNP. The very existence of KAP, started by a National-turned-Independent and bolstered by — you guessed it — more defecting LNP MPs who jumped ship or were pushed post-merger, and of whom only one (Shane Knuth in Dalrymple) was re-elected.

This brings me to the LNP organisation itself.

Whilst registered as a state division of the Liberal Party, the LNP exists, in structure, in a virtually identical form as the National Party that preceded it: a strong organisation with power over the parliamentary wing, backed by a powerful state president in Bruce McIver and a management committee.

It is certainly true that this structure has some merit and has had some success in the presentation of the LNP as a viable conservative force; for example, this column has no objection to the multiple disendorsements in the seat of Broadwater that preceded the 2012 state election, and from a purely operational perspective it has proven to be a lean and efficient outfit.

Yet it is also, in essence, the same structure over which Sir Robert Sparkes presided in the National Party of the Bjelke-Petersen era of the 1970s and 1980s; and whilst it is inarguable that a party’s organisational wing must retain some influence over its parliamentary wing on behalf of the rank-and-file membership, it is the parliamentary wing which must, in a democracy, retain ultimate primacy.

And thus — having regard to all of these issues and factors — I arrive at my overall point: in light of the state of events in conservative politics in Queensland, it is time to abandon the LNP experiment.

Even without Carl Judge, there are between 45 and 47 ex-Liberals sitting in Queensland’s Parliament; clearly, with 45 seats constituting a majority, there is no bar to a reconstituted state Liberal Party forming government.

In Campbell Newman, conservatives in Queensland are led by arguably the most substantial figure to emerge from their ranks in decades, if ever; rather than allow Newman to be trashed and his government crippled, it is in the best interests of both the Liberal Party and the state of Queensland to take the drastic course of action suggested here to enable his government to do the job for which it was elected.

Inevitably, the reformation of the Liberal Party would be followed in short order by the reformation of the National Party (including, I would wager, Clive Palmer).

I see no problem with the National Party reforming, and I don’t even have an issue with the resumption of a Coalition between Liberals and Nationals.

But what I would suggest — strongly — is that any alliance between Liberals and Nationals be drawn in such a way as to permanently preclude the National Party from ever contesting seats over which it has no logical, demographic contemporary claim: the likes of Gaven, for instance, should be a straight Liberal vs Labor contest; similarly, once her career is over, Fiona Simpson’s electorate of Maroochydore should never again be held by a National.

The Liberals find themselves confronted by present circumstance armed with two things they have never had: a leader of Newman’s standing, and the weight of parliamentary numbers.

On account of the latter, Nationals in the past — as recently as the merger between the parties in 2008 — have been ruthless in using those numbers to permanently retain control over conservative state politics, with the direct result that Liberals in Brisbane have been kneecapped in their attempts to take seats from Labor under agrarian-focused National Party leadership.

So it should be now for the Liberal Party.

And were this to happen — a Liberal government constituted by former Liberals already in Parliament as LNP MPs — the slender majority it would take office with could very well be increased at the next election if the platform Newman was initially elected on is delivered in full.

As representatives of the duly affiliated division of the federal Liberal Party, there would be no bar to the reconstituted Queensland Division of the Liberal Party acquiring party status — even after the changes rushed through by Seeney.

The crisis afflicting the Newman government isn’t one of policy and it isn’t one of leadership. It is a crisis of cross-party factionalism that was always going to occur.

With a bit too much self-interest and a bit too much ego into the mix for good measure.

On Flegg, I would simply note that the problem was foreseeable and should have been avoided outright.

That said, Newman is likely to require transfer to a much safer seat in 2015, in part on account of the difficulty Flegg has caused the government to date.

It is to be hoped the rank-and-file Liberals in Moggill are astute enough to choose Newman to represent them next time the Moggill preselection falls due.

*The Queensland Parliament is unicameral (i.e. it has one House only), elected by optional preferential voting in 89 single-member constituencies.

To See A One-Term Government, Look North Of The Tweed River

Shenanigans in Queensland in the LNP and its new-ish government are a one-way ticket to oblivion; if nothing changes, Labor is two years from a stunning return to power in the Sunshine State, and the LNP’s antics, left unchecked, cast a pall over the prospects of the Coalition federally.

It seems an age ago now, but in reality it is little more than six months since Campbell Newman led the LNP — a merged, hybrid Liberal-National Party — to an historic and awe-inspiring win in Queensland, virtually wiping the ALP out of the state Parliament after the dirtiest and nastiest election campaign in recent Australian political history.

The conservatives had won Queensland outright for the first time since 1986, and it seemed that for the LNP — if it played its cards correctly — a generation in government beckoned.

How quickly things change in politics.

The Newman government in Queensland was already feeling the heat on the back of public sector job cuts and other fiscal measures designed to begin the torturous process of rebuilding Queensland’s public finances and paying down its debt.

These measures, whilst painful and (understandably) unpopular, are entirely consistent with the LNP’s election manifesto and, I believe, no less than the difficult job Queenslanders quite knowingly saddled the LNP with when they overwhelmingly endorsed it to form government back in March.

More recently, however, the LNP appears to have embarked on a deliberate program of self-immolation that can, if allowed to continue, only end in tears.

And in opposition.

There had already been a minister sacked before he was even sworn in; a scandal around LNP figure and Newman government departmental Director-General Michael Caltabiano; and some early rumblings from the Clive Palmer direction that, at that stage, were quickly papered over.

But now…billionaire mining magnate and major LNP donor, Clive Palmer — sometime candidate for LNP preselection, and no stranger to controversy this year — launched an extraordinary tirade against Treasurer Tim Nicholls, accusing him of “cooking the books” and misrepresenting Queensland’s net debt at $65 billion (Palmer claims it is $11 billion).

Unbelievably, Palmer filed a complaint in conjunction with the wife of a LNP MP with the LNP organisational wing to have Nicholls stripped of his job.

Palmer has also opined, of the LNP government, that “never have such a bunch of crooks held office in Queensland.”

Palmer’s LNP membership has been suspended in the wake of his outburst, pending further consideration — normally a euphemism for expulsion — and in retaliation, he’s threatening to sue.

Clearly aggrieved and believing he had been denied due process, Palmer likened the LNP’s actions to Nazi tactics.

For good measure, Palmer also asserted publicly that deputy Premier Jeff Seeney was “a thug and a bully.”

Housing minister Bruce Flegg’s son — who works for a lobbying firm in Queensland — has been stood down from his job over unauthorised liaison with his father’s office on business matters.

Flegg, meanwhile, has sacked a longtime Liberal Party adviser, Graeme Hallett, who in turn called a press conference to accuse Flegg of being unfit for office, and to demand Flegg either resign or be sacked.

Liberal identity and powerbroker — and one-time Queensland government minister and  Senator — Santo Santoro has been referred to Police by the LNP organisation over alleged internal party matters.

And despite the bickering, petty fiefdoms and tinpot brawls, from a general perspective the LNP’s organisational wing is largely estranged from its parliamentary wing.

These are just some of the goings-on being served up in Queensland in the full glare of public scrutiny by the LNP itself.

And they potentially reopen the door to a discredited state Labor Party that, by rights, should be studying its navel for decades.

It’s not a difficult ask, if the present political environment persists until the next state election in Queensland is due: recycle those defeated MPs who either had their promising careers chopped off (Cameron Dick, Andrew Fraser etc) and/or those relatively untainted by the death throes of the Beattie/Bligh years — and hold them up as an experienced team-in-waiting, ready to return to Parliament.

The political quality of the Labor leader would pose a problem; still, as Newman showed, it’s not implausible for an outside figure (like Dick) to fight an election as leader from the outside.

And speaking of Campbell Newman, his chances of facing Kate Jones in Ashgrove have to be nearing 100% the longer all of this internal fighting continues.

I’m not going to comment on the rights or wrongs of the various battles being played out in and around the LNP at present; the merits or otherwise of the positions of the various combatants is for others to judge.

But as one of the thousands of Liberal Party members in Queensland who unswervingly gave a lot of time over many years to doomed election campaigns during that state division’s darkest years before I moved south in 1998, it is frustrating — to say the least — to sit in Melbourne and watch what my northern brethren seem determined to piss away their opportunity in government over.

And right now — standing on the outside, looking in — Newman’s government has the distinct look of a one-term government about it.

Were all this nonsense to continue unchecked, I see four possible courses for the LNP:

1. The party brings its disputes and vendettas and grievances behind closed doors, closes ranks publicly, and gets on with the job of governing;

2. Things continue as they are, with the likely end result the LNP splinters into Liberals and Nationals, but with the business of government largely relegated to the backburner whilst the current internecine warfare increases in intensity and the present Premier, in all likelihood, quits;

3. The LNP nominally remains in place, but a sizeable number of disaffected members and MP deserts it, either throwing their lot in with the likes of Bob Katter’s mad crowd, or setting up a similar protest party of their own;

4. Campbell Newman and those of his MPs who are ex-Liberals (believed, depending on who you talk to, to be between 46 and 49 of the LNP’s 78 MPs) exit the LNP, re-establish the Queensland Division of the Liberal Party in Parliament and govern in their own right — for now, at least — in the face of an official Opposition composed chiefly of National Party MPs and in a climate of absolute and unbridled hatred.

Clearly, anything less than the first of these four scenarios risks inflicting colossal damage on the conservative political forces in Queensland, to the point the Labor Party becomes a real chance to win the next state election, presently due in March 2015.

Yet as things stand, it is difficult to see the LNP getting its act together.

Having gone through the process of a merger, the LNP has, for some years, been at pains to prove the naysayers (like me) wrong; discipline has been rock-solid, indiscretions pounced on, and the veneer of unity maintained in order to realise the ultimate objective: the winning of a state election in Queensland.

With that event now out of the way, there is every indication that the Liberal-National rift some (like me) foresaw prior to the merger was always latently present and has now been rent asunder: it seems to be no coincidence that the combatants in the various battles and fracas being played out in the LNP are facing off, broadly, across Liberal-National lines.

This isn’t like it was in the 1970s, when Joh Bjelke-Petersen slaughtered Labor in 1974, with the ensuing decade of warfare between the Nationals and the Liberals giving little lift to the ALP’s political prospects.

For one thing, Joh had the ever-present spectre of Whitlam and his government to point to; for another, Labor at the time was too badly damaged by its 1974 experience to pose any serious electoral threat.

Since then, of course, the Hawke-Keating government, with its modernising reforms and its modernisation of Labor, has come and gone.

Since then, too, the Labor Party — having heeded most of the lessons of its internal splits and of the disastrous experiment that Whitlam’s government was — is a far more professional and relevant outfit today than it was 30 or 40 years ago.

And at the state level, Labor has now held office for periods of at least a decade in every Australian state since the Queensland Coalition government split in 1983 — in some cases, such as in SA and Victoria, it has done so twice — and with the possible exception of Victoria, it is in Queensland that the ALP has enjoyed the most success of any state since that time.

My point is that whilst Labor governments still can’t manage money (and are generally wreckers of economies), when it comes to the hard and actual politics of it, Labor today is no easybeat.

So as I said, this isn’t like the aftermath of the 1974 election, when it was safe for conservatives to fight publicly with each other over the spoils of government.

To do so now would be to facilitate the early return of a discredited state Labor machine, under what increasingly appears to be an ineffectual and ineffective alternative Premier in Palaszczuk, well before the electoral cycle and the weight of public opinion might otherwise conspire to do.

Readers may recall that prior to the March election, I hinted at a potential election strategy which, if employed by the ALP, might have seen Bligh scrape across the line: and now the election is in the past, I’ll share my thoughts.

The strategy called for a campaign based almost exclusively on simmering tension between Liberals and Nationals in the LNP; firstly, to abandon Kate Jones in Ashgrove (Jones could have been promised anything for her participation in the strategy), withdrawing every conceivable resource from the Ashgrove Labor campaign, even to the extent of running dummy independent candidates in that electorate to direct preferences to Newman. It was, in this scenario, in the very best interests of the wider Labor cause to maroon Newman in Parliament as leader of the opposition.

That done, Bligh and Labor should have fought on one issue and one issue only: the capacity of the LNP, riven with irreconcilable internal factional differences, to effectively govern Queensland. The unwillingness of bush Nationals, who had kneecapped the conservative cause for years in their determination to retain the upper hand over the Liberals, to be led by a moderate city Liberal. The history of infighting between the traditional Coalition partners. Bruce Flegg’s effective termination of the Coalition campaign on day one in 2006 over his answer to a question about who would be Premier if the Coalition won. And so on.

The end objective would have been to engineer a Labor victory, however narrow, on the back of the one great gift historic Liberal-National relations offered the ALP, and to strand Newman as Opposition Leader in the process to face the recriminations: a come-down and humiliation indeed from the lofty heights of the Brisbane Lord Mayoralty.

As readers might expect — and despite my genuine outrage at the time — I couldn’t believe it when Bligh went down the “Newman’s a crook” path without a scrap of evidence to back the contention. Aside from proving what a complete shitbag she really is, she threw away a winnable election.

I relate these details now partly because it is too late for the strategy to damage the conservative cause (and if it’s used in 2015, the current crop of combatants can only blame themselves) but also partly because, based on its current behaviour, the LNP is showing that such a scare campaign would have been no ruse.

And should the LNP persist along its present course, it runs a great risk of jeopardising the electoral prospects of the Coalition federally next year: as Peter Brent (of Mumble fame) pointed out in his column in The Australian today, every five-point improvement in the federal voting numbers for Labor in Queensland equates to a one-point improvement in its overall federal numbers.

The Labor federal vote in Queensland has already increased by well over five percentage points in the last couple of months: and to put it into perspective, yesterday’s 51-49 lead to the Coalition in Newspoll would be 53-47 if the state LNP weren’t letting the ALP back into the game federally in Queensland.

As Bob Hawke once said: “if you can’t govern yourselves, you can’t govern the country.” The irony that the disunity to which those remarks referred, in 1987, emanated from Queensland is distinct.

The ALP will, of course, return to government in Queensland one day. But it shouldn’t be in 2015, and it most certainly shouldn’t occur on the receiving end of a gold-plated gift like this.

67-33 To LNP: Queensland Galaxy Poll Another Portent Of Labor’s Looming Extermination

Just when things couldn’t get much worse for the Labor Party, a new Galaxy poll in Queensland has that state’s LNP government leading the ALP by a 67-33 margin after preferences. This isn’t just any state poll. This is a sign of the putrefaction that will soon kill federal Labor.

Two months after scoring the most emphatic election win in Australian political history, the LNP government of new Premier Campbell Newman is gaining support; a Galaxy poll published today in the Courier-Mail shows a swing of nearly 4% to the conservatives since the election in March.

Whilst it is customary for governments to race ahead in the early opinion polls following an election win, this is a little different in that Newman’s election results represented the highest levels of support ever achieved.

It makes me think that whilst there is obviously a very deep reservoir of good will — and hope — invested in Newman and his team, their increasing support numbers are being fuelled by something else. It doesn’t take much to guess what that might be.

Primary support for the LNP in Queensland is now running at 54% (up 4.3% since the March election); support for the ALP has dwindled to a meagre 23% (-3.7%); Greens are up 2.5% to 10%; Bob Katter’s crowd has fallen 4.5% to 7%; and “Others” are on 6%.

After preferences are allocated, this represents a whopping 34-point lead on the two-party measure with the LNP ahead, 67% (+3.9%) to 33% (-3.9%). It is the only time — in more than 25 years of following this stuff — that I have ever seen a party whose lead on the two-party support index is bigger than the actual support figure registered by its opponent.

And in a world now far, far away from the one sullied by Anna Bligh and her Labor machine’s filthy campaign and despicably dishonest slurs against Newman, he leads his opponent — new Labor leader Annastacia Palaszczuk — by 72% to 15% on the “better Premier” measure.

Newman’s figures are as good — if not better — than those recorded by former Labor Premier Wayne Goss in his heyday in the early 1990s.

In terms of individual support, Newman is favoured by 64% of voters, with just 19% disapproving; Palaszczuk has carded a reasonable result in her first outing, with 38% of respondents approving of her early performance, 18% disapproving, and 46% undecided.

Again, now the air has cleared over the cesspool of a campaign conducted by the Queensland ALP, Newman’s figures on this score too have recovered as voters finally mark him solely on his own merits, and as presented.

Palaszczuk’s score is one she should take mild encouragement from, but no more; the undecided column is always bloated when a new leader is polled, but the 46% figure she records on this measure is probably also in part the result of Queensland voters being very wary of Labor Party offerings on any level at present.

Indeed, just as her approval rating may grow, these undecideds can just as easily flow the other way; and Palaszczuk could find herself with a negative net approval rating — and a colossal problem of her own — in the space of a few months.

It’s a salient point, because I don’t actually think this poll has terribly much to do with Queensland politics at all. Obviously those north of the Tweed River remain satisfied with their choice of nine weeks ago, and the figures are all pretty much exactly where I would expect them to be at this early stage of the three-year cycle in the Sunshine State.

All of the figures, that is, except the two-party measure and — to a lesser degree — the primary vote figures.

A 67% two-party support level (even remembering this is just a poll, not an actual election result) is unheard of; even the biggest election win on this measure prior to Campbell Newman’s triumph — coincidentally also in Queensland, under Joh Bjelke-Petersen in 1974 — saw a 63-37 split that Newman’s LNP fractionally bettered.

The ALP has done what any heavily beaten party that is new to opposition could be expected to do, which is next to nothing; and whilst Newman has been a ball of energy, his headline achievements — axing a literary competition and pruning the public service, balanced by the abolition of some government hospitality perks and a mothballing of the state’s private jet — hardly warrant such a large swing so soon on the back of such a thumping victory.

I think that what this poll is picking up is an early whiff of the public mindset now being directed at federal Labor in light of the events of the past week or so in Canberra.

Sure, Queensland was bad for the federal ALP in 2010, and has long promised to be a catastrophe for it at the next election; the ALP has been consistently on track to record a result of about 38% in Queensland federally, and a 33% figure — if translated to a federal election — would see it lose every seat it holds in Queensland.

It wouldn’t just lose those seats, either; the most marginal of them after such an election, if the swing were uniform, would be Kevin Rudd’s current seat of Griffith, which would go to the LNP on a new margin of about 5%. Seats like Treasurer Wayne Swan’s electorate of Lilley would be safely held by the LNP on margins above 10%.

Obviously, no federal election is going to be won by Abbott’s Coalition on a 67-33 margin. But extrapolating the additional swing to the LNP in this state-based poll to a federal result would see a movement of about 4% to the Coalition after preferences from its medium-term polling averages, which in turn translates to a 61-39 result for Abbott.

On those numbers — a 10.9% swing to the Liberals on the 2010 result — Labor would win just 31 seats, with its vote so weak that Green Adan Bandt and Independent Andrew Wilkie would likely be re-elected in Melbourne and Denison respectively. The Liberals and Nationals would win the remaining 117 seats, and an overall majority of 84.

It would be a bloodbath that would make the trouncing Gough Whitlam experienced in 1975 look like a fairly solid result.

We will see what the coming weeks and months bring; after all, there is still some way to go until the next scheduled election, and of course — proverbially speaking — literally anything can happen in the meantime.

But that 4% swing to the state LNP in Galaxy’s findings bothers me…it’s not as if Newman’s government isn’t doing a good job, or what it was elected to do, because it is; rather, I just think that inflation of support is being coloured by events elsewhere, and the obvious place to point the finger is at an emerging new trend away from the Gillard government and the various woes and disasters it represents.

If that trend is confirmed, then Labor isn’t just headed for defeat, but toward near-extermination; and Queenslanders will have been the first to show the way.

What do you think?

Quirk Wins City Hall In Brisbane; ALP Survives South Brisbane By-Election

After yet another trip to the polls today for the good burghers of Brisbane, the Council result went — as expected — to Graham Quirk and the LNP in a landslide; in the by-election to replace Anna Bligh in South Brisbane, the ALP appears to have eked out a surprise narrow win.

In a stunning result, interim Lord Mayor and successor to Campbell Newman Graham Quirk has registered a thumping election win, re-elected with more than 68% of the two-party vote and crushing his Labor rival, first-time candidate Ray Smith, in the process.

In the 26 wards that comprise the Brisbane City Council, the LNP is certain to increase its tally from 15 to at least 18 ( and possibly 19, if Kim Fleisser’s 290-vote lead in Northgate is erased when pre-poll votes are counted); the ALP falls from 10 wards to 7 at most; and the LNP-turned-independent councillor for Tennyson Ward, Nicole Johnston, appears to have been re-elected.

In what would seem evidence that the Beattie name is no longer a guaranteed vote winner, Heather Beattie — wife of former Premier Peter Beattie — has been trounced, going down by a margin of nearly 60/40 against her LNP rival in Central Ward.

That result should probably also serve as a warning to Peter Beattie should he ever seriously consider contesting a federal electorate in Queensland; whether or not such a warning is heeded, only time will tell.

Cr Quirk has achieved the biggest conservative victory in the history of the City of Greater Brisbane; the two-party vote he has recorded is better than both that of Campbell Newman and of Sallyanne Atkinson at her peak; likewise, a haul of 18 (and perhaps 19) of 26 wards is better than any result achieved by a conservative Mayor of Brisbane, and eclipses the 17-9 result notched up by Atkinson in 1988.

Indeed, it is safe to say that electoral support for the conservative parties in Brisbane is at an all-time record peak; the LNP’s result in Brisbane at last month’s state election was stronger than the then-Coalition’s result in 1974, and today’s win by “Team Quirk” rounds that out even further: just as the Bjelke-Petersen government was sweeping all before it in the 1970s, Council in Brisbane remained a solid ALP bastion.

The one thing missing for the LNP — and it will come — is the additional 4-6 House of Representatives seats it is likely to win at the next federal election; this will reduce the Queensland ALP to a rump, and likely leave a couple of ALP members standing at most.

In today’s other electoral event — the South Brisbane by-election — it seems Labor has managed to hold this seat; despite a further swing of some 3-4% against it since last month’s state election, new Labor candidate Jackie Trad looks likely to succeed Anna Bligh in this electorate by the narrowest of margins, taking state Labor to 7 seats in the 89-seat state Parliament.

I am unsurprised by the result on the Brisbane City Council, although the extent of the LNP win is a little greater than I expected; I am surprised that Labor seems to have secured South Brisbane against the odds, although I would point to the not-insubstantial further swing to the LNP as firm evidence that Trad is very, very lucky to be headed off to George Street.

So what do these results mean to the respective parties, looking ahead?

For the LNP, today’s result — coupled with its state election win — represents both a great opportunity and a great threat.

The opportunity exists for the LNP to now govern Brisbane on an unfettered basis; there is no local Labor administration present to thwart and frustrate it, and the party will have no problem in implementing its policies in their entirety.

This means that everything the LNP wishes to do, it can; and with Council and the State Government working hand-in-hand, the LNP now has the opportunity to remake and modernise Brisbane in line with their own vision for the region.

The opportunity will have been grasped if the conservatives use their new-found strength in south-east Queensland to govern effectively, efficiently and competently; the deep reservoir of goodwill that the LNP has created affords it a once in a generation chance to make a real difference to its constituents, and to change the Greater Brisbane region for better, and for good.

The threat lies in the form of a fate which befalls so many democratically-elected governments: hubris, or worse, incompetence.

Given the size of the Liberals’ grasp on Brisbane across the tiers of government, they must never lose sight of the fact that the day they squabble amongst themselves, or drop the ball, or fail to deliver real and positive outcomes, will be the day their support begins to leach back to Labor, and will signal that their days in office are numbered.

Governments must never take their constituents for granted; this is true at all times, but perhaps especially so when the ascension to office has been as resounding and as emphatic as it has been for the LNP in the past few weeks.

And it should be remembered that within three to six years for the Newman government, and certainly after another four years of a Liberal council (making 8 in total, or 12 counting Newman’s initial co-habitation with Labor), voters will hold these administrations squarely to account for anything they believe has been neglected, improperly or dishonestly done, or ignored.

And for Labor?

Clearly, there is a massive task afoot for the ALP, not just in Brisbane but across Queensland; if — as seems likely — the Gillard government is defeated next year, sustaining further losses in Queensland in the process, then that task will grow exponentially larger.

I noted earlier tonight that in conceding, Ray Smith did not rule out recontesting the mayoralty in 2016; Smith is a decent fellow, but on this occasion — flying in the face of surging LNP support, saddled with the odium of the recent state election result, and hamstrung by a poor central campaign and by his own mistakes, Smith’s campaign was over almost before it began.

Perhaps if there is a “next time” for Smith, he may at least be able to create his own opportunities, and to shape his own campaign.

This is an important point. Following the state election debacle, I privately suggested to an associate who is heavily involved with the Queensland ALP that perhaps the first order of business, in any rebuild of that party, should be the dismissal of the party’s state secretary, Anthony Chisholm.

I reiterate that view tonight. Losing an election is one thing; to have presided over the state campaign he did this year — one of the dirtiest, nastiest, most dishonest campaigns in Australian history — the buck must stop somewhere, and Chisholm’s door would seem the appropriate place.

Labor’s state campaign wasn’t even the right campaign to run from a tactical or strategic perspective, putting aside its sheer repugnance for a minute; it seems clear that the occupant of the position of state ALP secretary would be responsible for this and, as such, Chisholm should resign or be sacked.

The Brisbane City Council campaign he has presided over has done little or nothing to mitigate those points.

But Labor’s problems (and this is an increasingly old story) run deeper, and are more universal, than the problems of its Queensland branch; Labor must rethink its overall approach to retail politics, from its party structures to its methods of candidate selection to its policy priorities — and, quite literally, to everything in between.

Yet those are details I wish to take no part in; whilst I’m happy to opine impartially, my own preferences offer me no inclination to give any detailed ideas on how the Labor Party might fix its act up…

…and so here we are, at the end of yet another truly remarkable day in politics in Queensland.

The Red And The Blue wishes Graham Quirk — an old friend, a gentleman and a great bloke, and a highly respected figure in Liberal circles — heartiest congratulations on his triumph today, and wishes he and his team the best of success in now executing their duties on behalf of the people of Brisbane.

And oddly enough, this column also wishes the Queensland division of the Labor Party luck: whilst it is tempting to be churlish and say “they’ll need it,” I have to emphasise that a functional opposition to any democratically elected government is crucial.

It’s not necessarily a matter of how many members the ALP has left, but rather a question of what those remaining representatives of the Labor Party do with the opportunity to move forward they have nonetheless been entrusted with.

And thus — in closing — it can only be hoped that Queensland Labor gets its act together to some extent at least, and preferably sooner rather than later.