August 20, 2006

Queensland Wrestlemania

A slightly edited version of this article appeared in today's Sunday Mail.

Before this election campaign started Queensland voters were interested in changing government. But that was before the Liberals changed leaders and State Governor Quentin Bryce rang the opening bell. Now I’m not sure that is still the case.

On Team Beattie’s side of the mat, things started predictably. Peter “Sorry State” Beattie has been doing all the work – creating the crises which he then promises to solve with a headlock here (water grids all-over the state) and an atomic drop there ($1 B to fix his hospital crisis). No small moves in his repertoire.

Voters are awake to the way this works, which is why he has Anna “White Lady” Bligh standing by. She’ll see less on-field action than a cheerleader with the Brisbane Broncos (recently Beattie didn’t even trust her to run a cabinet meeting while he was away). But she resonates well with women 20 to 40 – a key demographic that Beattie has to keep on side.

There’s only one thing that voters trust Beattie to do - say he’s sorry - but they can’t help liking him nevertheless.

In the other corner Liberal Leader Bob Quinn was neither liked nor respected - a “zombie…dead man walking”. That’s why his tag-team dumped him just before this gig and replaced him with Bruce “Mr Deeds” Flegg. Whether opposing Flegg’s fresh naivety to Beattie’s polished spin will lead to Flegg “coming to town” only the voters will decide.

It certainly has caused some problems with the “Country Cousin” - Laurence Springborg - a man who voters are coming to accept. Indeed, more Liberals preferred him as leader than they did Quinn. Springborg wants to be leader whatever the numbers, but that’s not how democracy works. Denying this made the Coalition the issue, stirring doubts about their fitness.

The winner of this election will be the side that can portray themselves as the “least worst” alternative. The Coalition has to prove to voters that Beattie is so bad, that there is no risk in trying someone else. They have to walk around the ring and really get the crowd whipped up. Beattie’s got to keep asking for forgiveness.

It will also be the side that campaigns best in the marginal seats. For many of the voters who have switched-off Beattie, the best result would be a Liberal premier and their local Labor member. That’s a problem for the Coalition, because local members decide premiers not voters.

Health and water are the two stand-out issues, but with differences. Health is a state-wide problem, while water is confined to specific areas like the south-east. Labor is seen as more likely to manage water better than the Coalition.

The other strategic consideration is the large number of independents in the state. There are 6 (or 7, depending how you count Cate Molloy in Noosa). If Beattie loses 16 or more seats then one or more of those Independents will become the king-maker. This gives Beattie another argument against the Coalition - give me a majority and you know what you’ll get. Vote for them and who knows what happens - will those Independents let them build a dam anywhere?

It’s too early to tap the mat yet, but the weight of money would have to be on Team Beattie.

Posted by Graham at August 20, 2006 09:21 PM
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