August 21, 2006

The Liberal implosion

After the first week of the campaign, Peter Beattie’s biggest problem is keeping his grin to manageable proportions while he claims underdog status. Liberal leader Bruce Flegg is trying to turn around his bad fortune by insisting that the media stop talking about the “process” . Flegg insists he’s not a polished politician. That much is true. But Flegg’s tactics highlight and reinforce the message about his inexperience which has been disastrous for the Coalition. The Libs have made themselves the issue.

Readers outside Queensland probably can’t see the exact dimensions of the total farce which has been the Liberal campaign. After spending days denying he could be Premier, and fuelling Beattie’s “can’t govern yourself…” slogan, Flegg’s subsequent appearances on the tv news highlighted his denial that he was kicked out of a shopping centre (despite vision showing he was). Then Mt Ommaney candidate Bob Harper tried to console him by reminding him that a lot of shoppers hate pollies thrusting their hand at them. And that was in the same news bulletin which exposed an “ordinary voter” talking to hapless Bruce as a former Liberal member.

The Liberals have cruelled the Coalition’s chances of putting any real pressure on a Premier whose familiar bag of political tricks has passed its use by date. Lawrence Springborg has run a better and more disciplined campaign than in 2004. But there are really two campaigns. The Nats will struggle to dislodge dug in Independents, and Labor is holding up its vote outside the South East corner. The Libs need to do the heavy lifting in Brisbane and on the Sunshine and Gold Coasts. But such has been the incompetence and disarray of their campaign, the only messages that are remotely cutting through are the Nats’ themes. And urban voters are unlikely to warm to the values displayed at which feature hard line moral conservatism, law and order and support for tree clearing in the bush.

The Liberal campaign is so messy that Liberal powerbrokers are already playing the blame game in the papers. The Australian reported that Flegg went into the campaign without a health policy, despite being health shadow. Blind Freddie could have predicted that health would be Beattie’s greatest area of vulnerability. But it’s being reported that Flegg hurriedly adopted National MP Rob Messenger’s proposal for a new hospital in Bundaberg (which is not needed – the problem is not facilities but doctors and nurses to staff them) and plucked a figure out of the air as a costing. Significantly, the story was leaked by Liberal sources. Flegg’s potential rival, Michael Catalbiano, was on Sunday representing the interests of the Santoro faction in a nasty preselection for Robina. Suggestions that Flegg will be a five week wonder as leader are only questionable because Catalbiano looks set to lose his own seat, and there might be few Liberals left standing to twist the knife when the dust of the election settles.

Last week, most observers were predicting Labor to win with a small majority. With the polls showing Team Beattie only 2% behind its 2004 vote, at this stage, many fewer seats than expected might be anticipated to change hands. There may be a swing back in favour of the Coalition, but if the election had been held over the weekend, I believe that Labor would have been re-elected with its majority of 16 cut only by 5. The Libs are in danger of repeating previous performances where their gains from Labor have been diminished by losing seats they hold.

Note: This post has been republished from the Crikey website and is cross-posted at Larvatus Prodeo.

Posted by Mark_Bahnisch at August 21, 2006 03:32 PM

Isabella, while I agree that Flegg is a disaster, I think there are different reasons why the Nats themselves are in the position whereby they have to rely on the Libs to do the heavy lifting for them. These reasons relate to their own weakness outside SEQ and the regional hubs around Townsville and Cairns. But I'll have some commentary on taht tomorrow.

Posted by: Mark Bahnisch at August 21, 2006 11:30 PM

It is indeed ironic that Dr Flegg and the Liberal Party have so obviously and so blatantly become the lead in the Coalition's saddlebags.

I note that Mr Young and others have taken great delight in recent years in pointing an accusing finger at the National Party as a dead-weight, a blight and an impediment to a conservative election victory. The continued moan was that a conservative victory was impossible largely because a sophisticated electorate would never vote for a coalition led by the National Party. Only a Coalition led by the Liberal Party could lead Queensland's conservatives out of the wilderness.

Well guess what?

The Liberal Party and the Liberal Party alone are responsible for destroying the Coalition's chances at the September 9 election.

There will be seats that will not be won almost certainly due to the fact that the candidate will be wearing the discredited standard of Dr Flegg's Liberal Party.

Oh the irony! The National Party on the Gold Coast was lectured and hectored by Liberal Party incompetents that they, and only they, had the capacity to recapture traditionally conservative (and traditionally National Party) seats on the Gold Coast. Only the Liberal Party, we were told with a note of triumph in their voice, could offer the voters of the Gold Coast a leader that was electable and palatable to the electorate.

What a farce. Anyone that thinks a voter in the Gold Coast (or for that matter most of Brisbane) is more likely to rate and prefer Dr Flegg as our next Premier rather than Mr Springborg is quite possibly delusional.

The National Party has run a professional and meaningful campaign that is damaged, day after day, by a Queensland Liberal Party that continually illustrates it is little more than a divided rabble not fit to govern. Springborg would be quite rightly livid with the ineptitude of the Liberal Party.

I must admit that it is now quite clearly a shame that the National Party didn't hold its nerve and run candidates in seats such as Broadwater, Burleigh and Mudgeeraba. Quality local candidates such as Ted Shepherd and Michael O'Dwyer would most probably have defeated carpetbag Liberal candidates from Brisbane whose campaigns have been compromised completely by the association with Dr Flegg.

The rapid collapse of Dr Flegg as a viable Party leader (let alone Premier) has left the Coaliton's decision to eschew any three-cornered contests as a mistake. The collapse of Dr Flegg does not leave disillusioned Liberal supporters with anywhere to go on September 9. Three corned contests in areas such as the Gold Coast, outer Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast could have allowed Liberals disgusted with the ineptitude of Dr Flegg and his team a chance to still tip out Labor by voting National Party. Yes, the National Party supported this push to stop three cornered contests. Yes, they were wrong.

But please, lets now stop the rubbish that the National Party was and is the impediment to coalition gains on the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and outer Brisbane. This nonsense which has been perpetrated by this site and the likes of William Bowe for years is nothing more than garbage churned out by people that have an axe to grind with the Queensland National Party. The blame for the failings of the Queensland colaition beats a trail straight back to Dr Flegg and the Queensland Liberal Party.

Posted by: Isabella at August 21, 2006 11:25 PM
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Graham Young
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