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Qld

Jan 16, 2012

Poll Bludger: double whammy for major parties in Qld

Under normal circumstances, the only point at issue in the upcoming Queensland election would be the precise scale of the impending conservative landslide.

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At first blush, the looming Queensland state election appears to lend itself to a straightforward diagnosis. Labor will go into the campaign encumbered by an ever-expanding list of unfulfilled commitments and policy failures, a formidable “it’s time” factor born of 20 years in government out of the past 22, the disastrous unpopularity of the government’s federal counterpart, and an LNP leader who strongly out-rates the Premier in opinion polls.

Under normal circumstances, the only point at issue would be the precise scale of the impending conservative landslide. Not for the first time though, Queensland is showing itself to be an exceptional circumstance, with the poll looming as the most complex and fascinating contest to confront the Australian election watcher since the state last confounded the nation with the Pauline Hanson earthquake of 1998.

Crikey’s seat-by-seat review of the state’s 89 electorates offers at least some sort of guide through the minefield, with the entry page laying out the seats by order of the margins recorded at Anna Bligh’s historic win in 2009 — still the only parliamentary majority ever secured by a woman leader in an Australian federal or state election, albeit that Peter Beattie would have us believe it could just as easily have been the first ever election won by a dog.

The conventional means of plotting the likely outcome of an election, as pioneered by Australia’s psephological godfather Malcolm Mackerras, is to observe the trend of the more reliable opinion pollsters and count the number of seats the insurgent party would net in the event of a uniform swing, under the more-or-less safe assumption that the inevitable variations will cancel each other out.

On this basis, Labor enters the election with a considerable advantage: it would take a uniform swing of 3.2% and an overall two-party preferred result of 52.3%-47.7% in the LNP’s favour to cost Labor seven seats and their majority, the seat of Whitsunday marking the tipping point on the pendulum. If the election of four independents in 2009 were repeated, the swing required for an LNP absolute majority would be 4.2% and the two-party preferred result 53.3%-46.7%.

However, there are several reasons to question the value of such an exercise on this occasion.

It is often noted that the campaign period seems to be unusually important in shaping the outcome of elections in Queensland, such that opinion polls a few months before the event are a more than usually unreliable guide. This seems to be due not so much to peculiarities of Queenslanders’ psychology (though no doubt there are a few of those) as to the tendency of campaigns to show up the fractious state of conservative politics in Queensland.

Whereas pre-election opinion polls give respondents a painless opportunity to vent anger over the government’s failures, elections in the decade before the LNP merger forced voters to confront the unresolved questions of Liberal-Nationals rivalry: which of the two leaders should be considered the alternative premier, and how could the respective parties’ urban and rural orientations be reconciled to voters on the other side of the divide?

Such difficulties were concealed by the Nationals’ dominance in the 1980s, but the abolition of Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s infamous system of rural vote weighting after Labor came to power in 1989, together with the population explosion in Queensland’s urban south-east, made the party’s seniority within the Coalition more and more anomalous as time went by.

When the Beattie government came to power in 1998, the conservatives thus found themselves on the horns of a dilemma: so long as the Liberals were the junior partner the Coalition stood little chance of winning the south-east Queensland seats on which modern elections have hinged, and those seats were the very ones the Liberals had to win if seniority was to be attained.

It took three devastating election defeats in a row, in 2001, 2004 and 2006, to force the two parties to look past their vested interests and cultural differences and accept the logic of a merger as their only shot at becoming competitive at state level.

So it was that the conservatives were finally able to present a united front at the 2009 election as the LNP — superficially at least, since the merger terms continued to reflect the Nationals’ greater parliamentary strength at the time it was negotiated. This meant the unmistakeably rural Lawrence Springborg was sent out to battle against a polished and highly marketable Brisbane-based opponent in Anna Bligh, a fatal weakness given the strongly presidential style of modern state election campaigns.

Even so, the merger proved its worth by bringing home a swag of seven new south-east Queensland seats, which has helped give the LNP the urban complexion it has so badly needed. However, this has not been without a cost, the submerging of the Nationals having provoked yet another rebellion against major party politics in rural and regional Queensland — this time in the shape of Katter’s Australian Party.

Even before the election, Bob Katter’s new outfit has peeled two seats off the 34 the LNP won in 2009, with the defection of Dalrymple MP Shane Knuth and Beaudesert MP Aidan McLindon. A third member, Rob Messenger in Burnett, also quit mid-term to sit as an independent.

Knuth is considered a near certainty to retain Dalrymple, and Katter’s son Robbie and former Test cricketer Carl Rackemann look strong prospects in Mount Isa and Nanango, respectively held by Labor and a retiring independent. There have also been suggestions that further LNP members might yet follow in the footsteps of Knuth or McLindon, either before or after the election, with Howard Hobbs in Warrego looking an especially likely candidate for disaffection with the Campbell Newman-led LNP.

Katter’s party presents the LNP with a further difficulty owing to the operation of optional preferential voting and the increasing tendency of voters to exercise the “just vote one” option, the rate of which among rural independent voters in 2009 was put at 54% in a ballot paper survey conducted by the Electoral Commission of Queensland.

This suggests that for every 10% the LNP loses to Katter candidates, it will suffer a penalty of at least 5% in terms of the contest against Labor — which could greatly complicate the task of winning regional marginals such as Cook (with a Labor margin of 2.2%), Barron River (2.3%), Whitsunday (3.2%), Townsville (4.0%), Cairns (4.7%), Mundingburra (6.6%), Keppel (7.6%), Mulgrave (8.1%) and Thuringowa (8.5%).

The double whammy of a big complement of independent and Katter’s Australian Party members and a tougher job of winning regional seats from Labor could thus require the LNP to look at urban seats much further up the pendulum if they are to gain a majority and govern in their own right.

Opinion polls continue to suggest that a sufficient swing is more than likely, but there remains another wild card in the deck — the appalling risk the LNP has taken in pitting its prospective leader against Kate Jones in Ashgrove, which the popular incumbent holds with a margin of 7.1%, and the possibility that the wheels might fall off yet another conservative Queensland election campaign if indications emerge that he might fall short. There will be a lot more to say about that when the campaign unfolds.

William Bowe — Editor of The Poll Bludger

William Bowe

Editor of The Poll Bludger

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, is one of the most heavily trafficked forums for online discussion of Australian politics, and joined the Crikey stable in 2008.

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84 thoughts on “Poll Bludger: double whammy for major parties in Qld

  1. Karen

    @ SB – The whistleblower has alleged widespread rorting by Thompson amongst others of the union executive. Thompson, in denying the allegations at this stage, puts identity in issue. Who knows how far and how wide this investigation may run, given the scope of the allegations to date.

    The Fair Work Australia investigation, I suspect, will involve a number of audits and investigations into audit processes and witnesses not only within the relevant union but venues where the Thompson card has alleged to have been used, to start with. Statements will need to be taken and other documentary evidence and material will be obtained in the process.

    The police may re-involve themselves again depending on the outcome, which will be a separate investigation, followed by the involvement of relevant prosecution agencies (depending on the seriousness of the charges) who receive a brief of evidence and whose task it is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to lay charges – DPP prosecutors need to be satisfied there is a prima facie case and whether there a reasonable prospects of conviction before a prosecution is commenced. Charges may also change at the recommendation of the prosecutor,either at the stage of laying charges, or sometimes at the committal or even pre-trial stages. All of these involve the preparation of legal advice by lawyers and determinations by the DPP and or his deputies in accordance with established legal principles.

    Frauds, as with fraud investigations and prosecutions, in particular, can be sophisticated and notoriously complex and time-consuming matters.

    And now that this has become a recent media issue where allegations have been made about Thompson and other players, you can expect to wait even longer for an outcome, as these matters become the subject of further scrutiny and possible investigation. So, no, I have to disagree with you that an investigation and hearing such as this can be wrapped up in a blink of an eye, such as the three month time-frame you have suggested. Your response is highly uneducated, if I can put it politely.

    And, by the way, what would you know about the public service, let alone the work of statutory authority and police investigation and prosecution work to talk about “public service responses” in that derisory way, given you have previously admitted you have never worked in the public service. Your ignorance is breath-taking.

  2. Edward James

    @SCHNAPPI Tue 17 January 2012 at 8:53 am. I perceive the Member for Dobell Craig Thomson as a special Labor Party political target. Voters do not need to waste their time on the possibility of criminal charges being laid based on allegations against MP Craig Thomson. Do not let spin doctors confuse the political issues by banging on about possible criminality. It is not relevant. He is tainted politically by his continued silence and the fact that his Labor Party. Top to bottom has closed ranks around him, to protect the party not Craig Thomson. I learnt long ago trying to take a political issue into a law court is a waste of the peoples money and time !
    OLDFOOTYHEAD Tue 17 January 2012 at 9:23 am. I did not make myself clear, sorry you misunderstood. When I wrote; Labor MP Craig Thomson still enjoys the overt support of Australia’s first liar Prime Minister Guilard. I meant she is our Prime Minister (first person) and a liar. I am not that interested in what we know that John Howard did when Prime Minister because I believe moving forward the Liberal National Coalition are the best tools to sweep dead wood Labor Party Members from our Parliaments Federal and State. I also recall Bob Hawke told us no child would live in poverty. Here and now Australians need to get rid of as many Labor Party politicians as possible in the next few years. They have been no good in government and their is really no point in having them enjoy expensive taxpayer funded RnR on the opposition benches. It is time to P(iss) them off!
    SON OF FORO Tue 17 January 2012 at 12:25 pm You have demonstrated there is a difference when you wrote your question! I know there is a difference because you needed three words to ask the question and make a distinction. I like so many others accuse our Prime Minister of lying, just as I have often accused my local council of misleading the State Coroner during his inquiry into the deaths of five people at Piles Creek Somersby. See ads
    http://bit.ly/EJ_PNewsAds Link to political attack ads, corruption I identify as accommodated by our elected representatives at all three levels of government. Politics is a team activity the problem Australians are having is. To many so called team players bring their parties into disrepute and their fellow party members and supporters accommodate the shit governance. Edward James

  3. geomac

    SB or truthie or is it geewhiz now
    Would you care to name any of these investigations ? For someone who relates how at many BBQs and soccer or rugby games you attend I wonder where you get the time. Then there is the ever present posts to Crikey being usually the first to post but adding to the first with numerous rejoinders. Lets not forget your numerous inside information details from various parts of the country where you inform us of the total opposition to anything labor does by that local population.
    For such a cosmopolitan populace you seem to find an enclave where every one agrees with your position even the family dog . You constantly spout ill judged and misinformed innuendo as facts yet we are to believe you would be in a job requiring facts and figures that can be presented as evidence of malfeasance ? That is just too much of a stretch for the average punter .

    EDWARD JAMES
    I,m not suggesting anything of the sort . What I intended to convey was that people like Reith and Coulson were found guilty but were hit with a feather. I,m appalled that Reith seems to have surfaced in Australia again after his plum penalty job in the UK with little or no revulsion for his past indiscretions . To have blatantly lied to the Australian public about children overboard was bad enough but to wrongly accuse people of doing that to their children for political gain was beyond mere dirty politics . The telephone PIN was proven and yet he gets a plum job . Thompson has been investigated and nothing happened then it was reinstigated by NSW and Brandis of the lying rodent comment. A person is innocent unless proven otherwise in court and as Karen pointed out that involves more than accusations . The people I mentioned were all found to have done the wrong thing except two who had a chap named Cole to assist their evasion of negligence . I say negligence but some such as SB would say high treason by providing monies to the enemy.

  4. Karen

    @SB – we have to agree to disagree. Most frauds that I have been involved in have taken months and, in some instances, years to investigate and prosecute. The more highly organised the fraud, the more complex, the more lengthy – QED.

    And, as I have said in the above post, depending on what is uncovered with respect to the union, there may or may not be a variety of different charges laid against Thompson. Remember, the whistleblower has referred to systemic fraud within the union over a long period of time, involving a number of people who may or may not have been acting in concert. A veritable can of worms. So, yeah, three years may not necessarily be out of the ball-park. The point is, neither you (unless you have direct knowledge of this investigation which is not yet in the public domain) nor I actually know of the reasons for the protracted nature of the investigation. You are merely speculating…

    And, as for that old chestnut, ALP “waste”, I don’t call anything that the government has expended its money on as waste, if it has meant steering the country out of recession and keeping people in jobs. Ship it in, I say.

    – re-built schools along the length and breadth of the country with a miniscule 3% waste (or thereabouts) as reported in the audit. The only fook up was in the NSW public school system who chose to run the scheme centrally from the Ed Dept
    -put money in the hands of ordinary people that went straight back out into the economy (unlike tax cuts would have done)
    – pink bats that kept that industry afloat and didn’t see the fire rates go up according to the CSIRO (as analysed by Scott Steele, an econometrician (ie Possum Comitatus who blogs on this site) – the only fault with the scheme was that Rudd prematurely and hastily shut it down in response to a media campaign primarily run by the Murdoch press, causing dislocation in the industry, which was genuinely regrettable
    – the NBN that has fuelled the telco industry, delivered jobs and, importantly, will deliver super-fast broad-band across the length and breadth of the country (not just in cities, as the Libs would do) that will revolutionise tele-communications and how business is done along the length and breadth of the country in ways we cannot even imagine – think medical treatment in regional centres
    – green car scheme, which was sadly ‘nixed’ when the flood levies were raised but which could still be a boon to supporting car manufacturing of a different type in this country

    These are to name a few initiatives that have all played their role in steering us out of recession and yet you would be too miserable to give the Govt credit for it. And yes, Swan got his gong as world’s best treasurer for his efforts here, and boy, do you keep choking on that plum, every time you talk about his alleged incompetence …

  5. Karen

    Oh dear..moderation – I will remove the word in the first dot point that might be causing the problem – see how that works…

    @SB – we have to agree to disagree. Most frauds that I have been involved in have taken months and, in some instances, years to investigate and prosecute. The more highly organised the fraud, the more complex, the more lengthy – QED.

    And, as I have said in the above post, depending on what is uncovered with respect to the union, there may or may not be a variety of different charges laid against Thompson. Remember, the whistleblower has referred to systemic fraud within the union over a long period of time, involving a number of people who may or may not have been acting in concert. A veritable can of worms. So, yeah, three years may not necessarily be out of the ball-park. The point is, neither you (unless you have direct knowledge of this investigation which is not yet in the public domain) nor I actually know of the reasons for the protracted nature of the investigation. You are merely speculating…

    And, as for that old chestnut, ALP “waste”, I don’t call anything that the government has expended its money on as waste, if it has meant steering the country out of recession and keeping people in jobs. Ship it in, I say.

    – re-built schools along the length and breadth of the country with a miniscule 3% waste (or thereabouts) as reported in the audit. The only problem was in the NSW public school system where the Ed Dept executed the scheme centrally
    -put money in the hands of ordinary people that went straight back out into the economy (unlike tax cuts would have done)
    – pink bats that kept that industry afloat and didn’t see the fire rates go up according to the CSIRO (as analysed by Scott Steele, an econometrician (ie Possum Comitatus who blogs on this site) – the only fault with the scheme was that Rudd prematurely and hastily shut it down in response to a media campaign primarily run by the Murdoch press, causing dislocation in the industry, which was genuinely regrettable
    – the NBN that has fuelled the telco industry, delivered jobs and, importantly, will deliver super-fast broad-band across the length and breadth of the country (not just in cities, as the Libs would do) that will revolutionise tele-communications and how business is done along the length and breadth of the country in ways we cannot even imagine – think medical treatment in regional centres
    – green car scheme, which was sadly ‘nixed’ when the flood levies were raised but which could still be a boon to supporting car manufacturing of a different type in this country

    These are to name a few initiatives that have all played their role in steering us out of recession and yet you would be too miserable to give the Govt credit for it. And yes, Swan got his gong as world’s best treasurer for his efforts here, and boy, do you keep choking on that plum, every time you talk about his alleged incompetence …

  6. Edward James

    @ Son of Foro. I think Only Gillard knows what Gillard was thinking, she may tell us. But she has a deserved credibility problem. Which to me means she can’t be trusted. As a person with one vote. Which I have learnt needs to be exercised, by numbering boxes below the line, putting dead wood politicians last (ensuring they are cast right of our Parliaments and into the street) to grow as strong as it can be. I am learning how politics is all about our perceptions. The way our elected political allsorts most of them but not all members and supporters of the two parties not much preferred have treated me and many others, creates within me the perception they are contemptuous of their constituents, those same constituents they go too each election to ask us to give them our votes in trust so they may exercise their influence on our behalf.. Gillard is for the time being our Prime Minister what I call (the first Australian) she is tagged by many including me as a liar. She is still supported by the Labor Party and in her turn she supports the way Craig Thomson conducts himself on behalf of Dobell constituents on the Central Coast in NSW. People are able to perceive whether their politician or political party for that matter has lied or not and exercise their vote accordingly. That is why the ballot process is called the peoples court of public opinion and is distinct from the law court which is often said to be another place. The rules of evidence for a law court do not apply in the court of public opinion and that is a good thing. Voting taxpayers and rate payers have free will to exercise their votes as they see fit. Including directing their own preferences. When I personally identify politicians liars, I am on the public record doing exactly that in my local paper the Peninsula News I am not being childish I am deadly serious. Identifying a politician a liar is certainly not childish. I do not do it lightly, and I don’t hide in the cowards castle to do it either. As my readers elsewhere know full well. I do it to make it quite clear the named politician has flaws in his or her personal values, which in my opinion should preclude them representing anyone. High ranking politicians use millions of our taxes to employ expensive spin doctors. I am not happy to know my taxes are used to employ people simply to combat the efforts of people like me, to dismiss me and anything which I might publish. The bought and paid for media are only too happy to oblige by running almost any media release as truth. They will run with lies and distortions which do damage even though they may be withdrawn after the damage is done. Politics is a team activity Son of Foro which makes me point out to readers here and elsewhere if there is a team member bringing the team or more importantly our Parliamentary process into disrepute. Why is it that all so often those so called team players all the way through the political spectrum to the top, and down to what is left of the grass roots political support base insist on blindly accommodating so many politicians political sins against the peoples. I publish allegations with evidence (photos) my local council misled the NSW State coroner. And there is not a peep out of anyone? Everyone becomes insistently deaf dumb and blind, keep in mind the way our politicians conduct our political business depends an awful lot on what we the peoples are comfortable letting them get away with!

    Edward James http://bit.ly/EJ_PNewsAdshttp://bit.ly/EJ_PNewsAds

  7. Edward James

    OLDFOOTYHEAD
    Posted Tuesday, 17 January 2012 at 5:31 pm | Permalink
    Edward James – You wrote “I never misunderstood it was exactly how you wrote it”. Yep you are right it is what I wrote. I am moving forward but in doing that I acknowledged your point about John Howard. Australians have a history of Party Leaders mishandling the truth. Why would you think I am naive for doing what I can to encourage a change away from the corrupted two parties not much preferred democratic system, which is hardly serving the peoples well? I believe the LNP are the best “tools” to get rid of an entrenched Labor Party which has infiltrated into management of governance way beyond any proper governance, to bring about effective change. I have also made it clear we the peoples need to be willing to vote for change and then change again until we fill our Parliaments with politicians who put their constituents above the party. Politicians who are approachable without paying thousands of dollars to sit at a dinner table with them. All those political allsorts who walked around me during the three years I was protesting outside the NSW State Parliament. Protesting the corrupt conduct of my local council trying to stand over my father, over four hundred days and many nights. They are the ones with blinkers Oldfootyhead. They are the ones along with their party supporters who turn a blind eye to often published allegations over thirty full page ads exposing documented systemic abuse of due process and wrongful deaths. Collectively these politicians will continue to disrespect the dead and the living until people like you start asking questions about why journalist would be willing to be part of a cover up. Edward James See ads
    http://bit.ly/EJ_PNewsAds inform yourself

  8. Edward James

    @ OSCAR JONES
    Posted Tuesday, 17 January 2012 at 11:24 p.m..
    What do you want Oscar? I used my own money and time years ago to expose, Prime Minister John Howard as a person willing to reach over the bodies of five people who died in a ditch at the bottom of Piles Creek Somersby. Howard tried to buy voter support for the Liberal Member for Robertson Jim Lloyd. I identified this action by the Liberal Prime Minister which he caused to be trumpeted on the front page of the failed Central Coast Sun Weekly. As the most offensive act of pork barreling I have ever witnessed! That despicable action by John Howard remains top of the list for me till this day. As I was sick of asking for his help and being ignored I wanted Jim Lloyd who was the Federal Minister for Local Governments gone. People who were in the church hall will recall. As the last question of the night at a public forum held in the Uniting Church Donnison street at Gosford. Leading up to the federal election I asked Jim Lloyd ” What is it about your personal values. Which allows you to leave people in the Gosford Local government area at the mercy of a corrupt Gosford City Council? (I paused just long enough for MP Lloyd to start his answer then continued) Bearing in mind that five of our number died in a ditch at the bottom of Piles Creek Somersby.? Those who were paying attention know what happened. Lloyd lost his seat by less than four hundred votes to Belinda Neal who with John Della Bosca, failed to hold up under the political pressure, resulting from a big night out at Iguana Joe’s and other indiscretions by JDB. In their turn they were pushed out of public political life, but remain inside the Labor Party. I did whatever I could to get the result I needed. For my readers who have had a look through the ads at this link
    http://bit.ly/EJ_PNewsAds I won’t need to explain. But for you, I will push my barrow and mention what suits me. But keep in mind there is something in my barrow for everyone Oscar! I have no problem with you and others mentioning John Howard or anyone else. But it is sad you would mistake what I am doing now as blindly supporting the Liberal National Coalition. I am simply picking up and using the best political tools for the job I am trying to do! You mentioned shredding machines, thank you for that as it reminds me Kevin Rudd who was the Chief of Staff to Premier Wayne Goss has still not answered questions which rise from the unfinished business of the Heiner Affair and Shreddergate. You may not be aware but the Labor government in Queensland paid $140.000 last year to the young girl, now a woman who was allegedly raped while under the care and protection of the Queensland State Government at the John Oxley Centre. Ms MacIntosh is on the public record wanting her day in court. I hope she gets all the support from community which she needs to get the whole stinking cover up before the court for all to see.. Edward James

  9. Suzanne Blake

    Move Wivenhoe Dam proof

    AN email exchange between two of Queensland’s most senior water officials seems to confirm that the wrong strategy was being used to manage Wivenhoe Dam, just one day before massive releases of water that flooded Brisbane.

    The emails were found yesterday in a large document not put on public display by the royal commission-style inquiry into the dam’s management, and are understood to have gone unnoticed until now.

    They add to a new dossier of material that the inquiry has begun to examine with rigour. They also present a political headache for Anna Bligh as the Premier prepares to call the state election because the Queensland government could be liable for a massive damages bill if the dam operators are found to have breached Wivenhoe’s manual and acted negligently.

    The email exchange starts at 8.13am on Monday, January 10, minutes after Dan Spiller, the director of operations for Queensland’s water grid, learns that higher releases from Wivenhoe Dam are being implemented.

    Mr Spiller asks Rob Drury, the dam operations manager for SEQWater, which operates Wivenhoe Dam, which strategy is being utilised.

    Mr Spiller writes: “Rob, are you now operating under release strategy W2 or W3?”

    Mr Drury replies 10 minutes later: “W2.” The unequivocal answer from the executive in overall charge of Wivenhoe Dam, who was in direct and regular contact with the flood engineers making releases of water, suggests a serious breach of the dam’s operating manual.

    His answer supports the findings of an investigation by The Australian that flood engineers were operating the wrong strategy when making releases over the weekend of January 8-9. This resulted in the dam banking too much water and officials being forced to make massive releases quickly, which unnecessarily flooded Brisbane.

    SEQWater told the floods inquiry that the correct operating strategy, W3, under which the primary consideration is to protect urban areas from inundation, was implemented at 8am on Saturday, January 8.

    SEQWater said yesterday The Australian’s reports suggesting a breach of the manual were “inaccurate and unfounded”.

    “The implied allegation that SEQWater (and its engineers) gave misleading evidence to the inquiry is baseless and is utterly rejected,” a spokesman said.

    He said the issue and the documents referred to by The Australian had been investigated by the commission, and its interim report “found that SEQWater did invoke strategy W3 at 8am on Saturday, 8 January, 2011, in accordance with the manual”.

    “From this time, the primary consideration was the protection of urban areas from inundation,” the spokesman said.

    Evidence presented by SEQWater to the flood inquiry revealed the dam operators did not release water above the W1 limit of 1900 cubic metres a second until the morning of Monday, January 10. Under W1, the primary consideration is to minimise disruption to downstream rural life.

    A technical report issued by dam operators at 8am on January 10 does not specifically state what strategy was engaged at that time. However, it states: “Given the rapid increase in inflow volumes, it was necessary to start to increase the release from Wivenhoe during Monday morning.

    “The objective for dam operations will be to minimise the impact of urban flooding in areas downstream of the dam and, at this stage, releases will be kept below 3500m3/s and the combined flows in the lower Brisbane will be limited to 4000m3/s if possible.”

    Under the dam’s operating manual, January 10 was two days too late to invoke the W2 or W3 strategy because the lake level in Wivenhoe had gone above the trigger point of 68.5m by 8am on Saturday, January 8.

    The $15 million-plus inquiry headed by Supreme Court judge Catherine Holmes had previously accepted the sworn testimony of the lead flood engineer, Robert Ayre, that he invoked a crucial operating strategy, W3, for Wivenhoe Dam at 8am on Saturday, January 8 last year.

    But The Australian has established that Mr Ayre’s claims are directly contradicted by a raft of official internal documents, including numerous references in contemporaneous flood log entries, technical situation reports and a preliminary finding of the dam’s operator, SEQWater.

    There is no known piece of contemporaneous evidence to support the claims, which surfaced in the weeks after the flood, by Mr Ayre and SEQWater that the correct strategy, W3, began when they said it began.

    A finding by the inquiry that SEQWater’s flood engineers were operating in the wrong strategy, W1, throughout the weekend would have serious ramifications as it would mean they breached the dam’s operating manual and acted negligently. Such a finding would make the Queensland government potentially liable for a massive damages bill. The evidence collated by The Australian also raises the possibility that the inquiry has been misled.

    An inquiry spokesman said yesterday: “The commission is looking into the matter and . . . will comment further on the steps it intends to take in the coming days.”

    A senior lawyer for flooded residents, Darryl Rangiah SC, who has cross-examined the flood engineers during public hearings, yesterday urged the commission “to have the flood event log forensically examined to see whether there was any reference to when W3 was invoked that was subsequently deleted”.

    Mr Rangiah wrote: “One real possibility is that the flood operation engineers made their decisions about release rates without firm consideration of the strategy they were operating under. They may then have gone back after the flood event and asserted that W3 was engaged at 8am on Saturday, January 8, 2011. That view would be consistent with the lack of any contemporaneous record of the engagement of that strategy.”

    Liberal National Party leader Campbell Newman said the revelations “raise very interesting and, I believe, significant questions”.

    “Those matters need to be dealt with in the final report,” he said.

    Ms Bligh backed the flood engineers but called on anyone with information to take it to the inquiry. “It’s not acceptable that it wasn’t recorded appropriately, but from everything that the commission of inquiry had considered . . . the conclusion is that it was operating with the right strategy,” she said.

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