The 26-day Queensland state election campaign is off and running.
This is how we have covered it in the Crikey sealed section since Peter
Beattie announced the February 7 poll.

CYNICAL BEATTIE GOES AS SHORT AND EARLY AS POSSIBLE


Sealed Section January 13

Announcing an election that’s bound to be a Labor walk-over isn’t how
they would have celebrated Sir Joh’s birthday back in the good old days.

Still, the announcement that Queenslanders will go the polls on
February 7 – a week earlier than anyone expected and made while both
Premier Peter Beattie and National Party leader Lawrence Springborg
were still on leave – lets us draw some immediate parallels between the
current government and Joh’s regime.

Both stink.  Beattie says his decision to call a snap election has
been based on the need to urgently repair the state’s system of child
protection. Yeah, yeah. And perhaps he’ll also look at how the Labor
Party destroyed material exposing that very issue. That was pure
old-style Nat behaviour.

Like the old days, we can expect the Government to be comfortably
returned, nonetheless, although Crikey generally hates third term
governments given their records on both sides over the years.

The Nats and the Queensland Libs will have to go through the agonising
process of working out what to do about preferences from One Nation and
the b*stard MPs it spawned, even before their own political weaknesses
get exposed to the pundits.

It will also be fascinating to see how Pauline Hanson’s time in the
gulag, her return and installation in the glitz and glamour Palazzo
Versace plays out (presumably she pronounces “Versace” the same way as
Elizabeth Berkley’s character in “Showgirls”).  Will Labor cop
some of the blame – or have Hanson’s antics since her release
dissipated her supporters’ anger.

The timing of the announcement is remarkable.  It is, for all
intents and purposes, the middle of the holidays.  The summer
break continues to the Australia Day long weekend – and then focus is
on back to school and the return to work.  There’s barely any time
in between now and February 7 for serious attention to be paid to
politics.

It shows how paranoid pols can be.  Peter Beattie must be safe –
but…  No one takes the National Party seriously as an alternative
government and the Queensland Libs are the Queensland Libs.

The Courier Mail ran a piece last week on how the Libs plan a
“presidential-style” campaign highlighting their leader,
wotisname.  Queenslanders are sick of Cheshire cat grin politics,
a senior Liberal claimed.

We beg to differ.  Here’s our bold prediction.  Come February
8, the Libs may have vanished – but the grin will still be there.

Meanwhile, there’s a new website on the scene with a seat by seat guide
to the Queensland election which is well worth a look: Poll Bludger

QUEENSLAND ELECTION BULLDUST

Sealed January 14

Has a first day of an election campaign ever seen such complete bullsh*t as Queenslander’s saw yesterday?

First, we had Premier Peter Beattie’s claim that he was only doing it
for the children – to urgently repair the state’s child protection
system following last week’s damning Crime and Misconduct Commission
report.

“We need a new government in place to implement the recommendations and
to make sure they happen, and that’s the reason why I’ve taken the
decision to call the election today for the 7th of February,” he said.

Bollocks.  If that’s what he wants, then all he needed to do was
recall Parliament. Labor has 66 of the 89 seats.  Legislation
could be through in half an hour.

What Beattie really wants to do is stress continuity and business as
usual while looking strong and decisive – and he did perform well on
The 7.30 Report last night. After all, it didn’t hurt him at all when
he took a real risk went to the polls back in 2001 to put an end to a
real scandal, the roll rorting and other strange practices of the
Queensland ALP and its union mates.

Second, National Party leader Lawrence Springborg looked at the Beattie
majority and said “we know that to win will be the most significant
political turnaround in the history of politics in Australia. 
It’s not impossible, but we’re going to very much be working on
achieving that”.

That’s what the transcript says, anyway.  People who were there
say it came out more like “Squeak!”.  Beattie might even improve
his position.  Relations between the coalition partners are
scarcely lovey-dovey at the moment.  The Nats are disgusted with
the Libs.

Third – and finally, for now – let’s just forget the talk that even PM
indulged in that “the Queensland poll will be a litmus test for a
Federal election later this year”.

There’s no upper house and Queensland voters don’t need to allocate preferences.  You can figure the rest out from there.


QUEENSLAND?  SO WHAT?

Is it really true that both Liberal Federal Director Brian Loughnane
and his Deputy John Burston are on leave – and that they haven’t
assembled a federal campaign team yet?  That’s what a reliable
source told us yesterday.

It says plenty about when the federal election is going to be – and
absolutely everything anybody would need to know about how these two
top strategists rate the Coalition’s chances in Queensland.

QUEENSLAND, DAY TWO…
Sealed January 15

It didn’t take long for Queensland Labor campaign director Cameron Milner to find himself in a spot of bother.

Milner is famously known around inner ALP circles for being more Moet
than Mongrel – and rumour has it that Peter Beattie has asked disgraced
former State MP and Assistant National Campaign Director Mike Kaiser
and Wayne “I see a train wreck” Swan to take over the campaign
strategy, leaving Milner out in the cold.

Beattie, it is said, does not believe Milner has been paying enough
attention, instead preferring to swan around Brisbane talking his
future political career up.  Win, lose or draw, it looks like his
time could be up – not a good sign, especially with Brisbane City
Council and federal elections fast approaching.

Yesterday’s Courier Mail carried a report on how the parties had been
caught unawares by the snap announcement of the February 7 state poll.

Queensland Liberal Party President Michael Caltabiano was quoted as
saying that his mob only had to preselect four candidates, for Inala,
Ipswich, Murrumba and Woodridge.

That was one page seven.  Turn over to page 11, and there was an
ad calling for Liberal candidates in Bulimba, Chatsworth, Greenslopes
and Lytton.

Don’t say the pressure’s got to them already?

Meanwhile, speculation surrounds the seat of Chatsworth, held by Deputy
premier Terry Mackenroth.  The Libs are still to choose a
candidate – because, some say, powers that be are more concerned about
the role the area can play in their future careers rather than on
February 7.

Meanwhile, the Queensland Greens aren’t getting their campaign off to a
good start, going by the flood of internal e-mails reaching
Crikey.  There’s w-a-y too much to run in a sealed section, but if
we say that the content is 50 per cent recrimination and 50 per cent
confusion, you get a very good idea of the problems they face.

Finally, here’s a self explanatory plug for election wonks:

“The media and politicians are already at it again – trying to spin you
into voting for them in the Queensland election.  In the past you
and others who have responded to our questionnaires have helped On Line
Opinion run very successful research projects into Australian
elections.  You helped us to uncover things that the politicians
don’t want you to know and that the mainstream media missed.

“Well, we are at it again with the Queensland state election. We want
to know what you think, not what the ‘expert’ commentators and the
politicians say you think. The questionnaire is at www.ozelections.com.
Please fill it in and we will keep you posted with what we find.”

Easy.

COURIER MAIL FALLS FOR THE BEATTIE LINE

The Courier Mail has got off to a strong start covering the Queensland
election with a dedicated section on its website which is usually
topped by the breaking news, regardless of when the paper hits the
streets.

We liked this story about the political hacker:

http://www.couriermail.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,8387733%255E31457,00.html

And it is good that journalists are pointing out to their readers and
viewers when events are stage managed like in this story:
http://www.couriermail.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,8384977%255E31457,00.html

The 7.30 Report did the same with all that vision of Lawrence Springborg jogging and working out in the gym yesterday:

There is some good detail in this Courier story on the mechanics of the campaign:

http://www.couriermail.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,8383754%255E31457,00.html

The Greens have attempted to make a first day splash with this effort
which appears to be well-founded:
http://www.couriermail.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,8384976%255E31457,00.html
 
It is surprising that the major parties have not finalised all their candidates as this story explains:

http://www.couriermail.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,8381429%255E31457,00.html

However, the editorial defending Beattie’s cynical election time was pretty soft:

http://www.thecouriermail.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,8381375%255E13360,00.html

Try these lines for size:

“PREMIER Peter Beattie says he decided on Monday night that the state
election would be held on February 7. The timing will have surprised
many. The speculation was that the election would be towards the end of
next month. But there was no special reason for waiting.

“Mr Beattie spent most of his holidays popping back into the office to
receive or deliver one piece of news or another – several concerning
the Crime and Misconduct Commission’s inquiry into child abuse, and its
aftermath, and then this week to revel in the successes of the state’s
half-yearly fiscal and economic review. The news was not going to get
any better. The fact that many people might still be on holiday, or in
a holiday mood, was no reason for delaying the announcement or the
election. It was never intended that Parliament would meet again before
the election, and his three-year term was so close to expiring it
didn’t matter. Only the cynical would complain that the election
timetable would mean there would probably be less than two weeks of
really serious campaigning once the Australia Day weekend was out of
the way.

“The Liberals appear seriously under-prepared with their new state
director only a day into his job when the poll was announced. One of
the issues that cannot be avoided is how ready the Opposition parties
are for government and their ability to govern.”

CRIKEY: Based on this first sign, Queensland’s monopoly daily will definitely be backing a third Beattie government.


WHERE ARE THE CRAZY POLITICAL PARTIES IN QUEENSLAND?

Whilst some would argue that elements of the Greens, Democrats and One
Nation are part of the “crazy” end of Australian politics, it really is
amazing that there is not a single genuinely minor, unelectable nutters
party registered in Queensland.

Check out the full list on the Queensland Electoral Commission website here.

Contrast that with the list of crazies (well, some of them at least) registered in Victoria here.

We’ve got the following down here in Victoria:

Abolish Child Support and Family Court
Australian Reform Party
Christian Democratic Party
Citizens Electoral Council
Hope Party Victoria Ethics
Shooters Party
Socialist Alliance
Phil Cleary – Independent

Well, it seem there is a very good reason. Queensland now has the
tightest electoral laws in the country in terms of registering
political parties.

Peter Beattie said in 2001 he would clean up political parties, and
after the promise delivered him a landslide, he still went ahead and
did it. The Shepherdson inquiry didn’t just become yet another inquiry
filed away for posterity.

In Queensland, the state Electoral Commissioner now oversights party
pre-selections. The rules for keeping membership registers are now much
tighter and constitutions must meet minimum standards for internal
party democracy. This only applies to state elections.

One of the by-products of making parties more accountable is that silly parties just don’t pass the first hurdle.

Queensland is the only state where you can find the constitutions of political parties on the electoral commission’s site.

It is about time a few other states and the Federal parliament followed the Queensland lead.

HOPELESSLY CONFLICTED POLITICAL ADVISERS
Sealed January 16

Yet another Queensland political commentator, Robina Clayfield, writes:

“Rumours of the ALP’s National Assistant Secretary, Iron Mike Kaiser’s
recall to run the Beattie camapign and sideline the ambitious Cameron
Milner appear to be true.
 
But now we find the man who took over Mike’s lucrative lobbying
business, former Hawker Britton staffer Ken McPherson, has gone missing
as far as his clients are concerned, bunkered down with Team Beattie
for the duration of the campaign.

Apart from the obvious professional questions about what clients are
supposed to do this month with Ken and his entire staff on the Beattie
campaign payroll, there are also other more important ethical questions.

For example, if Ken (or any other consultant for that matter) is being
paid for their services in any way, are they not hopelessly conflicted
and unable to properly discharge their duties for their clients –
especially those with sensitive issues at stake with the Government?

And what contribution do these consultants make to discussion about
policies and promises relating to clients that pay them to lobby
government? Surely this is untenable.
 
Perhaps Crikey could ask McPherson what arrangements he has with his
clients (do they even know he is working for the Labor Party?) and what
advice he is giving clients who have controversial proposals or issues
with the Government that will inevitably require a Beattie election
position?

Perhaps Team Beattie can tell us who else has been plucked from the private sector to augment his already huge spin machine.”

QUEENSLAND ELECTION SHORT TAKES

No long essays on the Queensland election today, just a few juicy short-takes as follows:

Antony Green on John Cherry and optional preferential voting

ABC election analyst Antony Green has responded to Senator Cherry’s
Queensland election number-crunching and provided his own revised
electoral pendulum for all the psephology buffs out there: How tough is the Queensland election?


Queensland first

Peter Beattie loves his home state of Queensland so much he’s even been prepared to jump into a shark tank to promote it, right?

So that means it can’t possibly be true that the Queensland ALP is
using a Sydney advertising agency on their state election campaign, can
it.  We’ve believed all that talk about “the smart state”
absolutely.

Now there’s a name for a candidate

A subscriber with far too much time on their hands has asked us if we’d
noticed that the Greens’ candidate for the Queensland seat of Kurongbah
rejoices in the name of Daniel Boon.

No jokes, please, about rednecks and coonskin hats.  That’s just not funny.

The big issues: beer wenches

From the Courier Mail yesterday:

“Asked on the Triple M morning show if he supported the Gabba ground’s
controversial ban on beer wenches, the aspiring premier hesitated and
then ducked.

‘Yeah well, people can buy beers I suppose, but look . . . I’m going to
be a fence sitter on this,’ Springborg told comperes Fat Cat (Greg
Ritchie), Marto (Greg Martin) and Tanya Bulmer.

Beer wenches are scantily clad women paid about $60 an hour to be at
the beck and call of cricket-watching men who don’t want to queue for
beer.

Mr Springborg does not drink alcohol and always carries green tea.”

Was Merri a little merry?

A subscriber writes:

“Did anyone see ex-Qld minister Merri Rose interviewed on TV last
night? I think she had been “fortified” as Gough Whitlam once said of
the late unlamented Sir John Kerr. You can get off SOD’s back, Merri’s
swansong to the media was one of the most under-the-weather
performances by a public figure I have seen. Beattie will be glad it’s
all behind him.

I take it Merri has lived up to her apt name as a regular holding up the Stranger’s Bar in Queensland Parliament.

Amused viewer”

Peter Fray

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