You can all but hear the popular political wisdom echoing from the
front bars of Queensland: “This young Springborg, he’s a likely sort of
a lad. Reckon he might be all right when he grows up.

“And that bloody Beattie is starting to wear a bit thin, but he’s
alright I suppose. Most of his ministers are not worth feeding though.”

And the bar props would have it just about right, for political
analysis and the likely election outcome: Labor with a reduced
majority, but not by much.

Beattie is that most fortunate of politicians, one who is good at what
he does and lucky to boot; lucky to have inadequate opponents and a
barely adequate local media.

Springborg and the Coalition bring to mind Bob Hawke in his last days
as Prime Minster after John Hewson had realised the “Fightback”
policies. Hawke was struck dumb, seemingly mesmerised by the scope of
what Hewson was proposing and unable to lay his hands on a stick to hit
it with.

His impotence in the face of the challenge did him in politically. Paul
Keating then set about living up to his promise to do Hewson slowly.

Fearless and never lost for words, Keating seemed to have a whole broom
closet full of shillelaghs and by the 1993 election, Fightback was a
liability and the ‘unlosable election’ was won for the true believers.

The Queensland coalition desperately needs a Keating. There are no
shortage of points on which to attack Beattie. You could start by
focusing on just about his entire cabinet which, Anna Bligh and Terry
Mackenroth excepted, could mount a sincere challenge to be regarded as
the greatest collections of dills, bullies and underachievers ever to
grace the political stage.

Their unique talents have taken the team out of ‘Team Beattie’ and seen
them well and truly hidden away for the duration of this tedious
campaign.

Then there is Beattie’s poor record on accountability, the child
welfare scandal after 12 years of Labor rule in the past 14, and the
fact that for a lot of progressive voters this is yet another do
nothing Labor government.

Young Springborg is having a go, and overall has made a good impact
with voters without landing a decent blow on Labor’s exposed and soft
underbelly. He lacks Keating fire in the belly and his story-teller’s
ability to find the words to spin a telling political narrative.

As for the Liberals, they are harder to locate than Beattie’s cabinet,
and standing alongside his constant companion Springborg, their leader
Bob Quinn looks like the immediate past president of an undertakers’
society, whipping up apathy and boredom wherever he goes.

To add to Springborg’s woes, not only has he had the misfortunate to
lose one candidate, he has been careless enough to lose two, the first
over a domestic violence order, the other because of a youthful
flirtation with the Australian Nazis. Not that all Queensland Nats are
wife-beating fascists, hell no. Only some of them, it seems.

Beattie’s greatest concern seems to be shoring up his base and trying
to limit the Green’s primary vote. A lot of Labor’s campaign ads have a
green tinge, and the promise to stop land-clearing in the next three
years is a direct pitch for the environment vote. Not to mention an
admission that he has done nothing about a scandalous situation in the
last 6 years.

Still, that’s good enough for The Wilderness Society though, which is
all but urging a vote for Labor ahead of the Greens. This predictable
bunch of Labor lackey’s is going to look unbelievably stupid when
Beattie starts looking for weasely ways out of what is nothing more
than a politician’s promise at this stage.

Labor politicians have been pulling this one over TWS since Wayne Goss
faced his first election as premier in 1992. (Memo to anyone wanting to
sell the Brooklyn Bridge: come to Queensland and promise to paint it
green, there’s an environment group that would love to talk with you.)

The only good thing about this campaign is its brevity. Still and all,
the next bit of front bar political wisdom you are likely to hear is:
“can this be over soon. Like, now would be good.”

Peter Fray

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