Nominations close today for what will be an interesting pair of by-elections to be held on 20 August in Queensland: the Brisbane suburban seats of Chatsworth and Redcliffe, left vacant by the departures of (respectively) former deputy premier Terry Mackenroth and former speaker Ray Hollis – details here.

There has been a mild air of crisis around the Beattie government recently, so this will be a test of whether the electorate is really starting to tire of it. Chatsworth is a safe Labor seat (11.4%), so for the Liberals to get close there would have to be some serious movement. Redcliffe on 7.1% is a more marginal proposition, and is swinging territory (on last year’s federal figures it would be a Liberal seat), so the Liberals have to be considered a real chance. William Bowe, the poll bludger, has a good analysis of both seats.

On the published opinion polls, however, Peter Beattie doesn’t have much to worry about. The latest Newspoll for Queensland, released last week, shows Labor still with a primary vote of 47%, and leading in two-party-preferred vote by 56% to 44% – both unchanged since last year’s election. Beattie also leads as preferred premier, 63% to 17%. For a government halfway through its third term, those are amazingly strong numbers.

Newspoll also shows the Queensland Liberal Party well ahead of the official opposition, the National Party, 23% to 14%. The Nationals have bowed to the inevitable in not contesting Chatsworth or Redcliffe, but the real test of opposition sanity will come elsewhere. Peter Beattie put his finger on it recently when he suggested the “true indication the Nationals were ‘fair dinkum’ about building a coalition was if they allowed only Liberal candidates to run in a string of seats on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.” Advice from an unwelcome quarter, no doubt, but good advice all the same.

Peter Fray

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