A couple of days of tough headlines for Peter Beattie in The Courier-Mail has sparked the inevitable question: is Queensland’s dominant newspaper out to get the Premier?

Journalists love the smell of blood in the water, so it’s a fair question which probably has an element of truth to it. But if you look back at the paper’s coverage of earlier crises and then ask, has he got it coming, the answer is probably “no.”

The Courier
was just as hard on “power point Pete” after the blackouts following a particularly bad summer storm season in 2004-05, when fear of a campaigning Courier first ran through government ranks.

No government wants a headline like this morning’s, ‘Beattie’s just marking time after losing trust‘ in the print edition. Putting “:poll” after the statement would have satisfied the pedants and would have made it look less like a verdict reached by the paper, but it wouldn’t have changed the ugly set of numbers pollster TNS came up with.

On Tuesday it was ‘Beattie fights revolt,’ and again, the paper is dead right – there are rumblings of discontent in caucus.

Beattie is facing the potentially career ending problem that faces any old magician who has tromped the boards once too often with the same tired trick – people see through his media stunts and glib lines. He faces the added problem of having a party full of enemies. Beattie has been around the ALP since the late ’70’s, and at some point, especially during his turbulent years as State Secretary, has dudded just about everyone. To the extent that he has been loved by Labor, it has only been because he has been a winner.

Can he turn it around? Crikey readers with a sense of history will remember that the argument for keeping Beattie out of Wayne Goss’s Cabinet in the 90’s was that he was a policy flak, all show, with no capacity for attention to detail or good administration.

Now is Beattie’s last chance to prove them wrong. Fail to sort out the health problems and he is yesterday’s hero.

Peter Fray

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