Peter Beattie is still keeping
Queenslanders on tenterhooks about an early election, but Brisbane political
circles are awash with rumours that he will visit the Governor tomorrow and
call a poll for 9 September. Last week saw the decks cleared, with the Speaker,
Ministers and backbench MPs announcing their retirement, and preselections for
their replacements rushed through.

Yesterday it was reported that Bundaberg MP
Nita Cunningham, who has been seriously ill with cancer, has decided her health
is such that she needs to resign from Parliament. Beattie is couching the
decision before him as either a by-election which he would lose or a general
election. Bundaberg was the scene of surgeon Jayant Patel’s alleged crimes, and
the proximate cause of the scandals in
the public hospital system which have marred Beattie’s third term. Labor has
already lost two Brisbane seats and a Gold Coast seat in by-elections in 2005
and 2006.

The Opposition claims that it would
welcome an election. A poll published in Saturday’s Courier-Mail shows the Opposition slightly ahead of Labor. But
little detail of the poll has been published, and Labor has the substantial
buffer of holding 59 of the 89 seats in Parliament, or 60 if disendorsed Noosa
MP Cate Molloy is regarded as an ALP incumbent. Labor figures believe the
party’s vote is holding up well outside Brisbane, though it’s expected some
reverses will occur in the capital itself.

Beattie has the two elements in place which
he regards as key to a winning campaign. The water crisis is being portrayed as
one which he needs a mandate to fix, and Beattie believes he has neutralised
the health issue. His favourite theme of opposition disunity can be built on
the basis of the recent failed conservative amalgamation, and on the back of
new Liberal leader Dr Bruce Flegg, who has had well publicised differences with
Nationals leader Lawrence Springborg.

Both Flegg and Springborg have been
claiming in the weekend papers that they may be the next premier, and in an interview yesterday with the Sunday Mail, the Borg
offered little by way of vision beyond Joh-era dreams of cranes on the horizon
and development at all costs. It’s also significant that
going early avoids the necessity to stop the blitz of Government advertising,
which legislation insists cannot continue within six months of the last possible
election date in May.

Although it’s still possible that Beattie
may choose to wait, it does appear that all the political planets are moving
into alignment for a September election.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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