The first battle for a government in an election war is
to claim the underdog status. When you have been in office for years there are
always basic supporters who are nevertheless unhappy with an aspect or two of
your performance. Look too much like a sure-fire winner and these are the people
who think they can afford a protest vote that teaches a lesson without costing
victory. Electoral history is studded with such protests. The example of Jeff
Kennett is emblazoned on the memory of all political leaders and especially that
of state premiers.

Which is why Peter Beattie will be thankful for the
timing of The Courier-Mail which chose last Friday to publish an opinion poll
showing that his Labor Party was trailing the National-Liberal Coalition parties
49 to 51. For the Premier, it was the perfect scene setter for announcing an
election date. Claiming to be an underdog when the polls show you well in front
just doesn’t work. Headlines predicting a bare majority of one give the claim

Circumstances even allowed Premier Beattie to pretend
that the election date was not even of his own choosing. Queenslanders are going
to the polls, he would have voters believe, to avoid the inconvenience of a
by-election caused by the forced retirement of a seriously ill Labor member. “My
view was that had we gone through the by-election first that would not have been
in the state’s interest,” he said this morning. “From the Government’s point of
view of course, having a state election in September couldn’t come at a worse
time but what’s important is we think of Queensland and put
Queensland first, which is exactly what we are doing. I would much have
preferred to have gone through to February for a general election.”

What a public spirited fellow!