In the 2001 state election, Peter Beattie
seized the opportunity to install hand-picked candidates in several seats made
vacant by the casualties of factionally inspired electoral enrolment rorts
exposed by the Shepherdson Inquiry. Beattie’s ascendancy over his party is less
than at its peak, but he’s still played a role in ensuring pre-selections for
the ten seats of retiring MPs are “horses for courses”. In particular, Beattie
pitched both to the women’s vote and the
party’s internal left through insisting that a good proportion of female
candidates was selected. These candidates include two daughters of ALP
politicians, Vicky Darling in
Sandgate and Annastacia Palaszczuk in Inala. Darling’s
mother was a one time Federal member for Lilley, and Palaszczuk’s father Henry
is a Minister and the retiring MP for Inala. But both have strong local
connections and can’t be stereotyped as “white bread” machine reared pollies.

Sandgate and Inala are both safe ALP seats,
Inala almost alarmingly so. Of more importance to the outcome of the election
are the candidates in two key seats, both won by Labor at the last poll in
2004.

When Beattie’s heavy hitting Treasurer and Deputy Premier Terry Mackenroth retired last year,
the ALP lost the seat of Chatsworth in Brisbane’s inner south-east. Mackenroth,
well connected with business, did Beattie no favours with the timing of his
retirement. Leaving Parliament just as Beattie’s health woes were at their
height, Chatsworth, a seat Mackenroth had held for many years with a strong
personal vote despite changing demographics, fell to (then) Liberal Party
President and Brisbane Councillor Michael Caltabiano.

Caltabiano is a seasoned
machine operator, and if the Coalition doesn’t get up, he is likely to benefit from a
knife in the back of new Liberal leader Bruce Flegg. But Caltabiano isn’t
unbeatable, with his vote weaker outside the parts of the electorate he
represented in Council.

Against him, Team Beattie is running Channel Nine sports
anchor Chris Bombolas. The perception of Bombolas as a political cleanskin and
a popular local TV personality couldn’t be more opposed to that of Catalbiano
the ultimate political insider. Labor may not need to regain Chatsworth to hold
government, but doing so would counter expected losses in other Brisbane seats
(Labor currently holds all but two seats within the Brisbane City Council
boundaries). And Bombolas’s candidacy will force the Liberals to divert scarce
resources away from Labor marginals.

Meanwhile, in Bundaberg, epicentre of the
Jayant Patel health scandals, Labor is running Sonja Cleary, a nursing lecturer
at CQU. What better candidate to diffuse a scandal which also turned on the
treatment of nurse whistleblowers than a prominent nurse? Meanwhile, the
Liberals in Brisbane have had their candidate selection hampered by the
perennial quality issues faced by a long term opposition, compounded by the
factional infighting endemic to the Queensland Libs. Beattie made a few smart
moves on the chess board of candidates and seats even before the election was
announced.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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