Yesterday the Queensland campaign passed its halfway mark – 13 out of 26 days over and done with. And the impact of the second week of the campaign can be discerned from the weekend polls.
I suggested last week that the most likely result, had an election been held on the previous weekend, would have been a small loss of seats by Labor. The commentariat have now caught up with the fact that Team Beattie’s vote is holding up close to 2004 levels half way through the campaign.
In the Galaxy poll, the Nats have gained three points to reach 18%, but the Libs have slumped by four points to 22%. The ALP, meanwhile, is sitting on a 47% primary. Labor has gained 5% since the election was called.
The key to interpreting the poll is the regionalised nature of the campaign. The Libs are coming off a very low base in terms of both seats and margins. While some gains on the Sunshine Coast appear likely, the Libs will struggle to win a single Labor marginal seat in Brisbane, and will most likely lose Santoro factional warlord Michael Catalbiano’s seat of Chatsworth. With the exception of Surfers Paradise, none of the seats the Libs currently hold can be described as safe seats. Such has been Beattie’s electoral dominance since 2001 that four of the Lib’s seven seats are held by margins less than 3.2%. A poll conducted for the Gold Coast Bulletin late last week now shows Robina (8.8%) and Currumbin (3.2%) in danger of falling to Labor.
Robina is the old seat of dumped Liberal leader Bob Quinn. William Bowe’s analysis at his blog The Poll Bludger demonstrates that Bruce Flegg has assumed a higher profile in this campaign than Quinn had in 2004. The problem is that it’s been an appallingly negative and gaffe-prone profile. It’s no wonder that Lawrence Springborg, standing beside his Liberal colleague, failed explicitly to endorse his leadership. The Borg’s circumlocutions would have done Sir Joh proud.
The problem the Nats have is that the Libs are uncompetitive where the seats need to be won. And they can’t afford a single misstep, let alone a fortnight of them, because their margins are so perilous. The irony of this campaign might be that the Libs will again do so poorly that it will be very difficult for the Coalition to be in a winning position in 2009. Odds are that neither Flegg nor Springborg will be leading their parties for long after the election. The motto of this campaign is that the poor souls who step up to the plate should be allowed to lead through until the next election. Voters are very unforgiving of last minute leadership switches. Bruce Flegg, it is clear, is no Bob Hawke.