The Australian highlighted a Newspoll on its front page yesterday which showed Team Beattie potentially winning with a larger majority than in 2004. That’s unlikely, as the swing back to Labor is not going to be uniform, and the optional preferential voting system makes 2PP projections unreliable. But there is no doubt in my mind that Labor will take seats off the Libs (and just possibly a couple off the Nats), though its poor position on the Sunshine Coast makes Liberal deputy Mark McCardle safer than he looks on paper and may also see some Labor seats fall to the Libs.

As I’ve previously argued in Crikey, Flegg’s blonde campaign is not the Libs’ only problem. Their baseline vote going into the election is already about as low as it can go – particularly in Brisbane, where Labor won 34 of 35 seats last time around (Redcliffe and Chatsworth were lost at by-elections in 2005). So in the second of our focus groups for The National Forum, Graham Young and I polled a sample of strong Liberal voters. We were interested to see how they’d perceived the campaign and whether any were shifting to Labor.

All the participants were strongly critical of Beattie, and their policy views strongly anti-Labor. But a number had considered shifting their vote. Joseph, a 35-year-old self-employed former public servant, had the line of the night: “They provide no viable alternative to Team Beattie. I heard the comment today that Flegg has been going around the state ‘drumming up apathy’.”

Other participants were quick to agree. David, in his 60s and living on the Sunshine Coast, observed: “I support the code but the players are a worry at the moment”. While participants felt that Flegg would be a good Health Minister, they were also worried that the Libs appeared to have become a single issue party, hardly campaigning on other issues.

When push came to shove, all were going to stick with the Liberal devil they did know, though their distaste at Bob Quinn’s knifing was evident. But interestingly, the coalition agreement might be a factor inclining some Liberals towards a Labor, FF or Independent vote. There was much hostility to the Nats from our sample, and those who had no Liberal candidate to vote for (in some coastal and outer Brisbane seats) were voting Nat with a peg on their noses. Springborg was damned with faint praise, and the legacy of the Moonlight State corruption had certainly not been forgotten. Sir Joh has left a problematic legacy to Queensland conservatives, and not just through continued coalition disunity.

Peter Fray

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