After a scrappy week’s campaigning which featured Beattie’s indecision as to whether there was indeed a health crisis, while Springborg took time off after his father-in-law’s sudden death, Peter Beattie has been clutching at straws to paint himself as the underdog.

Beattie commented to journos that he wasn’t as good a premier as Wayne Goss, suggesting that Labor was still vulnerable to a 1995 style protest vote.

Denis Atkins recently argued in the Courier-Mail that the only protest vote around is the protest of the people of Queensland against the ineffectual Opposition. The weekend polls suggest Atkins is on the money. In two party preferred terms, Newspoll has Labor on 58% while the Sunday Mail’s TNS poll suggests the ALP is at 55%. A Galaxy poll in Saturday’s Courier-Mail of four key Labor marginals, Aspley, Broadwater, Clayfield and Hervey Bay, has a collective 2PP vote for Team Beattie across these for seats of 56%. Party strategists suggest these polls are about right, reflecting closely research on marginals by both parties.

Beattie claims that he can feel the protest vote coming. His political antennae are either sharper than every other Queenslander’s, or he’s making it up as he goes along. 1995 and 1998 were exceptions to the regular Queensland pattern, rather than the rule. The state’s electoral history shows that more often than not, voters deliver very healthy margins indeed to the winning party. The real interest now is in whether Beattie can increase his already swollen majority next weekend.

While the Coalition trundled out John Howard and Mark Vaile as its heavy hitters at its campaign launch yesterday, this is unlikely to set voters on fire. The comparison of Flegg with Howard works only in Beattie’s favour. The Liberals’ likely last shot in the locker to turn around the Beattie landslide that’s rolling towards election day is a controversial ad with a woman claiming that Beattie is responsible for her brother’s death, because of hospital waiting periods. But the focus on this emotive and desperate ad will also highlight the fact that health is not really the biggest issue in this campaign. The big issue is the quality of the Coalition parties.

Peter Fray

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