While other states have recently switched to daylight saving, the National Party in Queensland appears to be turning the clock forward to election campaign time.

The Courier-Mail is reporting that the Nats are running TV ads in the new Queensland seat of Flynn – based around Gladstone. The ads target Kim Beazley for not intervening in a Labor preselection mess in the seat.

Not that the Nats have actually preselected a candidate themselves.

As usual there’s method in what seems to be Nationals madness. Barnaby’s noises on the Workplace Relations changes, and his stated desire to campaign in the Victorian state election are related to this early move in advance of next year’s elections.

The Nats took careful note of the fact that Queensland Labor almost took a couple of seats off them, and off Gladstone Independent Liz Cunningham, by running hard on WorkChoices. WorkChoices doesn’t go over well in regional seats with among the lowest wages in the country. Throw in the drought, and Telstra, and interest rates rises, and you’ve got a recipe for potential electoral disaster.

It would be no surprise if the Victorian Nats were getting a similar message from their polling.

Labor plans to counter with Queensland-specific advertising highlighting the issues on which the Nats are vulnerable. The Nats are trying to get in first. Expect them to also try some product differentiation from the Libs. The real potential exists for Barnaby to be running as far away from the Libs as possible in the 2007 campaign to try to save a few Nationals hides.

With Howard reported to be desperate to change the minds of sitting members contemplating retiring – particularly Warren Entsch in regional Leichhardt – it would seem that the battle for the regional seats will be an intriguing front in the permanent campaign leading into next year.

The first trumpet has already sounded.