The unfolding Queensland printing scandal, awkwardly but inescapably dubbed “Printgate”, seems to be tailor-made for Kevin Rudd. Not only is it drawing attention away from his troubles with Brian Burke, but it’s also doing so in the state that’s almost always nominated as critical for his election winning chances later this year.

Labor currently holds just six of Queensland’s 29 federal seats, so there’s a lot of ground there to make up. But claims that any particular state is vital should always be taken with a grain of salt.

On most measures, New South Wales has at least as much potential for Labor as Queensland. Of the 15 seats that would give Labor victory on a uniform swing, four are in NSW but only two in Queensland. On the improbable 9.8% swing indicated by this week’s Newspoll, Labor would pick up ten seats in Queensland but 12 in NSW.

Yet even NSW is not essential; if Labor is doing well elsewhere, it’s quite possible to see it putting together a majority with minimal gains in NSW. Which is just as well, since this month’s state election doesn’t look like good news for Rudd.

The state ALP is the unbackable favourite – currently about 6-1 on. Some of Rudd’s supporters had been hoping for a Coalition win in NSW to take the sting out of the state’s anti-Labor sentiment, but they look like being disappointed. A comment on Poll Bludger last week put it well:

For the first time in my life I want the Libs to win something and they have proved themselves utterly incapable of delivering. It’s like when a team you hate is playing your team’s rival for a spot in the finals. You find yourself barracking for your worst enemies, only to find them utterly inept as well as evil.

However, I don’t think federal Labor should be too worried about this. A Iemma victory has been the likely outcome for a long time, and will already have been factored into Rudd’s expectations. The size of that victory seems largely irrelevant for federal purposes, unless you think that a good feeling towards incumbents translates from state level to federal.

But far more people think in party terms than in incumbent/challenger terms. If Iemma is going to win anyway, then a big win is better news for Rudd than a narrow one.

And a Liberal implosion in Queensland would be better news still.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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