I’ve said before that I don’t put too much stock in the quarterly state Newspolls, because they’re taken at such a lengthy interval it’s hard to get a sense of when any movement shown has actually occurred, and it’s more difficult to pick a poll which may be an outlier for various sampling reasons. However, the big shift to Labor in both Queensland and Victoria at state level in the latest lot of polling probably is significant. It’s also shot a huge hole in The Australian‘s narrative of a voter desire to “balance” federal Labor by turning away from state ALP governments, which I’ve been suggesting for a long time was just nonsense anyway. In Crikey, Richard Farmer has already had some fun looking at the reactions (or contortions) from various News Limited journos.

So, what’s going on in Queensland? Anna Bligh’s own numbers were down while Labor’s vote surged, to a point above where it was at the last election (which was won very handily indeed). It’s possible that Bligh herself is suffering a little because she doesn’t fit the mould of the “strong leader” which has always stuck to Queensland Premiers, and which Peter Beattie re-invented. Conversely, there may be a bit of a flight to safety effect in the party vote with the economy slowing. However, here we come across one of the conundrums that haunt the analysis of polling. Queensland Labor types have been suggesting that private polling (which I haven’t seen) has Labor’s vote still on the up but not at such quite stellar heights and Anna Bligh’s numbers better than in Newspoll. I suspect they’re telling the truth, but with these things, as I’ve also said before, the interpretation of the public polls shifts political discourse and in particular the strategy and morale of the opposition.

Opposition leader Lawrence Springborg is presumably on holidays, because former Liberal leader and current LNP deputy Mark McArdle has been trundled out to make the LNP’s excuses:

Acting Opposition Leader Mark McArdle has described 2008 as a tough year.

“We have come from a Coalition into an LNP — that took some time and effort,” he said.

And therein lies the rub. It wasn’t as if the constituent parts of the LNP were policy powerhouses before the amalgamation. Now they’ve got over the hurdle of their new party (which looks very much like the Nats with the Santoro faction tacked on), very little has been heard from them in a positive sense — two more or less unfunded policy announcements which fell apart on close inspection almost immediately. Supposedly Lawrence Springborg is trying to appear statesmanlike to counter his previous image as a nitpicker. But the LNP is looking more like a rather empty personality vehicle (few shadow ministers have any sort of public profile) at a time when the political stars are aligning closer to where Labor would like them to shine.

Oh and the early election talk? My mail is that Anna is playing with The Borg’s mind.

Peter Fray

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