Queensland Liberal National Party leader Lawrence Springborg — often accused by his Labor opponents of being a policy free zone — was quick out of the blocks on Monday, making an announcement about trail bike tracks. The self-styled Borg, having intimated last year in his rebranding exercise that he’d soon have the solution to all Queensland’s problems in the key domains of health, education and transport, has retreated to a small policy, small target approach.

This stance is justified by the economic situation and a whole lot of the rhetoric the Queensland Nationals have been spouting for decades about low taxes and the evils of debt. But actually the game is being played this way because the hard work of policy formulation simply hasn’t been done, and because the LNP’s idea of a successful campaign strategy is to wait for Anna Bligh’s Labor government to fall over of its own accord. All Springborg has to do, the thinking goes, is look bright and shiny and new and the “unified conservative force” will find its own path to victory.

The Borg’s trail bike bonanza, though, didn’t exactly make a huge splash in the press. And what reaction it did get showed some elementary political steps hadn’t been taken by his office — such as alerting relevant interest groups and anticipating their comments. The trouble with bite sized policy is that while it’s supposed to sound positive and uncontroversial to the general public, there are always groups who care deeply about the area and who may bite back.

But probably of more significance was an apparently throwaway comment the Borg made during Monday’s launch. For reasons which are rather obscure, he started talking up the possibility of former Minister Mal Brough running for a Labor held state seat. This is quite bizarre — because Springborg and the Nats relished the opportunity at the time of the amalgamation to destroy Brough’s career during his ill fated incumbency as Liberal Party President.

Sources Crikey has spoken to rule out any possibility that the Borg has seriously approached Brough. It would appear instead that the LNP’s polling suggests continued weakness and scepticism among urban and outer suburban Liberal voters — whose support the opposition desperately needs to be within even a mile of toppling Bligh. But Springborg has adopted a strange way of seeking to win these electors over. Just as with his trail bike announcement, he’s failed to anticipate the response — it’s more likely than not that this remark will re-open old wounds, and smoke some disillusioned Liberals out of the closet and back into the public gaze. Just what the opposition leader doesn’t need on his ride to putative victory.

Peter Fray

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