Getting ready in Queensland. With the export led economic growth of Queensland coming to a crashing halt as Asian demand for coal slackens, it is little wonder that Queensland Premier Anna Bligh’s thoughts are turning towards holding an early state election. Even though voters dislike governments going to the polls before serving their full term, it would be a brave Premier who waited until September this year when unemployment will really be hurting. Far better, I would have thought, to take the risk of a backlash before the arrival of the really difficult times. Meanwhile using the “tough times to come” as a mandate to do whatever is necessary to limit the impact of the world financial crisis on the state.

A clue to an early poll being on the agenda comes from Labor beginning letterbox dropping households in battleground seats at the weekend. The Courier Mail reported this morning that residents in several marginal seats received flyers from Premier Anna Bligh introducing them to the ALP candidates in their electorates. The seats included the non-Labor seats of Clayfield, Bundaberg, Gladstone, Mirani and Burdekin, and the newly created seat of Coomera.

The latest Newspoll figures are certainly encouraging for Ms Bligh. Calculated from polling taken between October and December, Newspoll put the two party preferred vote at 57% to Labor and 43% to the Opposition Liberal National Party. This was one percentage point higher than Labor got at the election back in September 2006. I would be making an announcement of an election date soon after another substantial interest rate cut by the Reserve Bank at its February meeting.

A way of the future? A European journalism network, with the German magazine Der Spiegel at its centre, designed to link English language web sites from Europe’s leading high-quality journalism brands takes another step forward this week with the Danish newspaper Politiken joining the partnership that also includes NRC Handelsblad of the Netherlands. Under the agreement, Spiegel Online, NRC Handelsblad and Politiken will establish a high-profile, continent-wide network to provide English-speaking Web users with access to some of the most dynamic news and feature content from Europe’s most-respected sources.

“With the addition of Politiken as a member, we now have a key network partner in Denmark that will provide an important source of news from Scandinavia,” said Speigel Online Editor-in-Chief Rüdiger Ditz. “Politiken is venerated in Denmark for its quality journalism and we are pleased to have them on board.”

By joining the partnership, Politiken has helped Spiegel Online and NRC Handelsblad take a significant step closer to creating a journalism network that will soon stretch across the European continent and provide opinion-shaping journalism on issues of importance to Europe.

“There is a lot of information out there, but what users increasingly want is content they can trust, from producers who they know follow strict ethical rules. This network will give them precisely that — a bird’s eye view of what is happening in Europe from some of the most respected journalists in the trade,” says Politiken Editor-in-Chief Stig Ørskov.

Each member of the partnership will feature news, current affairs and feature items from across the network on their sites, to drive traffic and provide advertisers with access to a much larger pan-European audience. “We plan to share readers in the same way airline networks share passengers,” says Spiegel Online‘s Ditz.

Apart from sharing content and exchanging links, the group will also seek to coordinate coverage of major events in Europe, with close cooperation between its journalists, starting with the 2009 European elections.

Nothing beats a leadership speculation. For a journalist on a quiet news day there is nothing that can beat a leadership speculation story and this summer has brought us several of them. Let’s take the New South Wales Labor Party first. Yesterday the Sydney Morning Herald’s Alexandra Smith brought us news of growing speculation that Labor Party bosses are seeking a lower house seat for former state unions boss John Robertson so he could replace Nathan Rees as Premier if polls do not improve. It was a wonderfully mindless piece of speculation that only the silly summer season can bring forth. Not to be outdone, this morning The Australian brought out Caroline Overington to show that their political girl could speculate along with the best of them. She too brought forth “a secret plot” which will see NSW have “a new premier by year’s end, whether the incumbent, Nathan Rees, knows it or not.” And the source of this definitive view? Why the state opposition leaders, of course, who “say that Mr Rees, who has held the top job for a mere four months, may not know his party is secretly moving against him.”

And then there’s the leadership of the national National Party where former Prime Minister John Howard has supposedly suggested to Barnaby Joyce that he move from the Senate to the House of Representatives so he can become the party leader and recapture the Howard battlers for the conservative coalition. That sent The Australian‘s Sean Parnell searching for potential seats for the challenger and the suggestion yesterday that he might have to shift states to do so.

Peter Fray

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