Any close observer of Queensland politics — or rather what the press gallery and the pundits write about Queensland politics — could be forgiven for thinking the general approach to election date tipping was to write a story every day linking anything political the Labor party had done to a “possible early election announcement”. The idea might be that eventually such a story will have to be followed by the aforesaid election announcement. But Crikey can now confirm that the “imminent election” may in fact be imminent.

Anna Bligh’s been busy lining up a few ducks in a row. All eyes have been on the plethora of retirement announcements from sitting MPs this week. But keener eyes might have been trained on Police Minister Judy Spence’s statement that she wouldn’t be retiring. Spence is one of the long serving MPs first elected in 1989, and the only Minister to have had her seat affected substantially by the redistribution.

Last year, elements in the Labor Left were very keen to see her replaced. It’s not just that Spence’s perceived closeness to the Police Union and law and order tub thumping hasn’t made her universally loved. It’s more the case that a lot of the Left weren’t happy with concessions that had to be made to the AWU to smooth Bligh’s path to the premiership. Mike Kaiser’s ascension to the chief of staff gig has to be seen in this context. So to keep all the factions sweet, and to achieve the Premier’s desire to demonstrate party renewal and distance her government from Peter Beattie’s, enough retirements had to be engineered to accommodate Spence’s wish to dig her heals in and to enable Left and Right to be satisfied with the results of instant preselections.

Federal politics is also influencing the timing of the poll. The stimulus package was the key. State Labor wanted to be sure that it would pass, and that the Feds weren’t going to be rushing off to an election in 2009. You can now tick those boxes. There’s also the political bonus (however cynical) of voters stimulated by the ALP with hard cash — and the additional bonus of lots of footage of Barnaby Joyce railing against that cash and by implication the new library for the local school.

Every Labor candidate in Brisbane will be running against the National Party no matter how “liberal” the local LNP hopeful is — and most aren’t all that liberal. The “economic debate”, federal Coalition style, is supposed to play a starring role in the theatre of the state election. Nor will federal instability help convince voters sceptical that the Borg’s shiny new vehicle might be about to run off its rails.

The ALP is now well and truly on a campaign footing. As I understand it, the final decision to pull the trigger hasn’t definitely been made. There’s still a small chance that an election won’t be announced in the next fortnight, and if so, the government will go close to full term. But from what Labor sources tell Crikey, if you wanted to have a bet, the odds you’d get for an election being called on Monday or Tuesday would be pretty short.

Peter Fray

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