Pauline Hanson’s latest tilt at politics will be via the seat of Beaudesert, according to friends. She has planned an announcement, via the particularly Hansonesque combination of New Idea and A Current Affair, for Monday.
While Hanson has previously been criticised for being a professional candidate and harvesting public funding for election campaigns, Beaudesert gives her a serious chance of being re-elected as an MP for the first time since she was defeated in the 1998 election in the federal seat of Blair.
Beaudesert has been a National seat since its creation in the early 1990s. Its only member has been rugby-mad Kev Lingard, who endured the rise and fall of the One Nation vote (he relied on their preferences in 2001) and holds the seat on a notional 5.9% margin following redistribution. But Lingard is retiring, and the Liberal National Party has, in its wisdom, selected a 29-year-old Catholic local councillor, Army reservist and “singer-songwriter” Aidan McLindon, whose main claim to fame is invading the stage of the 2005 final episode of Big Brother to publicise his band.
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When we spoke to McCreadie today, he showed a veteran’s grasp of political clichés despite this being his time on the campaign trail. “We started confidently and we’re continuing confidently and we’ll campaign hard. This creates a new dynamic in the campaign and obviously it raises the level of attention it will receive, but we’re focussing on the issues and ways to grow jobs in the area,” he said, being careful not to mention Hanson by name.
Hanson lives in the electorate — a not insignificant factor in her favour — and according to sources close to her reckons she will offer a positive profile in contrast to Lingard’s lack of electoral presence. More likely, she will benefit from the residual One Nation support in the electorate, which hit nearly 30% in 2001. However, Hanson, quite apart from her obnoxious views, is gaffe-prone and could implode during the campaign.
Given its current margin, if Beaudesert is in play on 21 March then the Liberal Nationals will have no hope of gaining the 22 seats necessary for victory. The seat has been made more rural following the redistribution of more suburban areas into Logan to the north. The National Party takeover of the Liberals was in part meant to ensure quality candidates from the business community would not be deterred by conservative infighting from seeking preselection.
Instead, the LNP has handed what should be a reasonably safe seat to a local youth. Hanson has sized up the opportunity and swooped, and if she is successful will leave the LNP one seat further from victory. As it is, the LNP will have to redirect precious resources to a seat they should have retained comfortably.
Despite some sterling misinterpretation of the Queensland Newspoll result from The Australian, the takeover looks to be on the verge of failing the one real test its proponents set for it — to defeat the Labor Government. There is much talk of a good defeat this year setting up the Nationals for 2012 but that wasn’t the reasoning before the “merger” last year.
In any event, “setting them up for 2012” won’t be enough to prevent some serious blood-spilling in conservative ranks in Queensland if they lose — which is the last thing Malcolm Turnbull and the Federal Coalition need at the moment.
Maybe Lawrence Springborg won’t be a third-time loser. Maybe the Nationals will somehow pick up urban and suburban seats. 22 of them. Maybe disgruntled ex-Liberal members will put aside their discontent and hit the streets to campaign for LNP candidates. It seems unlikely, however, and a few more stumbles and Springborg will start to look silly.
You can’t help but think Mal Brough would be making a far better fist of holding this tired Government to account and presenting a moderate image that would attract voters in Queensland and the Gold Coast. But his enemies in the Nationals and the conservative wing of his own party — not to mention Federal President Alan Stockdale who utterly failed to back him — drove him out. It looks like they’ll have plenty of opportunities to reflect on what might have been after the election.