Gold Coast media is among the most diverse to be found anywhere in Australia with 22 radio stations regionally and in Brisbane; a choice of eight free-to-air TV channels and one of the highest density PAY-TV audiences.

For Australia’s sixth largest city with a population now topping 500,000 the Gold Coast Bulletin, as Queensland’s biggest regional daily, remains easily the most influential media opinion leader and agenda setter on Coast affairs. The News Limited paper prides itself on its fearless and parochial coverage in taking on or resisting any perceived foe or threat to the tourism-driven region’s best interests.

But the Gold Coast Bulletin also maintains a level of partisan support for the conservative side of politics. If earlier this was partly fuelled by having former National Party Leader and Premier Rob Borbidge as the local MP for Surfers Paradise, more recently it’s been the role played by the paper’s general manager Roy “Rocky” Miller as a friend to the Liberal Party.

Miller retired last year to be replaced by Steve Howard, a former Daily Telegraph and Adelaide Advertiser editor. In recent months the paper has shown a discernible shift to a more reasoned middle ground. No party or its leadership and local politicians are escaping heavy scrutiny and accountability. Local candidates have been pinned down over their commitment or otherwise to state funding of the controversial $130 million Carrara stadium redevelopment. The paper has seen this issue as a litmus test of any future government’s attitude to the Coast’s tourism and event driven economy.

The Gold Coast Bulletin is a dominant voice exerting very considerable influence in moulding local public opinion. Today’s editorial endorsing Anna Bligh to remain Premier of itself doesn’t reshape public opinion at this late hour, but over the course of the last three weeks the overall coverage has been discernibly negative regarding Lawrence Springborg and his policies.

It’s no coincidence that today’s editorial caveat that three LNP candidates do get the paper’s vote including two sitting Opposition MPs; relates to the importance the Bully attaches to the stadium issue and the offence it has taken from what the paper sees as the Borg’s dismissive failure to recognise what it will do for the Coast’s future.

The editorial in part observed of Springborg today: “But we are disappointed that he has chosen to use the Gold Coast as a political football. For the past four weeks, he and his party have denigrated this city and we consider that a betrayal.”

But it was an opinion piece from a senior reporter Peter Cameron that yesterday best demonstrated the paper’s political sea-change in the way it perceives the opposition leader. At the heart of his take on “Last Resort Lawrie” is the role he’s played in hi-jacking the Queensland Liberal Party, whereby various Liberal sensibilities have been crushed or bruised by the National Party yoke.

Cameron suggests the resolve of the federal Liberal conference in Sydney last weekend to protect the party “brand” at any cost at the next Federal election will be welcome news for the Liberal establishment. Of course it will be made far more problematic in Queensland if Springborg is the next premier.

As a postal voter mid-week it was instructive to hear from electoral officials manning the Burleigh pre-polling location that were being overwhelmed by an unprecedented roll up for casting postal votes. One official estimated it was around 4000 votes already cast, up 400% on the previous election in the seat at the same point, out of 33,748 registered. If this was repeated throughout other Coast seats, election night will see a number of these decided by postal voting. If there is a cliff-hanger election, as most polls and pundits suggest, no one will be claiming Government on Saturday night.

Peter Fray

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