It was far too late to do anything about it, but LNP alarm bells should have started ringing at the end of January when Lawrence Springborg was caught out by a relatively straightforward question: how would a Springborg government handle the economic crisis? Springborg not merely appeared to deny there was a crisis but stumbled over what he would do about Queensland’s budget deficit and rising unemployment.
Queensland National Party leaders will forever carry the burden of Joh Bjelke-Petersen. One verbal slip and they’re back in feeding the chooks territory. The ALP exploited Springborg’s ineloquence to the hilt during the campaign. Springborg left school at 14, worked on a farm, then went into politics. Labor would never say it aloud, but the implication is that that sort of politician belongs in the history books in 21st century Queensland. All of Peter Beattie’s self-serving rubbish about “the Smart State” has worked into the Queensland psyche.
And last week, just before the electronic election blackout — that quaint relic of b&w television and politicians in hats — started at midnight on Wednesday, Springborg served his opponents up with a ripper — a completely nonsensical statement about the Queensland budget. The ALP packaged it into an ad and got it on air before the blackout. LNP members cringed. Not merely did it undermine the LNP’s message on fiscal discipline — already the subject of a Labor hammering on public service jobs — but it instantly summoned the ghost of Joh. And that’s a toxic legacy, particularly in Brisbane. It may have only run for an evening but that was enough.
And on Friday, Springborg also spoke about how he wanted majority government or nothing. The remark looked high-handed and seemed to presume an LNP win. Politicians are best advised to avoid any comment on such matters.
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Meantime, Anna Bligh was fighting the brushfires that broke out after she claimed, Rudd style, that she’d pick her own cabinet. Tourism Minister Desley Boyle contradicted her, then contradicted herself. Police Minister Judy Spence ummed and ahhed about the issue. Bill Ludwig weighed in to say Bligh would indeed follow Rudd in picking her Cabinet.
It’s the sort of fractiousness that suggests a certain friability within Queensland Labor — if their opponents could maintain the pressure, which they were entirely unable to. But the next three years might serve to open up some fault lines within the ALP. We all know what happened south of the border after Morris Iemma’s victory.