“Apparently we have two states here — one called Brisbane and one called the rest of Queensland. This is a worthless piece of logic that will lead you to a political wasteland.”

That’s Barnaby Joyce on this nonsense that the Liberal National Party failed to win because it didn’t win seats in Brisbane. You might think being in Opposition for 18 of the last 20 years could be considered a “political wasteland”, but that’s probably just southern thinking.

Unfortunately, Joyce now seems alone in remaining convinced a National leader is necessary for the LNP. Even National MPs are saying they need a Liberal leader.

Gate. Horse. Bolted.

But while the LNP failed to make much of a dent in metropolitan and suburban areas, it did achieve some big swings in those sorts of seats. And the backgrounds of those candidates who achieved those swings are worth noting:

  • Michael Crandon picked up the new seat of Coomera on the Gold Coast for the LNP, with a 10.8% swing based on previous boundaries. Crandon is a financial planner with an MBA and an MA in journalism.
  • Mark Robinson is ahead in the Brisbane seat of Cleveland, despite a notional increase in the ALP margin there. Robinson has multiple degrees, including a PhD, and an academic and social work background.
  • Troy Knox trails narrowly in the Brisbane seat of Everton having obtained a 10% swing against Anna Bligh’s former chief of staff. Knox is a former public service manager and runs an industry training body.
  • Scott Emerson did the women of Queensland a favour by removing the appalling Ronan Lee from public office in Indooroopilly with a 9% swing. Emerson, mooted as a possible LNP leader, is a PR company director, former print and broadcast journalist, including for the ABC, and a lecturer.
  • Ros Bates picked up the Gold Coast seat of Mudgeeraba with a 6.4% swing. Bates had a distinguished career as a nurse, health manager and as a businesswoman.
  • Mark Wood earned an 8% swing in Peter Beattie’s old seat of Brisbane Central. Wood is also a former nurse and health manager and is now a regulatory affairs manager for a major health company.
  • Paul Walker got a 9% swing in the Brisbane seat of Bulimba. Walker’s a barrister, property law lecturer and used to be a project manager with Queensland Rail.
  • Dale Shuttleworth scored an 8% swing against Cabinet Minister Geoff Wilson in Ferny Grove in North Brisbane. Shuttleworth is ex-Navy and an electronics specialist. He’s also ex-Family First, but switched to the Liberals before last year’s merger.

In short, many of the LNP candidates who were the most successful in Brisbane and the Gold Coast are about as un-National as you can get, with strong and varied CVs. Academics, public servants, journalists, lobbyists, lawyers. Some more traditional candidates didn’t fare so well. Car salesman Bill Golan, who didn’t live in the electorate of Redcliffe, only managed a 1% swing there, below the LNP’s state-wide average. In Morayfield on the outer edge of Brisbane, ex-National and P&C president Fiona Brydon only managed a 1.6% swing.

Local factors undoubtedly played a factor in each seat and some LNP candidates with strong CVs fared poorly. But the LNP was clearly able to recruit and present attractive candidates in metropolitan seats, who out-performed the rest of the party.

The problem was, they were led by a semi-articulate high school drop-out farmer and professional politician — and one on whom the LNP strongly focussed its campaign.

Why does any of this matter outside Queensland?

The country is already paying the price for the lack of a viable opposition in NSW since the late 1990s, and particularly since 2003. The already-high levels of unemployment in some areas of suburban Sydney reflect an economy that even in the boom years struggled with poor infrastructure investment, lack of reform and fiscal indiscipline from Labor. A viable Coalition would have turfed Morris Iemma out in early 2007 and the state would now be obtaining the benefits of two years of reform.

An old government in Queensland, even with the “new blood” that Anna Bligh injected into Cabinet, is at risk of going the same way as the Iemma Government, even without a totemic issue like electricity privatisation. An Opposition capable of dislodging them in 2011 or 2012 is important to Queensland’s and Australia’s economic fortunes.

State Governments matter economically, which means Oppositions do too.