Queensland has a new opposition leader. Former Liberal and Member for Surfers Paradise, John-Paul Langbroek was yesterday elected leader of the LNP, beating Clayfield MP Tim Nicholls by a narrow margin after the elimination of former Nationals Deputy Leader Fiona Simpson on the first ballot.
Outgoing leader Lawrence Springborg was elected Deputy Leader over Rob Messenger and Jeff Seeney. Seeney was toppled by Springborg early in 2007, and never buried the hatchet. His pointed remarks about the necessity of representing rural and regional voters won’t have gone unnoticed.
The eccentric Messenger remarked that Langbroek was the “best looking member of parliament”. Langbroek is the brother of The Panel‘s Kate and a practising dentist. A former Health and Education shadow, he made little impact on either portfolio. Langbroek still practices to maintain his registration and has faced charges that his dental work was a higher priority than his parliamentary duties. He’d previously been Tim Nicholls’ candidate for Liberal Deputy in the notorious “toss of the coin” impasse when Bruce Flegg was toppled. However, Nicholls’ uncertain performance as Shadow Treasurer and factional heavy and former Senator Santo Santoro’s overt support counted against his chances.
From about 8pm on election night, LNP figures conceded that it was necessary to have a leader from South East Queensland who would present an electable face to urban voters.
Langbroek nevertheless faces a daunting task. The Borg’s presence at his side will attract ridicule from Anna Bligh and contribute to perceptions that he is an interim leader. The LNP party room now contains two former Liberal leaders, a former Nationals Deputy, and two former Nationals leaders. Constructing a front bench won’t be an easy task, particularly since Nicholls, like Springborg, is widely believed to have continuing leadership ambitions.
Anna Bligh’s selection of eight new ministers and her enhanced authority demonstrate Labor’s determination to inaugurate a new electoral cycle. Labor has been suggesting that the fifth term win broke the pattern of the Beattie long term government.
There’s nevertheless a recognition that the government will need to deliver on services and jobs. Langbroek has an opportunity here, but the fact that he’s a relatively unknown figure leading a party whose identity and values are unclear to voters puts him behind the starting gun. If it’s the case, as the leadership machinations imply, that his main task is to secure party unity, this doesn’t bode particularly well for the dentist from Surfers.