A full eight weeks after the polls closed in Queensland, the to-and-fro over the state seat of Chatsworth continues to bumble along in the Court of Disputed Returns.

Ex-firefighter Steve Kilburn scraped home for the ALP on 21 March, with a 74-vote margin after preferences, but the opposition LNP and its star candidate Andrea Caltabiano is crying foul, citing “irregularities” that it insists will see Kilburn’s victory reversed, or a new poll called.

Late last week, the wife of fading Liberal party powerbroker Michael Caltabiano sent out this flyer to Chatsworth voters asking them to tell her about instances of “unusual behaviour”:

The letter, and an attached survey, contains a series of leading questions that Caltabiano presumably hopes will sway the Court when it resumes hearing evidence on 12 June.

The LNP says that when it inspected the Chatsworth ballot papers on 9 May, it uncovered “immediate” instances of “voter fraud”, centering on “instances of double voting and questionable voting undertaken by people not entitled to vote in the electorate”, a strong claim indeed considering the ALP appeared to be struggling with campaign basics as previously documented by Crikey.

Although Caltabiano stops short of accusing the ALP of vote rigging, if this had occurred it would have been a long way from Chatsworth, insiders say, after the seat was abandoned to the LNP as Anna Bligh shifted resources to less marginal seats.

Chatsworth should’ve been a cakewalk for Caltabiano — the ALP campaign was hobbled by logistical problems and struggled to organise postal votes, let alone the resources to influence elections in the manner once favoured by Bligh chief-of-staff Mike Kaiser. Still, Kaiser was said to be shocked at the election of Kilburn, suggesting the LNP had even less of an idea.

Instead, insiders say the Caltabianos are really protesting their fading influence in state politics, not the result per se, which they will struggle to overturn. The fallout from the loss could prove devastating for the couple’s factional future, with the party still at war over last year’s amalgamation.

Michael Caltabiano was the member for Chatsworth from 2005 to 2006, picking it up when Peter Beattie enforcer Terry Mackenroth jumped ship in 2005. He was then dislodged by former Channel 9 rugby league identity Chris Bombolas at the 2006 state poll. Bombolas announced his resignation just days before the start of this year’s campaign.

Even if the LNP somehow uncovers enough evidence to back its “fraud” claims, the likelihood of an official reversal seems unlikely with a 74 vote margin historically difficult to peg back. In the recent case of Fran Bailey’s upheld victory in the three-times-as-large federal seat of McEwen, the margin was just 12 votes, which despite 643 disputed ballot papers, failed to be overturned. It’s more likely the LNP are angling for a fresh poll, which the Court could force if it rules the ‘”irregularities” were enough to change the result.

The cost of pursuing the case could also prove devastating for the already cash-strapped LNP, with Supreme Court silks not known for their bargain basement charge out rates.

As Bernard Keane noted on 1 May, the Coalition at state and federal level seems keen to dredge up instances of ALP-led electoral fraud, despite little in the way of hard evidence. Presumably, the Caltabiano call-out is an attempt to add some substance to the LNP’s otherwise empty rhetoric.

Still, observers now say the LNP is desperate to salvage something, anything, after its failure to properly capitalise on the ALP’s botched campaign. Its late decision to challenge in Chatsworth meant the party nearly missed the 7-day deadline to serve a complaint, suggesting a last-minute rush of blood.

Crikey contacted Caltabiano and the ALP for comment this morning but didn’t hear back before deadline.