Anna Bligh certainly wasn’t exaggerating when she observed that Queensland Labor had a bad week. Nor has this week started off well for her, with a Galaxy Poll showing her approval rating plunging to 33%, just barely ahead of a disastrous Labor primary of 30%. Nor, seemingly, are disillusioned ALP voters parking their votes with The Greens. The Liberal National Party scored a 48% primary, and all this washes through to a 59-41 two party preferred lead for the LNP.
As William Bowe notes at The Poll Bludger (where he also has more detail on the poll), the numbers may be inflated precisely because of the beating Bligh took over recent days. But there’s enough evidence around (including a poll commissioned by the ETU on the privatisation of public assets) that the Queensland regime’s support has collapsed very quickly.
Galaxy asked a range of questions stemming from Tony Fitzgerald’s accusations last week about corruption and cronyism, and found a large majority of Queenslanders disillusioned with both their government and the Queensland Police Service. Bligh would have taken cold comfort only from Wayne Goss’ favourable comparison of her with her predecessor Peter Beattie in remarks he made recently, given that Goss also pointedly referred to the dangers of long term incumbency in creating a climate where ethical lapses flourished.
It’s unsurprising that comparisons have been made with the last days of the National government, which Goss himself swept out of power almost two decades ago. But a better analogy for Anna Bligh’s current plight might be the re-election of the Keating government in 1993.
Keating threw away the trust of electors by raising indirect taxes in his first post-election budget, tearing up the basis on which he’d come to power — opposition to John Hewson’s GST. Anna Bligh’s credibility was one of the few things the ALP had going for it in the March state election. Her opposition to the dictates of ratings agencies was a hallmark message. The announcement after Labor squeaked back in that the fuel subsidy would go, that public sector wages would effectively be frozen and jobs disappeared through efficiency dividends, and, particularly, the plans for the sell off of state assets have seen the trust the electorate had in Bligh collapse.
Fully 86% of Galaxy respondents oppose the privatisation plans.
This is the political context for the corruption and cronyism crisis. Bligh may well have acted quickly, banning consultants from reaping success fees, pre-empting a CMC enquiry by prohibiting Labor MPs from attending “pay for view” business fundraisers, and ratcheting up the pressure for full public funding of elections. But the public aren’t inclined to credit her for decisive action — because the basis of trust that existed between citizens and their Premier has already dissipated.
So it’s the backflip on Bligh’s election promises, and rhetoric, which has proved fatal to her chances of handling the Fitzgerald backlash effectively, no matter how skillfully she responds to public concerns. The LNP could always self-destruct, but the smart money at this stage would have to be on a change of government at the next election.
If that comes to pass, Bligh and her advisors will rue the day that they decided the Queensland public would cop a complete backdown on the policy stance they took to the people in 2009.