Events these past couple of days concerning state politics of the non-Labor kind, again give credence to the view that Queensland is different.
The story is clear. The non-Labor parties, the National and Liberal parties, have been out of office since 1989 except for a brief two interregnum from 1996-1998. Despite some success under the new amalgamation brand of the Liberal National Party (LNP) at the 2009 election, the new brand needed a new urban-based leader. The compromise was the former quietly spoken Liberal John-Paul Langbroek from the Gold Coast who was made leader after the 2009 election.
Although the LNP fortunes rose as the Bligh Labor’s sunk, Langbroek never cut it as leader. Recently, pressure mounted on the LNP and Langbroek as Bligh revived her government following the flood.
The problem was there was no alternative leader within the LNP state parliamentary party. The only visible and successful non-Labor “leader” in Queensland was mayor Campbell Newman, who has won two terms as mayor of Australia’s largest local government. The challenge was attracting him to state politics and then getting him into parliament.
Newman had long resisted such a move, but on Sunday he announced his interest in a state seat. However, no state LNP member in the metropolitan area was willing to stand down, cause a byelection. Langbroek vowed to fight on. The idea seemed dead in the water.
Yesterday — this changed. Newman announced he was going to seek preselection for the moderately safe Labor seat of Ashgrove and lead the LNP. Langbroek and his deputy resigned a few hours later to, as they said, to make way for Newman. The parliamentary wing yesterday elected a new leader, Jeff Seeney, who stated he was just the parliamentary leader, that the leader of the Queensland opposition would be Campbell Newman.
So the LNP in Queensland has a new leader who is not in Queensland Parliament, who is yet to win a seat and who is still lord mayor of Brisbane. This is almost unprecedented in Westminster democracy.
On the positive side it gives the LNP a high-profile, proven leader with a strong presence in Brisbane where the LNP has only four seats.
On the negative side, the LNP has two leaders. When Seeney rises to ask questions in parliament, the Labor taunt will be where (and who) is the real leader? On whose authority does Seeney speak. It will require discipline and co-ordination of a high level for the LNP to pull this off, to avoid any public differences, for the electorate not to be confused as who speaks for the LNP?
The other issue is what happens to the mayoralty of the BCC?
Overall, it is a risky venture. Polls will rise in the immediate wake of the semi coup, but making it all this work will be a big task. The fun has just begun.