The latest quarterly state Newspoll result for Queensland has the Liberal National Party opposition maintaining an overwhelming lead over the 13-year-old government, of 61-39 on two-party preferred (up from 60-40 last time). The emergence of Bob Katter’s Australian Party appears to have swollen the “others” vote by four points to 15 per cent, sending both major parties down on the primary vote: Labor by four points to 27 per cent, and the LNP by one to a still formidable 50 per cent. The Greens are up a point to 8 per cent. Campbell Newman’s uncommitted rating is falling as he raises his public profile, but clearly it’s not all going his way: his disapproval rating is up five points to 27 per cent but his approval is up only one, to a still very handy 51 per cent. Anna Bligh is down two on approval to 38 per cent and up two on disapproval to 52 per cent. The preferred premier situation is little different from last time, Newman’s lead shifting from 49-35 to 48-34.

Career opportunities for aspiring Queensland Labor politicians are clearly going to be thin on the ground for a few years to come, so there is considerable interest in preselections caused by the retirement of sitting members. These are detailed below – a review of LNP preselections will follow with the next Queensland state poll release.

Lytton (Labor 12.2%): Deputy Premier Paul Lucas’s recently announced he would be vacating his Brisbane bayside seat at the next election. Michael McKenna of The Australian reports the battle to succeed him is between Peter Cumming, who represents Wynnun Manly ward on Brisbane City Council, and Stephen Beckett, deputy chief-of-staff to Anna Bligh and husband of Brisbane council opposition leader Shayne Sutton. Cumming and Beckett are respectively aligned with the Left and the AWU Right.

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Mundingburra (Labor 6.6%): Labor’s candidate to fill the vacancy created in this southern Townsville seat by the retirement of Lindy Nelson-Carr is Mark Harrison of the Electrical Trades Union, which has been at loggerheads with the government over privatisation. A deal to maintain the factional status quo in seats where sitting members were retiring appeared to put Harrison in the preselection box seat, but he initially lost the ballot to former Thuringowa councillor Paul Fletcher of the AWU/Labor Forum. However, this was overturned on a recount caused by head office upholding a challenge against the setting aside of ballots which had been deemed incorrectly marked (accounting for nine out of a total of 48).

Cairns (Labor 4.2%): Cairns will be vacated at the election by the retirement of former Local Government Minister Desley Boyle. Labor’s new candidate is Kirsten Lesina, who was elected to Cairns Regional Council at the age of 21 in 2008. Lesina won an April preselection contest against Ritchie Bates, an organiser with the Left faction Rail Tram and Bus Union. Bates’s opposition to the government’s privatisation program reportedly made him the favourite of the local branches, but the addition of the union delegate vote produced a tie which Anna Bligh resolved in Lesina’s favour. This preserved the factional status quo, with both Boyle and Lesina being members of the AWU/Labor Forum faction.

Rockhampton (Labor 17.9%): Retiring ministerial veteran minister Robert Schwarten successfully threw his weight behind former army officer Bill Byrne, who also had the support of Anna Bligh. Byrne was opposed by a fellow member of Labor Unity, Q-Build worker Martin Flanagan, who according to the Morning Bulletin withdrew his nomination after losing the local rank-and-file vote. Flanagan had enough of a share of head office’s half of the vote that he would have won the endorsement if he had proceeded, but he and Byrne had mutually agreed that the branches should determine the result.

Stretton (Labor 9.5%): With the retirement of Stephen Robertson, this southern Brisbane seat will be contested by Duncan Pegg, a National Union of Workers organiser aligned with the AWU/Labor Forum. According to local newspaper the Southern Star, it had earlier been expected the endorsement would go to David Forde, Roberton’s former electorate officer, campaign manager and Left faction colleague, but he is instead running as an independent. Forde reportedly had a falling-out with the party, which occurred shortly after the Sunday Mail aired accusations he had “screamed” at a fellow electorate officer (who happened to be the daughter of Bob Hawke’s Deputy Prime Minister, Brian Howe). Forde says this related to an incident which occurred many years earlier, and that it emerged when it did as part of a smear campaign against him.

Logan (Labor 13.9%): Legislative Assembly Speaker John Mickel announced in August that he would be vacating his outer southern metropolitan seat. Mickel and Anna Bligh decisively threw their weight behind Linus Power, a party organiser and AWU Right faction member who was earlier discussed as a future successor to Anthony Chisholm as state secretary.

Sunnybank (Labor 10.8%): With the retirement of Judy Spence, the preselection for this southern Brisbane seat emerged as a battle between Spence-backed Adam Obeid of Labor Unity and the Left’s Megan Jones/Bishop, who was supported by Spence’s long-time antagonist Anna Bligh. Despite earlier reports that the local branches were likely to defy Bligh, Bishop prevailed.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief
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