Queensland LNP leader Campbell Newman did something yesterday that he should have done a long time ago — released an up-to-date statement of his financial interests to the standard required of state members of Parliament.
It’s not much of an exaggeration to say Newman had to be dragged kicking and screaming.
For more than a month, the Bligh Labor government has been targeting Newman’s failure to disclose. Until now, the opposition leader’s line has been that he had made a disclosure of pecuniary interests before standing down as Brisbane’s lord mayor. He has argued that as a candidate for state parliament, rather than a sitting MP, he was under no obligation to do more. These are personal matters, he suggests.
This highlights Newman’s anomalous position — a state leader without a parliamentary seat.
But, in the continued absence of any substantive policies from the LNP, Newman has had little to talk about in his appearances on the nightly news other than his finances. He’s appeared perennially on the back foot.
There isn’t actually much of great interest either in what came out before his statement, or what is in his statement, other than continued questions about how exactly his remuneration as opposition leader is funded. (Former Nationals leader Jeff Seeney is opposition leader in the Legislative Assembly, and Newman’s salary is not publicly funded.)
Newman’s resistance stems in large part from the fact that his wife has an interest in a family company, which made an exorbitant bid for disaster recovery consultancy funding from the government. In the event, no funding was forthcoming.
Newman has been alleging that Labor is targeting his family. This culminated last Thursday, in an extraordinary spray where the LNP leader claimed the state was being run by “punks, drunks and desperadoes”. At the same press conference, Broadwater candidate Richard Towson fainted, which had the former mayor declaring that his momentary ill health was “Anna Bligh’s fault”, a line that has sparked much merriment on Twitter.
To those who have dealt with him, Newman is well known to have a short temper and a thin skin. His attempts to shape his own press coverage as lord mayor, and battles with journalists and The Courier-Mail when stories are written not to his liking, are legendary.
The ALP, cleverly, has been exploiting concerns about Newman’s character, and his ability to deal with stress. His responses have not been a good look, and not seen as such by many in the LNP.
The Labor Party is trying to drag Newman back to the pack, disrupting his posture as an apolitical saviour figure. (Newman also made the bizarre comment last week that he “hates politics”). Interestingly, both statewide polls and a poll taken in the seat of Ashgrove, which Newman is contesting, have shown movement, albeit slight, away from the LNP.
But Newman’s woes are not over. He is still to satisfactorily respond to the misogynist victim-blaming comments of Cairns candidate Gavin King. A petition is circulating on Facebook calling on Newman to denounce such antediluvian attitudes towards s-xual violence, and Crikey reported yesterday a prominent Cairns LNP member had left the party in protest. The LNP previously dis-endorsed a Cairns candidate for writing an email that appeared to condone Julia Gillard’s assassination.
Most, including perhaps Newman himself, have assumed that the LNP’s victory in the state election, likely to be held in March, is a fait accompli. That may still be so, but the LNP has much form for shooting itself in the foot. If Newman can’t stem the bleeding over the redneck views of his Cairns candidate, more questions might be raised about the Can Do Campbell gamble.