The final quarterly Newspoll of Queensland state voting intention for the year, and most likely the last before the onset of the election campaign, suggests the Liberal National Party has taken a hit from its recent accumulation of bad press, but nonetheless remains in a commanding position. On the primary vote, Labor is up four points on the previous poll to 31 per cent, the LNP is down six to 44 per cent and the Greens are up two to 10 per cent. It doesn’t appear Katter’s Australian Party is rated separately, but “others” is steady on 15 per cent. Two-party preferred projections are particularly inexact under Queensland’s optional preferential voting system, but on the preference flows from the previous election the result is 56-44, compared with 61-39 last time. This has been reflected by a 12-point hit on Campbell Newman’s net approval, with his approval rating down six to 45 per cent and disapproval up six to 33 per cent. Anna Bligh is up one on approval to 39 per cent and down two on disapproval to 50 per cent. This is all from GhostWhoVotes, obviously. (UPDATE: Full tables here; I missed that Newman’s lead as preferred premier had narrowed from 48-34 to 43-39.)

Further pre-election news:

• Last week, Steven Wardill of the Courier Mail reported February 18 was the most likely date for the election, but granted there was “increasing speculation about an election after the council polls on March 31, given Labor has failed to gain much-needed ground on the LNP this year as had been hoped”. By contrast, Darrell Giles of the Sunday Mail yesterday reported “mid-March is now firming as the likely state election date”.

• ReachTEL has continued to pump out automated phone polls of individual electorates, which consistently show Labor in an even worse position than the major pollsters. They have been conducting monthly polling of Ashgrove, the seat Campbell Newman needs to win from Labor’s Kate Jones with a 7.3 per cent swing if he is to enter parliament and assume the premiership, with last week’s result coming in at 54.6-45.4 in Newman’s favour – about five points lower than where he was in September’s poll. Perhaps emboldened by an early effort pointing to a 27 per cent anti-Labor swing in Stretton, they have since been targeting fairly safe Labor seats for their other polling. Most recently, a poll of 369 respondents in Lytton pointed to a swing of 23 per cent from primary votes of 26 per cent for Labor, 48 per cent for the LNP, 9 per cent for the Greens and 13 per cent for Katter’s Australian Party, translating to 62-38 on ReachTEL’s imperfect two-party measure (“if you were forced to make a choice between the two following candidates who would you choose?”). Two polls conducted in the previous week took in 384 respondents in Ipswich, showing a 26 per cent swing and a win for LNP candidate Ian Berry over Labor incumbent Rachel Nolan by a margin of 9.4 per cent, and 371 respondents in Bundamba, showing a 20 per cent swing that would all but eradicate the 21.4 per cent margin of Labor member Jo-Ann Miller. A week earlier a poll of 366 respondents in Ferny Grove showed a 15 per cent swing, easily enough to account for Labor member Geoff Wilson’s 4.3 per cent margin. It should be tested that ReachTEL is a new outfit using a methodology which is yet to prove its worth, and all the swings indicated are well over the 13 per cent indicated by recent Newspoll and Galaxy polling.

Bianca Sullivan of the Wynnum Herald reports Labor last week endorsed Daniel Cheverton, a 28-year-old former policy adviser to Rachel Nolan who now works for an engineering company, as its candidate for Lytton, to be vacated by the retirement of former Deputy Premier Paul Lucas. Cheverton prevailed over Peter Cumming, Wynnun Manly ward councillor on Brisbane City Council and member of the Left, who made headlines a fortnight ago when he wrote to preselectors: “I am a realist and expect Labor to lose the state election.” Steven Beckett, deputy chief-of-staff to Anna Bligh, husband of Brisbane council opposition leader Shayne Sutton and a member of the AWU Right, had initially been named as a starter, but withdrew shortly after Michael McKenna of the Courier-Mail reported the demise of a proposed deal that would have given him the backing of Labor Unity in exchange for Treasurer Andrew Fraser being given a clear run to succeed Lucas.

• Neil Roberts, who holds the northern Brisbane seat of Nudgee on a margin of 14.3 per cent, has announced he will not contest the next election.

• Mark Harrison, the Labor candidate for Mundingburra, has accused the party of ignoring “unsavoury methods of bringing in and maintaining membership” in the very same Townsville branches which provided a focal point for the Shepherdson inquiry in 2000 and 2001. Michael McKenna of The Australian reports a party returning officer has raised concerns over the validity of signatures on postal ballot papers and the receipt of such papers by people who appeared not to realise they were party members.

Norman Beck of the Cairns Post reports livestock transport operator Liz Schmidt will run for the LNP in Dalrymple, where the party’s existing member Shane Knuth has defected to Katter’s Australian Party.

• The Fraser Coast Chronicle reports Labor’s candidate for Hervey Bay, Don Gayler, has withdrawn for personal reasons.

• Owen Jacques of the Sunshine Coast Daily reports Labor has endorsed candidates for a brace of LNP-held seats in and around the Sunshine Coast: aged and mental health nurse Christine Anthony in Caloundra, former Cooroora MP Ray Barber in Maroochydore, Bruce Garner (no further substantive details offered) in Kawana, 21-year-old university student Kurt Hopkins in Noosa and 19-year-old Maleny university student Ryan Moore in Glass House.