Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has announced this morning the state election, originally intended to be held on March 3, will now be held on March 24. Local council elections, scheduled for March 31, will be delayed until April or May.

The extended campaign is justified by the fact that floods inquiry chair Catherine Holmes has requested an extension of time on the Commission’s report, after claims made in The Australian that SEQ water authorities had initiated the wrong strategy for releasing water from the Wivenhoe Dam last year.

Bligh says Queenslanders have a right to see the report before they vote.

The announcement comes as localised flooding again hits Brisbane and South East Queensland, and other parts of the state. Torrential rain continued to fall in Brisbane overnight.

The election campaign will be a very long one. Liberal-National Party leader Campbell Newman has been agitating for some time for an election date, and he now has his wish. But presumably the LNP will have been planning for a five or six week campaign, and no doubt will be discombobulated by the announcement.

There is something of a question mark as to when the campaign will move into top gear, as many Queenslanders feel unnerved by flooding so close to the anniversary of last year’s disastrous inundations.

Parliament is expected to sit on February 14, as scheduled, and the caretaker period and the formal election campaign will not commence until Bligh visits Governor Penelope Wensley on February 17 to request the dissolution of the Legislative Assembly and the issuing of writs for the poll. In the meantime, we are in faux campaign mode, and Labor continues to govern.

So Campbell Newman and the LNP face a decision as to how intense they want to play the political game until parliament is dissolved. No doubt Bligh is hoping there’ll be a contrast between her continued leadership and an LNP she will be hoping will present as shrill, carping and overly political.

Bligh’s press conference repeatedly sounded two notes: the importance of leadership and trust, and Newman’s inexperience at state level.

The long campaign will be designed to apply maximum pressure to the former mayor, whose chances of winning Ashgrove can’t be rated as better than 50/50. There are significant risks in such a lengthy campaign for the Labor Party, not least the likely annoyance factor to the voters, but if the ALP is banking on indiscipline and shenanigans from the LNP there is also now greater potential for fracture lines to emerge.

*This article was originally published at Larvatus Prodeo

Peter Fray

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