Queensland’s next (most likely) premier is a very brave man who’s not short of answers to the state’s key problems. But Campbell Newman’s got problems of his own: ranging from Labor MP Kate Jones to the LNP’s key party donor, Clive Palmer.
That’s for sure. Newman gave up a plum job as lord mayor of Brisbane last year to be LNP leader and (he hopes) Queensland premier. That’s ambition, or a passion to serve the public, writ large.
He’s not short
Well, he is. We lied about that one. He’s smaller than current premier Anna Bligh. But he’s not short of answers to Queensland’s problems, the main one being that Labor has been running the state for nearly 14 years and everyone is sick of them. His answer, of course, is Campbell Can Do.
He’s not certain to get elected
The odds are against him in Ashgrove, where he needs a massive swing of 7.1% and has to beat popular Labor MP Kate Jones, who resigned from her ministerial job in June 2001 and has been working full-time since then to retain the seat. Last week, Jones was in the lead, but the latest polls show Newman’s ahead again and likely to get up.
If Campbell loses, Jeff Seeney could be premier.
Never heard of him? Nor had we. But he’s the ex-mayor of Monto, a bush town 124 kilometres west of Bundaberg, and he’s Queensland’s official Leader of the Opposition, so he’ll probably get the gig if Newman doesn’t get elected. But Seeney was rolled by Lawrence Springborg as leader of the National Party in 2008, so he’s hardly superstar material. And Newman has refused to anoint him or anyone else. Another could-be-premier is LNP deputy leader and shadow racing minister Tim Nicholls.
He’s got problems
Newman has been the target of a concerted Labor smear campaign, and some of the mud has stuck. The latest allegation is that Newman’s election fund received $72,000 from a Brisbane property developer, Philip Usher, before Usher’s company won approval for a city high-rise project.
Previously, it was revealed that two of Newman’s aides made money out of a separate Brisbane property development approved by council. Last week, Newman was cleared on all counts by Queensland’s Crime and Misconduct Commission.
He’s got big problems
Clive Palmer is the LNP’s biggest backer, and that’s a problem for any leader. The mining tycoon has given the LNP and its coalition partners close to $1 million a year for the past three years. So Newman will need to listen. But, asked this week about Clive’s theories on the CIA killing our coal industry, Newman told the ABC, “You know what, I really don’t know. I’m just … I’ve really got nothing to add. I’ve never heard it before … It’s got nothing to do with myself and this campaign, I can tell you that.” Watch out, Campbell, you may be hearing from him soon.
He’s a fighter
Newman graduated from the Royal Military College at Duntroon, where he was mates with fellow officer cadet Andrew Wilkie, of pokie reform and Iraq War fame. His old friend describes Newman as “very driven, very intelligent and very, very conservative”. And they now disagree on almost everything.
He’s got political pedigree
Campbell is the son of two Liberal politicians, Kevin and Jocelyn Newman, who were friends with John Howard. And he has no love for Labor. “I hate what they’ve done to Queensland,” he told journalist Frank Robson last year. “And I hate their lies and deception.”
He’s got nicknames
At Duntroon they called him Noddy. His 2004 electoral slogan was Can Do. Others call him the Energiser Bunny because he never stops moving.
He likes to get his way
“Campbell’s self-belief is so strong it permits no dissent,” says Brisbane Labor councillor David Hinchliffe. “He just can’t believe anyone could disagree with him.” An ex-LNP councillor who was forced out of the party by Newman in 2009 puts it more bluntly. “If you disagree with his views, he isn’t a democrat but a dictator,” Nicole Johnston told Robson.
We should know by tomorrow night if he’s the next Queensland premier.