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May 18, 2011

Queensland LNP, daring move pays off.

Cartoon: Jos Valdmann (From “The Punch.”)

A couple of months ago, stung by a mediocre performance in the polls against the unpopular Bligh government, the LNP bit the bullet with a leadership change. This would be nothing new except that they chose to draught in the popular Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Campbell Neuman to the job.

As there were no by-elections for him to contest, and none of the sitting members were willing to step aside for him, we have the situation where we have an opposition leader who is not a sitting MP.

At this stage it is working well, with the party maintaining its discipline in the house with a stand in leader, while Neuman leads from the outside.

Queensland has a different electoral system to other states. We are the only state without an upper house, which is a mixed blessing in many ways. Unfortunately with no house of review, there is inadequate scrutiny of legislation. Upper houses though are not really effective if controlled by the party in power in the lower, and can tend to be gratuitously obstructive if controlled by the opposition.

Until Neuman, as bad as Labor have been since they passed their ‘use by’ date some years ago, the LNP were not able to gain any traction owing to paucity of leadership. They were uninspiring, looking very much like a party out of ideas and hoping to be voted in as a default setting.

Despite the obvious disadvantages of the leadership situation, Neuman has grabbed the imagination of Queenslanders and appears to be on a roll. The only problem I can see is that the electorate he has chosen to contest is reasonably solid for Labor, being held with a 14% margin.

On latest polling though this looks doable. Today’s indicate that Labor is facing a wipeout in the state election, due by next March. On a two party preferred they are behind by 60-40% and could be reduced to 13 members in the 89-seat house. This would be more devastating than the recent NSW election massacre for Labor. It would in fact be around the equivalent of the 1974 Qld election when they were reduced to 11 members in an 82-seat house, and were referred to as the Labor cricket team.

A great deal can change in ten months, but this government is a lost cause. After the recent floods, a relief appeal was organized which raised over $260 million but is in the hands of the Premier. During talks to establish a North Queensland LDP branch tonight, I was informed that some flood victims there are still housed in tents.

Future appeals for disasters need to be controlled by private charities who will do the job properly.

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