QUEENSLAND: by Ron MunnNews Weekly
Premier Bligh calls snap election
, March 7, 2009
Queensland Anna Bligh has justified calling an early poll on the grounds that election uncertainty is damaging Queensland's economy. Ron Munn reports.Queensland premier Anna Bligh has called a March 21 election with a four-week campaign timeline. She is hoping that the electors will do for her what they did after the last Peter Beattie-led election campaign (which also lasted four weeks) and vote Labor.
There are some marked differences between this campaign and previous campaigns over the past 11 years of Labor rule.
Labor is led by a very capable, politically savvy woman. At the time of writing, this is a plus for Labor.Drawback for Labor
Labor has at least nine retiring parliamentarians, all with a personal following, a percentage of whose seats could be won by the new Liberal National Party (LNP) of Queensland. This could prove to be a drawback for Labor, especially in a seat such as Chatsworth (East Brisbane), which requires only a 0.3 per cent swing to be lost to the LNP.
Labor is banking on its record of economic management and stability, but one may ask: why has the state an estimated record deficit of $1.6 billion for 2008/09 and a government that has a record number of retiring members? The campaign ahead will see how this pans out.
Labor's Achilles heel is its record on moral issues, and also on health, education, water fluoridation and effluent recycling. The electorate is unhappy about these issues, and this could create an anti-Labor backlash.
The old Liberal and National parties are for the first time in 11 years a united force under the single LNP banner, led by a man, Lawrence Springborg, who did the hard yards to get the Coalition parties to see the folly of remaining as two separate entities under the optional preferential voting system. Springborg may have lost on two previous occasions, but he has proven that by uniting the Coalition parties, he has the ability to lead the new party to victory.
The LNP has slowly gained in the polls over the past 12 months and, as at the time of writing, the primary vote (Newspoll) is 42 per cent Labor, 41 per cent LNP. The two-party preferred vote is 53 per cent Labor, 47 per cent LNP. The LNP has a chance of winning on the March 21, if only it can stay united and promote credible policies.
The economic downturn will affect the LNP more than Labor in its fund-raising efforts, and the LNP will need party leaders and members to work much harder at door-knocking and mail-out working-bees to get momentum flowing in their electorates.
While the issues around health, education, lawlessness and water issues may play a part in different regions of the state, the major moral issue of decriminalising abortion along the lines of the Victoria is starting to ignite opposition to Labor throughout the evangelical churches in Queensland. Pertinent questions are now being asked of candidates, in such a way that an uncommitted or evasive answer implies the candidate is in favour of abortion.
This information is being collated by Cherish Life Queensland and other pro-life organisations and churches throughout the state, so as to inform voters in all electorates, especially marginal seats, of all candidates' voting intentions on the issue. Labor has the most to fear because of its past voting record on cloning and embryonic stem-cells.
It is unclear what impact the financial crisis will have on the election outcome.
The Premier, Anna Bligh, justified the early poll on the grounds that election uncertainty is damaging Queensland's economy, and that the state needed her leadership to see it through the financial crisis.
However, her claim was undermined by the state's senior investment adviser, Doug McTaggart, CEO of the Queensland Investment Corporation, who rejected it.
Queensland National Party Senator Barnaby Joyce pointed out that Queensland voters would go to the polls just as they received a $900 handout from the Federal Government as part of its economic stimulus package.
He accused the Bligh Government of timing the election to coincide with the handouts.
Queensland is in a poor state to deal with the looming financial crisis. The collapse of commodity prices will see a large drop in state revenue.
Even before these impacted on the state budget, the Bligh Government's spendthrift policies had pushed Queensland into a $1.6 billion deficit in the current financial year.
Consequently, the credit ratings agency, Standard & Poor's, has downgraded the state from its AAA rating. It is now lower than every other state in Australia, except Tasmania.
A budget update has predicted that the deficit will double in the next financial year, and unemployment could rise to 60,000.
At the time of writing, the election is expected to be very close, with the LNP needing to make up a massive 22 seats deficit to form Government.- Ron Munn is Queensland state president of the National Civic Council.