Premier Anna Bligh’s unpopular privatisations should mean Labor is headed for a trouncing in the Queensland state election on March 24. But the more voters see of Liberal National Party (LNP) leader Campbell Newman the less they like him.
The surge in Anna Bligh’s popularity after last year’s Queensland floods quickly disappeared as voters remembered her record as Premier. Labor’s support plummeted when it announced a $14 billion privatisation package back in 2009, just weeks after it failed to mention the plans at the last election. Public opposition to the sale of Queensland Rail freight and coal arms, forestry plantations and the Port of Brisbane was consistently rated at about 80 per cent.
Three unions have officially announced they will not support Bligh in the election as a result of the privatisations—the Electrical Trades Union, the Rail Tram and Bus Union and the construction division of the CFMEU.
ETU state secretary Peter Simpson told the media, “In the last state election campaign we worked hard for the return of the Bligh government… only to have the Bligh government kick us in the guts after they won”.
Bligh has continued Peter Beattie’s pro-business policies, with her Treasurer Andrew Fraser boasting, “The payroll tax is still the lowest in the nation and our tax take per capita is well below the average of other states”.
As a result the state has less hospital beds than the national average, and in 2010 spent less on health per person than every other state. Bligh has announced a sweeping plan to reform the health department bureaucracy in an effort to be seen to act.
The latest Galaxy poll has the LNP leading Labor by 59 to 41 per cent—which should be enough to secure a wipeout.
But LNP leader Campbell Newman’s campaign has been hit by scandals after a $15 million property deal partly negotiated while he was Brisbane’s Lord Mayor was referred to Queensland’s corruption watchdog. The property company was a major donor to Newman’s election fund.
His party’s association with mining magnate Clive Palmer has also damaged his campaign. Newman was caught out lying after he claimed never to have discussed rail freight problems with Palmer.
Campbell Newman’s own battle to win a seat from outside parliament is a straw in the wind. Newman needs a 7 per cent swing to take the seat of Ashgrove from the sitting Labor member—and current polling has them neck and neck. If the LNP cannot win seats like Ashgrove, it will struggle to take power.
A further problem for Newman is the emergence of maverick Bob Katter’s new party, which could take four seats from the LNP. And if it wins a chunk of the vote in other marginal seats it could make them harder for the LNP to win. One poll suggested Katter’s party would get 24 per cent in some North Queensland seats.
Labor only has its own addiction to neo-liberal policies to blame.
James Supple

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