Day two of the Queensland election campaign had been dominated by point scoring over child abuse, accusations of financial irresponsibility, the land clearing debate, and other matters The Poll Bludger would be better off leaving to people who know about such things. Then in the early evening the campaign suddenly came to life, from both a psephological and political perspective, thanks to that incessant source of bad news Merri Rose (the Minister for Racing, Gaming and Tourism). Most of the headaches Rose caused during the current term related to her extremely liberal attitude as to what constitutes proper use of her electorate car, but there was also the problem of her evidently imperious attitude towards the many lesser mortals who worked for her. Reports of Rose abusing drivers and intimidating staff members emerged in mid-2002, just in time for the launch of a nanny state government awareness campaign about workplace bullying (for more on Rose’s travails, check the profile of her electorate of Currumbin in the Poll Bludger’s guide to the Queensland election).
Late today the workers’ compensation regulator, Q-Comp (here I must say that I am willing to lend public support to any party promising to abolish proactive new-age names for government agencies like this one) found that Rose had pressured a staffer into falsifying documents, a matter that will now be investigated by the Crime and Misconduct Commission. Attempting to recall historical parallels for the current state of affairs, two events spring to The Poll Bludger’s mind – Phillip Lynch’s resignation as Treasurer going into the 1977 federal election, and Victorian Shadow Treasurer Robert Dean being ineligible to stand in 2002 because he was falsely enrolled. Readers are invited to email me here if they can think of others.
This doesn’t help us much, because Lynch’s party romped home in the first case and Dean’s was annihilated in the second. But this is Peter Beattie we’re talking about here, and whether it’s genius or dumb-ass luck we’re dealing with, you can take it for granted that the former example is likely to be nearer the mark. For one thing, the loss of Rose might be described as a mixed curse. To lose even one minister always looks like carelessness, but in one sense Beattie must be relieved that his cabinet is no longer carrying Rose’s baggage. Presumably he had at least some inkling that the release of a Q-Comp finding was afoot and calculated that such an event early in the campaign would be quickly forgotten. If so he was most likely correct – despite headlines like "Minister resigns, rocking Beattie" (from NineMSN, who surely don’t need a link from little old me), the fate of the state tourism minister is unlikely to cause the electorate enough alarm to sustain them through even this brief an election campaign.
From an election buff’s perspective though, Rose’s Gold Coast electorate of Currumbin is looking more interesting than ever. It shouldn’t be, with her margin of 14.5 per cent, but the area in which her electorate is located is more ripe than most for a correction at the coming poll. Last time around the swings to Labor in this neighbourhood ranged from a modest 10.3 per cent in Burleigh to a mere 18.4 per cent in Mudgeeraba. These people have voted conservative before and can very easily do so again, especially if the opinion polls continue to make an overall Labor victory appear a foregone conclusion.
More comment tomorrow on the Theresa Millard situation in Townsville, providing I wake up early and unhungover enough.