After two weeks of carelessness, the Coalition campaign was struck in its third week by misfortune. The death of his father-in-law on Wednesday took Lawrence Springborg away from the hustings for three crucial days and probably saw off any hope of momentum building in the final part of the campaign. Even on Wednesday, Tony Koch of The Australian was reporting that the Nationals had been concentrating on rural areas where the election could not possibly be decided, as they had "made a decision to protect themselves" after Bruce Flegg’s troubles early in the campaign. With only one campaign week left to salvage the situation, it can be presumed that much of Springborg’s efforts will be spent holding the line for the Nationals in Charters Towers, Burdekin and Hinchinbrook.
The parties initially responded to Springborg’s family tragedy by agreeing to suspend negative advertising, but this ended with a vengeance on Friday when the Coalition fielded an ad aggressive enough to have brought joy to Andrew Landeryou’s heart. I suppose the proper thing would be to link to it on the Coalition website, but I have been itching for an excuse to join the YouTube generation for a while now.
The impact of attack ads in the American context is well understood: they lead to significantly lower turnout. A UCLA experiment during the 1990 Californian gubernatorial campaign exposed some voters to positively worded ads and other voters to negative ones, and found that even one attack ad reduced turnout by 1 per cent. In Australia of course, such an impact would be negated (or at least mitigated) by compulsory voting, and would presumably find expression through some sort of protest vote. But minor parties and potential independent candidates seem to have been caught napping by the brief, short-notice campaign, and any impact they might be having has so far escaped the polling agencies. With respect to the major party contest, there is no certainty that the damage done to Labor will outweigh the sense that the Coalition is becoming increasingly desperate.
Some new Campaign Update additions for the electorate guide:
Charters Towers (Nationals 2.7%): The Australian carried a report by Ian Gerard on Friday which queried whether "dissatisfaction with the health system" would overcome "the voices of the thousands of coalminers who have flooded into the sprawling regional seat of Charters Towers in recent years". Labor candidate Bruce Scott (not to be confused with the federal Nationals member for Maranoa) sounded a note of caution on the latter point, saying "it depends where these miners are registered, a lot of them are probably fly-in fly-out". The electorate’s coal industry is centred around Moranbah in its south, where Labor records big majorities that are overwhelmed by Nationals-voting rural booths to the north.
Indooroopilly (Labor 2.1%): Labor member Ronan Lee’s opposition to uranium mining was back in the news after equivocal statements on the issue from Peter Beattie and Anna Bligh. Appropriately enough, Lee is among the Labor candidates to whom the Greens are recommending a second preference. AAP reports that the Coalition accused Lee of campaigning "almost as an independent" after fielding campaign signs with no ALP branding.
Clayfield (Labor 1.2%): Clayfield, which includes Brisbane Airport and is located a short distance north-east of the CBD, was a big target of the Coalition’s promise to spend an extra $1.4 billion bringing forward completion of the Airport Link and adjoining North-South Bypass Tunnel under the city.
Gaven (Nationals 3.4%): Labor was on the attack after the Gold Coast Bulletin reported Nationals member Alex Douglas had allowed his 18-year-old son to attend a high-school formal after-party held at the Bandidos bikie gang clubhouse at Mermaid Beach.