Some odds and sods concerning the Queensland election campaign, which is now in progress after Campbell Newman’s announcement yesterday of a remarkably unorthodox January 31 polling date:
The timetable for the election has been tailored to put all concerned under as much duress as possible. The Electoral Act allows for a five to seven day period before the closure of the rolls, and Newman has opted for five. This means the deadline for enrolment falls on Saturday, and not as it might have done on Monday. The closure of nominations can be set for between eight and 18 days after the start of the campaign Newman has made it eight, meaning prospective candidates must have their paperwork in by noon next Tuesday. This gives Labor as little time as possible to sort out its preselection for the important seat of Lytton, where its candidate withdrew last month. The entire campaign period, of course, has been kept to the very bare minimum of 26 days, when it could theoretically have been drawn out to 56.
Independent MP Liz Cunningham announced yesterday that she will not seek another term in her Central Queensland seat of Gladstone. Cunningham has held the seat since the 1995 election, and her vote in parliament was decisive in tipping Wayne Goss’s Labor government from office after its defeat in the Mundingburra by-election the following February. However, Gladstone is naturally Labor territory, to the extent that the LNP could only manage 10.9% of the vote even amid the 2012 landslide. Labor’s candidate is Glenn Butcher, a maintenance superintendent at Queensland Alumina. Local newspaper The Observer reports that Cunningham will today announce the candidate she endorses as her successor.
The Courier-Mail reported last week that Labor is scrambling to find a high-profile candidate for Lytton, which given its 1.6% LNP margin would appear all but certain to fall to Labor. Its first choice, Daniel Cheverton, withdrew last month after a female colleague accused him of inappropriate behaviour after a campaign training session. Those mentioned in the Courier-Mail report are Peter Davis, former Bar Association president; Mike Kaiser, former party state secretary and briefly the member for Woodridge from 2000 to 2001, when he fell foul of the Shepherdson inquiry; Laura Fraser Hardy, who ran unsuccessfully in Bonner at the September 2013 federal election; and long-time local party member Joan Pease. Davis, who quit the Bar Association in protest against the government’s enormously contentious appointment of Tim Carmody as Chief Justice (who happened to do the honours in signing off on the writs for the election yesterday, acting in the absence of Governor Paul De Jersey, who was his predecessor as Chief Justice), is said to have been the subject of determined approaches from Annastacia Palaszczuk.
Other preselections that still need resolving are Maroochydore, Buderim and Southern Downs for Labor, and Gladstone, Bundamba and South Brisbane for the LNP. None of the seats is a serious prospect for the party in question.
A scan through the University of Western Australia elections database by Jared Owens of The Australian reveals that this will be the first general election held in January since Tasmanians voted in January 1913 and the first on the mainland since the NSW colonial election of 1874-75.
As I was caught on the hop as much as anyone by the election announcement, the trustworthy Poll Bludger seat-by-seat election guide is still a work in progress. Estimated time of arrival: middle of next week.